Republicans took a beating across the nation on Tuesday, but triumphed in Northern Gila County,
Moreover, the Republican sweep locally marked a striking shift of political power in the county from south to north, attended by a stark division in voting patterns.
The results remain preliminary in close races, like the Gila County treasurer, the Payson School Board and Northern Gila County Sanitary District Board. Turns out the mail-in voting that was supposed to make everything so efficient has resulted in a big increase in provisional ballots, including many people who filled out their ballots then turned them in at the polls. The county must check signatures, which means 17 percent of the vote in the county won’t get added in until next week.
However, most of the races featured margins sufficiently large to make the uncounted ballots irrelevant. Inside this issue, you’ll find complete coverage of the election locally, from the board of supervisors to split results in Congress.
But some striking patterns have already emerged, mostly as Republican candidates from the north unseated South County candidates who hadn’t faced a contested race in years.
Payson Republican Deborah Hughes unseated incumbent Gila County assessor Democrat Dale Hom.
Republican Adam Shepherd from Payson bested Deputy Craig Jones, a Globe Democrat. The victory overturned the long-standing rule that anyone who hopes to serve as sheriff in Gila County had better switch registration to Democratic.
Republican Recorder Sadie Jo Tomerlin to some degree proved the rule as the exception, since she was a rare South County Republican running against a South County Democratic challenger.
Treasurer Deborah Savage apparently bucked the trend as of Thursday, although those 3,400 uncounted provisional and early ballots could reverse the results next week. She held a narrow lead over Republican challenger Don Ascoli, another North County candidate.
Another clear winner emerged from the local results: The Payson Tea Party.
Tea Party Secretary Shirley Dye stunned observers — herself included — by potentially winning seats on both the Payson Unified School District and the Sanitary District. The margins in both races remain so narrow that the provisional ballots could upend the races.
The Tea Party cadre also contributed to the convincing victory of state Legislative District 6 Republican candidates Chester Crandell in the Senate race and Bob Thorpe, of Flagstaff, and Brenda Barton, of Payson. Barton’s quick address change to live in the redrawn District 6 has given Payson its first representative in the state Legislature in memory.
The Tea Party proved itself the essential political forum throughout the campaign season, regularly offering candidates a big room crowded with activists.
Unfortunately, the effort by North County advocates to finally claim a fair share of power on the Gila County Board of Supervisors died in the primary, when low turnout among North County Democrats and the decision by most of the Independents to vote in the Republican primary doomed the campaign of former deputy and tribal judge Ronnie McDaniel, seeking a seat that has now gone to another Globe businessman.
District One Supervisor Republican Tommie Martin did win a lopsided victory in the face of the vigorous challenge by Independent Hallie Overman-Jackman, but that won’t affect the political balance of power among the supervisors.
However, they might also read the handwriting on the wall left by a slew of well-fought contests. North County has come into its own after years sitting in the waiting room.