Even after eight years in office and the election night experience that brings, Gila County Supervisor Tommie Martin admitted to being nervous as she awaited the early returns at the county offices Tuesday night.
Surrounded by a small group of old friends and new, as well as family, Martin was, in fact, so nervous that she did not at first believe it when Assistant County Manager John Nelson told her she was ahead of challenger Hallie Overman-Jackman by approximately 70 percent from the first reported returns.
With the help of friend and Payson Constable Colt White, she checked the county election site herself. The site had a number of votes counted, but showed no precincts reporting. Still uncertain, she contacted the county elections public information officer for the evening, Jacque Griffin, her younger sister. The numbers posted had come from the early ballots, not polling place reports.
However, her huge margin actually grew throughout the evening. In the end, the unofficial totals from the 11 precincts in Gila County District 1, showed Martin with 5,183 (73.5 percent) votes to challenger Hallie Overman-Jackman’s 1,860 (26.4 percent) votes.
Martin’s first response was, “Thank God it’s over.” She said she also wanted to thank everyone that supported her.
Overman-Jackman had waged a highly visible campaign in the North County district, which includes almost all of Payson, Pine and Strawberry, but not Star Valley. Overman-Jackman criticized Martin for not doing more to equalize the north’s share of county spending and services.
Overman-Jackman took the defeat in stride — and vowed to stay involved.
“I was very disappointed,” Overman-Jackman said of the District 1 Supervisor results. “I hope some of the issues I brought up will be addressed by the supervisors to make a positive change for Northern Gila County.”
She thanked her campaign staff, saying they all did an outstanding job.
“I will be vigilant on county affairs. And eventually you’ll be hearing from me again,” Overman-Jackman said.
Martin said the election felt like a welcome vote of confidence. “You hear people tell you that you’re doing a good job, but when you see numbers like this, then you know they really believe in what you are doing,” she added.
She says she has unfinished business. “I’m lined up to be chair of the Eastern Counties Organizations. Originally created to deal with natural resource issues, it is now revamped to create a regional approach to things like work force development, job creation, transportation, infrastructure and advocacy at the state level,” Martin said.
“The more urban Arizona becomes the more rural the rural areas become. In the past if a county had a champion in Congress you could get them to be your advocate for federal funds for such things as road projects, earmarking money for your project. But with no more federal earmarks, money is being packaged and sent to the states and leaving it to them to earmark it.”
When it comes to state money for highways, rural counties have to team up to keep all he funding from going to Maricopa County.
Regarding getting the funds and support for work force development in rural counties, Martin said that will probably mean a reorganization of the various Council of Governments. Most rural counties and their communities are now aligned with COGs that include large metropolitan areas. That alignment means the big guys get the goods and the scraps are divided among the outlying areas. “We have a hard time getting a shot at the money. We want to reform the COGs and have eastern counties together. We will be discussing this with our towns and cities very soon. This will help position Gila to have more of a regional voice.”
In addition to working for a regional power base, Martin said she would continue to keep her eye on the county’s immediate concerns, like fire protection and attracting industry.
Martin has played a leading role in the development of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative, which forged a rare consensus among loggers, public officials and environmentalists on the need to employ timber companies to thin millions of acres of fire-prone, overgrown forests.
She also campaigned on her success in getting the U.S. Forest Service to thin buffer zones around Rim Country communities and an effort to provide emergency water supplies for firefighters.
Other supervisor races
In the other Gila County supervisor races, incumbent Mike Pastor (D) drew 3,007 (53.7 percent) of the vote in District 2 compared to David Cook’s (R) 2,580 (46 percent), with 18 of the 18 precincts in the district reporting.
The tally seemed to assure Pastor’s win, although on Thursday some 3,400 provisional and early ballots remained to be counted countywide.
In District 3 which includes Star Valley and one Payson precinct, John Marcanti (D) faced no challenge — having won a hotly contested Democratic primary. He will replace retiring incumbent Shirley Dawson. With nine of the 10 precincts reporting as of Wednesday morning, he had 3,306 (96.5 percent) votes.
Marcanti’s narrow victory in a three-way Democratic primary dashed North County hopes of finally breaking Globe’s longtime control of the board of supervisors. Many North County advocates — including Martin — had hoped that former deputy and judge Ronnie McDaniel would win the seat, after redistricting created a swing district evenly split between north and south. However, the emergence of a third candidate based on the San Carlos Reservation and a relatively low turnout among North County Democrats in the primary doomed McDaniel’s bid. Many of the North County Independents opted to take Republican ballots so they could vote in the sheriff’s race.
As a result, Globe now has a tighter grip on the board of supervisors than ever, with two South County Democrats who both live in Globe.
Marcanti remains something of a mystery, with little political past and few connections to North County. Veterans Pastor and Dawson say they’re impressed with his efforts to get up to speed before even being sworn into office. He attended the recent meeting of supervisors from around the state.
The re-elected and newly elected Gila County officials will be sworn into office Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013 in Globe.