Once largely Democratic, Gila County has seemingly completed its transition to a bastion of the Republican Party.
Gila County voters gave President Donald Trump 66% of their votes, compared to 49% statewide. Trump triumphed in Gila County despite the inclusion of largely Democratic areas in southern Gila County — including Globe, Miami and the San Carlos Apache Reservation.
The fervent support for Republicans anchored in northern Gila County showed up and down the ballot in an election with an 82% turnout rate in the county — compared to 80% statewide. The county’s turnout was second only to Yavapai County’s 87% response from voters.
Eric Mariscal, elections director, said Gila County has 34,068 registered voters and 28,057 cast ballots. Mariscal added about 70% of the votes cast were early ballots. “We think that was a record for us,” he said.
The biggest problems with the ballots were a combination of voters from other counties trying to vote in Gila, or putting their ballots from other counties into Gila County envelopes.
“We think it was probably a case of people sitting around a table and voting at the same time and just picking up the wrong envelope for their ballot,” he said.
Republican Sen. Martha McSally got 65% of the Gila County vote, but only 49% of the statewide vote.
Overwhelming support in northern Gila County also played a key role in Wendy Rogers’ defeat of retired Army Col. Felicia French in the expensive District 6 state Senate race. Rogers won comfortably, with 54% of the vote, largely rebutting the notion that District 6 qualifies as an up-for-grabs swing district, despite the inclusion of Democrat-heavy Coconino County. In Gila County, the former Air Force pilot took 75% of the vote — even though her opponent — Felicia French — lives in Pine. Gila County voters cast 18,000 votes in that contest.
French didn’t do nearly well enough in Democratic Coconino County to make up for the lopsided difference in Gila County and other Republican bastions in the sprawling district. French got 61% of the Coconino County vote, with 54,000 votes cast in that county.
The same thing happened in Rep. Paul Gosar’s overwhelming win against Democrat Delina DeSanto. Gosar got 70% of the vote throughout the district and 78.7% of the vote in Gila County. Gila County accounted for just 4% of the votes in the sprawling district, which covers all the counties bordering the Colorado River.
There were a few exceptions to the county’s voters favoring Republican candidates. Gila County is part of two different congressional districts, Districts 1 and 4. Democrat Tom O’Halleran, the incumbent won his race with 4,902 votes to 4,427 votes for his Republican challenger Tiffany Shedd.
The county is part of three different state legislative districts, District 6, 7 and 8.
Most of those districts also saw successful Republican candidates, except for state Senate District 7, which had Democrat Jamescita Peshlakai running unopposed; and for state Representative District 7, where Democrats Myron Tsosie and Arlando Tellar won.
Republicans Walt Blackman and Brenda Barton won the county’s votes for the two seats in the state House of Representatives for District 6. Gila voters cast 4,086 ballots for Republican Thomas Shope in the state Senate race for District 8 and also gave the nod to Republicans Frank Pratt, 4,023 votes, and David Cook, 3,563 votes.
All successful candidates for county offices were Republican.
The two propositions — one to legalize marijuana and one to impose an income tax surcharge on people making more than $250,000 produced somewhat less lopsidedly Republican votes in the county.
The proposition legalizing recreational use of marijuana and expunging convictions for possession of small amounts of pot drew 60% of the vote statewide.
In Gila County, 53% of the voters supported legalization, perhaps reflecting the Libertarian leanings among many Gila County Republicans.
The proposition imposing a 3.5% income tax surcharge on people making more than $250,000 to raise $1 billion annually for teachers and teacher training received 52% of the vote statewide.
In Gila County, the measure drew the support of just 41% of the voters.
Roundup staff reporter Teresa McQuerrey contributed to this article.