Today is the primary for South Tucson’s City Council election. Well, really, it is the day of election in South Tucson, since the Republicans are running no candidates (you would be hard pressed to find one in this square mile city). South Tucson, by the way, is one of only two cities in the state that have partisan elections for City Council.
There is a lot more activity in this election than in previous ones. Forces for a so-called “Open Government” slate organized by councilmember Ildefonso Green were out this morning and lined sixth avenue with scores of signs touting their candidates. Supporters of the current council and Mayor Jennifer Eckstrom were holding up signs at the two polling places in the mile-square city.
The main issue of the “open government” folks is what they see as too much control and influence by Dan Eckstrom, a former mayor of South Tucson, a former County Supervisor and father of the current mayor. There is no doubt that Dan Eckstrom wields considerable influence in the community, but the influence he has has been due to years of hard work on behalf of folks in South Tucson. People have complained about the way he plays his politics, but I have no doubt what so ever that if it wasn’t for the hard nosed way he conducts himself that his community would have been ignored.
There is a bit of a side issue as well. Wal-Mart wants to open a store at the old Payless Cashways site at 4th Avenue and the freeway. The current council is opposed to the move, and there are allegations that Wal-Mart is backing Green’s slate. The hints of Wal-Mart involvement in the election keept Charlie Salaz, a long time labor stalwart who ran as a write-in in the a previous South Tucson election and did quite well, from fully supporting the opposition slate.
It is always hard to make predictions in a low turn-out election. Every couple of years, someone sees the low turnout in South Tucson elections and thinks that they are the one that is smart enough and wily enough to take on the vaunted “Eckstrom Machine.” And, every couple of years, they fall short. Eckstrom’s team has been at this a long time and from what I’ve seen on the streets out here today (I work within two blocks of both polling places), they are taking this election very seriously.