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Phoenix Still Counting Ballots In District 5, District 8 City Council Races

betty guardado
Brent Whiting
Betty Guardado

Phoenix could have two new councilmembers by the end of the day. The City Clerk’s Office is still counting ballots from Tuesday’s runoff election for seats in Districts 5 and 8. The margins in both districts are pretty different — just like the candidates.

When the clerk’s office stopped counting Tuesday night, Betty Guardado had a comfortable lead — 62 percent — over Vania Guevara’s 38 percent in District 5. The difference in the district that covers much of west Phoenix is about 2,700 votes.

The race for District 8, which includes parts of east Phoenix, downtown, south Phoenix and Laveen, is much tighter. Carlos Garcia has just over 51 percent compared to nearly 49 percent for Mike Johnson. The difference is less than 260 votes.

Some might say Garcia is the ultimate city hall outsider. He’s led protests against President Donald Trump and the state government over immigration issues and he’s a vocal police critic. In fact, his campaign sent a release Tuesday night acknowledging his lead along with a statement that read, in part:

“The city council needs to be accountable to its people and that starts with reigning in the abuse of police force threatening people of color in District 8 and beyond.”

Garcia’s opponent, Mike Johnson, is a retired Phoenix police officer an former council member who served District 8 for 12 years. Johnson is endorsed by the unions representing police officers and police sergeants and lieutenants, along with two former mayors and two former council members.

If Johnson wins, you can expect an experienced politician with close ties to established groups. If Garcia wins, expect him to challenge the council and the status quo. His priorities include more police oversight and more accountability and transparency at city hall.

In the District 5 race, Guardado is considered the outsider compared to Guevara, who was appointed to temporarily fill the seat after Daniel Valenzuela left to run for mayor. Guardado has no experience as an elected public official, but she has experience working with labor unions. Guardado says she started as a housekeeper before getting involved in labor groups and moving up to leadership positions with unions representing hospitality workers. She’s had a lot of support from a variety of unions, including the United Phoenix Firefighters.

Guardado has talked a lot about how her union work would make her a good councilmember — that she’s been an organizer, negotiated contracts and helped improve people’s lives. Throughout the campaign, Guardado has also focused on public safety — not just having more police officers but parks where families feel comfortable, roads that are in good shape and adequate lighting in neighborhoods.

On Tuesday night, Mayor Kate Gallego tweeted her congratulations to Guardado. The next few months will be challenging for Gallego because there’s yet another election coming up in August that could drastically change city policies. It involves two ballot initiatives — one that would basically stop future light rail expansion and the other that would cap budget growth for most city departments until pension liabilities are 90 percent funded.

Gallego is opposed to both initiatives. She’ll need to get the new council members behind her and hope they can convince their supporters to go along.

No matter the outcome, the new council will likely be the most diverse elected in recent history with people of color filling four out of nine seats and women filling five.

News Politics
As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.