With all the more than 2 million votes cast Nov. 3 in Maricopa County now counted, a final stunning surprise was saved until the end.
After trailing Democratic opponent Jevin Hodge almost all week following the election, Republican incumbent Maricopa County Supervisor Jack Sellers, whose district represents a large swath of Ahwatukee, eked out a 403-vote victory, according to final unofficial results.
Sellers, a former Chandler City Council and State Transportation Board member, was appointed to the post by the board in January 2018 to fill the seat vacated by Denny Barney, who resigned to become president/CEO of the PHX East Valley Partnership.
Hodge, the son of Tempe Union Governing Board President – who easily won her reelection bid – had declared victory on his Facebook site two days after the election, telling supporters it was time to get to work.
But while Hodge had jumped to a big lead on Election Night and held it for a few days, Sellers began chipping away at it until he took a slim lead over the weekend.
Hodge posted a video on his Facebook site on Saturday conceding.
“Today is very, very hard,” he said. “But I am thankful and very proud….This is not the end of this movement.”
Sellers on his Facebook page thanked voters and congratulated Hodge “for running a very competitive campaign.”
“This was a very close race and the voters came out in record numbers,” Sellers wrote. “It is now incumbent upon me to ensure all residents feel included in decisions made by the Board of Supervisors.
“We have many issues to work on, most importantly our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic vitality of our county. Working together, we can protect public health while ensuring our business community can survive the crisis and prepare for an even stronger future.”
Sellers also noted that the campaign was fought on issues “without attacking each other.”
He said Hodge called him and “we had a very cordial and productive conversation. We agreed to get together soon to start an open dialog on issues that are important for our district.”
Although Hodge faced an uphill battle in a district where Republicans hold a 20,000 registration lead, he outran Sellers in the race for campaign cash.
Sellers’ victory clinched all county offices for Republicans as well as retained the 4-1 control they have on the Board of Supervisors.
The only Democrat who held a county office the last four years was County Recorder Adrian Fontes, who conceded late last week to Republican challenger Stephen Richer.
In other final unofficial results, the new members of Kyrene Governing Board appear set.
Kyrene member Michelle Fahy and Tempe Union’s Berdetta Hodge both led their respective competitors.
New to Tempe Union will be Ahwatukee resident Armando Montero, a 2018 Desert Vista High School graduate, and Chandler teacher Sarah Lindsay James.
James clinched the third spot in the eight-way race for three seats and held a lead of about 1,100 votes that the fourth-place candidate, Chandler Realtor Lori Bastian was never able to close.
In Kyrene, while Paradise Valley Community college biology teacher Margaret Wright of Chandler had the second-place spot locked, Ahwatukee resident and adjunct professor Wanda Kolomyjec cemented her hold on third place in a close contest with Ahwatukee teacher Trine´ Nelson.
Kolomyjec, who for a while had a nip-and-tuck battle with Nelson, ended up with a 488-vote lead.
The four newcomers will take their seats in January and will be thrust into the thick of their respective districts’ battles with COVID-19 and the economic consequences of the pandemic.
During the campaign, all four newcomers shied away from criticizing the current Kyrene and Tempe Union boards and instead focused on the skills and experience they could bring to the table.
Montero, who was a fierce advocate for more attention and spending on students’ mental and emotional well-being when he was a Desert Vista student, said he would seek the same as a board member.
A legislative analyst and regional director for the Arizona Students’ Association, Montero also said that as a recent district grad, he will “bring a fresh perspective along with a voice that has been missing for too long on our school board.”
James also is a district graduate and stressed her experience as a teacher.
“While we currently have board members who advocate for educators, the insight a teacher has is invaluable,” she said. “I also have the additional insight of raising two children in our schools, so I can also provide the perspective of a parent.”
She described her children, 8 and 12, as “future Corona students” and will be the only member of the Tempe Union board with school-age children.
She also had expressed concern about the difficulties that students have with online learning in Tempe Union and about how hard it is for teachers to determine online a student’s mental and emotional wellness.
In Kyrene, Wright, who has two children in the district and another in Tempe Union, admitted that she’s an introvert, but said she would bring an ability to analyze complex data and make research-based decisions.
Wright called attention during the campaign to the impact of closures not only on students’ emotional and mental wellness but also on the district’s ability to adhere to its five goal categories, particularly on issues of equity and closing achievement and disciplinary gaps between white students and students of color.
Kolomyjec campaigned on her experience as a former high school teacher, current ASU adjunct professor and “two decades of international business ownership” and said she, too, wants to address equity gaps in the district.
Like the other newcomers to Tempe Union and Kyrene boards, Kolomyjec also expressed concern for students’ mental and emotional wellness and said that as the pandemic drags on, these issues required considerable attention.
The outcome of the races showed that money doesn’t necessarily make for a successful election outcome – though it didn’t hurt in some board campaigns.
While Hodge led all her competitors in raising money, mostly from small contributors, and James held second place in the cash race, Fahy led the Kyrene field with hardly any money spent on her bid for a second term.
However, both Kolomyjec and Montero garnered significant financial support for their campaigns.