PHOENIX – Turnout was low as Phoenix voters went to the polls Tuesday to elect city council members in a special election for Districts 6 and 8, after no candidate won a majority of the vote for those seats in November.
The race for the District 6 seat vacated by Councilman Sal DiCiccio pitted DiCiccio’s chief of staff, Sam Stone, against former police officer Kevin Robinson, who received 17% and 19% of the vote, respectively, in November. In District 8, Councilman Carlos Garcia defended his seat against challenger Kesha Hodge Washington, a former assistant state attorney.
District 6 includes Ahwatukee, Arcadia, Biltmore and part of north-central Phoenix. District 8 includes South Phoenix and some of the eastern part of the city.
The District 6 seat became open because DiCiccio is term-limited. Council members can serve for up to three consecutive four-year terms.
Robinson served as a police officer for 36 years and is a lecturer at Arizona State University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. He has been endorsed by U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, among others, according to his campaign website.
In addition to being DiCiccio’s chief of staff, Stone previously worked for the Joe Foss Institute, a nonprofit community education organization. Stone has the support of DiCiccio and Kari Lake, the Donald Trump-endorsed 2022 Republican gubernatorial candidate.
In District 8, Garcia Gallego’s term ends after she left her seat to run for mayor.
But Gallego backed his challenger, Washington, who practiced law in Phoenix for 20 years. In addition to Gallego, Washington has been endorsed by Stanton and Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, according to her website.
Garcia received 39.36% of the vote in the November election, and Washington received 37.88%.
At a polling station at the Devonshire Senior Center Tuesday, Robinson said he was cautiously optimistic about the District 6 outcome.
“All the metrics we set for ourselves we met, so hopefully that will result in a positive result later tonight,” Robinson said.
Robinson said turnout was light, which is what he expected. He emphasized the importance of applying and getting the vote out.
“Getting out the vote was critical, and we’ve partnered with so many different groups and organizations to do just that,” Robinson said. “I think we’ve been very successful with that in terms of all the goals we set for ourselves early in the campaign.”
Robinson’s opponent Stone was not immediately available for comment, but his campaign website noted that he was not a career politician.
“I never wanted to run for public office, and still don’t. But I am because I believe, after everything I’ve seen over the last few years, that Phoenix is at a tipping point,” Stone said on his website.
Stone also urged people on Twitter to get to the polls. “I need your vote now if you want to save the Phoenix we love from the same failed liberal policies that destroyed California,” he wrote.
District 8 candidate Washington said at the Burton Barr Central Library’s vote center that she felt good and connected with as many voters as possible throughout the campaign.
“I had a plan, I executed it, and now it’s the voters’ choice,” Washington said. “I hope that I will be successful tonight, but I am excited for the opportunity to serve Phoenix.”
Washington said she was hoping for at least a 15% turnout.
“Ideally, I would like to see more and more people get involved in our civic process and realize how important local elections are to everyday life,” Washington said.
If elected, Washington would be the first African-American woman on the council.
“I would be grateful for that, but I would also be aware that I represent the entire district, not just the demographic that looks like myself,” she said.
Garcia did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but according to his website, “his work is based on the belief that diverse people with shared struggles and visions have the power to change the course of history.”
Garcia was a community organizer before becoming a council member, and he co-founded the nonprofit Puente Human Rights Movement. He campaigned against Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 “show me your papers” law and has been outspoken about police use of force.
Garcia has had tension with some council members, including Gallego, who spoke to constituents at the Devonshire Senior Center Tuesday morning.
“I’m really looking forward to working with the council,” Gallego said. “I hope we get people who are focused on the future and who can help guide the city of Phoenix as we make incredibly important decisions.”
Unofficial election results will be available on the Phoenix City Clerk’s website after 8 p.m. Tuesday.