/ Modified aug 30, 2019 3:46 p.m.

Journalists roundtable, Regina Romero, free speech at the UA

Analyzing the results of the Tucson primary election and looking ahead to the general election.

Voters in Tucson can shift their attention to the general election in November now that the city has tallied ballots for its all-mail primary. The three-way race between Democratic candidates for mayor topped the ticket, and City Councilwoman Regina Romero easily won with about 50% of the vote.

Arizona 360 turned to the Arizona Daily Star’s Sarah Garrecht Gassen, the Tucson Sentinel’s Dylan Smith and Tucson Local Media’s Jim Nintzel to unpack the results in a journalists’ roundtable.

“Number one, I think Democrats are leaning toward women and people of color. All things being equal, there wasn’t a lot of difference between where these candidates stood on a lot of issues. So I think people were looking at secondary characteristics,” Nintzel said.

Romero’s opponent in the general election is independent Ed Ackerley, a longtime advertising executive and instructor at the University of Arizona.

“I think he’s going to pick up a little bit of support from especially some folks in the business community, Republicans who are adamantly opposed to Regina Romero being mayor. I don’t know if that’s going to be anywhere near enough support,” Smith said.

The conversation also covered another big item on November’s ballot: the sanctuary city initiative. Many government leaders have voiced opposition to the measure, including Romero.

“I have no doubt that the Republicans will mount a huge campaign about this because it is such a good ‘red meat’ talking point for the GOP. And I think it probably will fail, but I also can see it winning with people voting for it on the idea of it without really getting into understanding why this particular initiative is not a good idea,” Gassen said.

The day after Tucson’s primary election, Democratic mayoral nominee Regina Romero sat down with Lorraine Rivera to discuss her victory and her campaign’s strategy in the run-up to the general election in November.

“We’re not going to change. This is the message that I’ve worked hard for the last 12 years on the City Council,” Romero said. “Those are the issues that brought us to this point. And we're going to continue having that discussion with the general election voters.”

After the polls closed Tuesday, Romero said her campaign expected it would take longer to determine the winner. Instead, cheers erupted moments after the city posted the first results that put her well ahead over her opponents Randi Dorman and Steve Farley. Romero said both candidates have since called to offer their support and she would like to unite the Democratic party. While going door-to-door to reach undecided voters, Romero said she often heard how they’re affected by rhetoric from the White House.

“When I hit the doors, I heard people saying, ‘Yes, I’m going to vote for mayor, but I am so concerned about what’s happening in D.C.,’” Romero said. “I have faith Tucsonans want someone to take a stand against racist rhetoric, against the hate and division that Trump is spewing out.”

On the issue of the sanctuary city initiative voters will also consider in November, Romero said she would work to uphold it if it passes despite not supporting the measure herself.

“If the voters pass this initiative, then I will defend the will of the voters. First, because I’ve always maintained that the state Legislature and the governor have been trying to micromanage the city of Tucson for at least 10 years or more,” Romero said. “I wish we would have been able to have a discussion with those people that wrote the sanctuary city initiative because 60% of what the initiative calls for we’re already doing in the city of Tucson.”

With a new school year at the University of Arizona, administrators are expected to revive an issue raised last spring about free speech and inclusion. Last March the university made national headlines when students protested the presence of Border Patrol agents on campus. It led to more demonstrations and culminated with a Campus Conversations forum weeks before summer break. The university’s chief compliance officer, Celina Ramirez, explained how administrators plan to steer the discussion in the months ahead.

“More and more we hear that people feel isolated. They’re attached to their devices and it’s such an important part of the college experience to meet someone from across the country or across the world who grew up completely different from you,” Ramirez said. “I hope they feel that the administration is listening and wants to hear with they have to say.”

For the first event happening on campus Oct. 16, the university invited Loyola University professor Aurora Chang to speak about how college campuses can better support their students, specifically immigrants. That event will be open to the public, but Ramirez said other events will only be for students. The university created a webpage to share information about upcoming events.

Arizona 360
Arizona 360 airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on PBS 6 and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on PBS 6 PLUS. See more from Arizona 360.
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