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McCain voters liked Giffords in CD8

Many in foothills, NW, East sides cross party lines to vote for Dem

Pima County voters crossed party lines and showed an independent streak in voting booths Nov. 4, the official precinct-by-precinct canvass of votes shows.

To find out how your precinct voted for president, Proposition 102, Congressional District 8, and your precincts voter registration, go to tucsoncitizen.com/electionmap.

In state Legislative District 26 on the Northwest Side, voters sent stalwart conservative Republican Al Melvin to the state Senate and liberal Nancy Young Wright to the state House of Representatives.

Voters in precincts across Congressional District 8 picked John McCain for president but sent Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat, back to Congress for a second term.

And in an election that was about change, voters here stayed the same.

Melvin’s victory means he will take over what had been a Democratic seat. It was the only partisan switch county voters chose to make in what was a Democratic year across the country.

McCain fared no worse here than George W. Bush in 2004. Both lost by a 52-46 margin in Pima County.

But Giffords appears to have solidified her support among voters in the Northwest Side and in the lower Catalina foothills.

She beat Republican state Sen. Tim Bee in Pima County by the same 14-point margin she enjoyed in 2006 over Republican Randy Graf.

It’s what Giffords’ campaign counted on as it planned her re-election effort.

“The voters of (Congressional District) 8 vote for the person,” said Giffords campaign manager Zach Wineburg. “People in the district split their vote all over the place.”

More than 1 in 4 voters in Pima County do not belong to either major party and those were the people that Giffords went after, Wineburg said.

That’s why her campaign poured resources into the independent-minded precincts of District 26, which covers the eastern half of Marana, all of Oro Valley and the western half of the Catalina foothills.

Obama carried just one Northwest Side precinct north of Ina Road. Giffords won 44.

She also outperformed the top of the ticket in the foothills and on the East Side of Tucson.

Pima County Republican Party Chairwoman Judi White said Giffords did a good job of establishing her image with voters.

“She did a good job of selling herself as a moderate,” White said. “Even though she voted most of the time with Nancy Pelosi,” the Democratic speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Independent voters tend to vote for things they like about the person, rather than choose candidates based on a menu of issues, said Republican pollster Margaret Kenski.

And Giffords had some star power.

“She’s been in Congress for two years and she’s been highly visible,” she said. “When you ask people what they know about (Giffords), they say she’s married to an astronaut.”

That worked for Giffords, Kenski said.

She said future efforts to oust Giffords would be “an uphill battle,” in part because she has proved to be a Herculean fundraiser, raking in more than $3 million for her first re-election bid. And she still has $700,000 left over for the 2010 campaign.

“You practically need to find someone who can self-finance a race,” Kenski said.

But Democrats did not rule the day in Pima County, despite Giffords’ success.

She shared victories with Republicans Melvin and incoming state Rep. Vic Williams in District 26. Frank Antenori and David Gowan cruised to wins in Legislative District 30, encompassing the far East Side and Green Valley.

Federal races and gubernatorial battles tend to reflect voters’ studied preferences, but they decide down-ticket races by either party affiliation or name recognition, Kenski said.

That helped political opposites Young Wright and Melvin score wins from the same batch of voters in District 26, Kenski said.

Young Wright had been active in Northwest Side politics for years and Melvin had run unsuccessfully in 2006.

“You can break the tendency to vote party line when voters don’t know anything else about you by having a huge campaign budget or having name recognition,” Kenski said.

Melvin belonged to the right party. Young Wright had name recognition. Giffords had the budget to sell herself and sculpt her message.

Also, the Pima County Democratic Party devoted time and effort to the usually hostile Northwest Side, said county Democratic Party Chairman Vince Rabago.

“When you look at it geographically, it helps to have Democrats working together in certain areas,” Rabago said.

However, Rabago said he was disappointed the Republicans picked up seats in the state Legislature, when Democrats thought they could take back one or both houses.

“It seems like there were McCain coattails,” Rabago said. “The race seemed to tighten in the last days of the campaign and that drove out Republicans to the polls who would have stayed home otherwise.”

The tightening race did not inspire Democrats the same way, Rabago said.

East, W. Side voters sink TUSD override

The map is unmistakable. Voters in the central part of Tucson Unified School District voted for a budget override in the Nov. 4 general election. Voters on the East and West sides of the district opposed it.

The question is, why?

The override, which would have lowered kindergarten and first-grade class size to 18, added an award-winning fine arts program to more schools and garnered money to attract math, science and exceptional education teachers, failed by a 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent margin, or 2,055 votes out of 172,141 cast.

Neighborhoods near Rogers, Corbett and Wrightstown elementaries, schools up for closure last year, were in the huge East Side area that voted against the override.

Those schools remained open.

Community activist John Kromko, leader of the opposition to the override and a retired teacher, former legislator and president of the Pima County Taxpayers Association, said the map is just what he expected.

“Midtown has always been that way,” he said. “Midtown residents are more progressive and less concerned about the property tax.

TUSD spokeswoman Chyrl Hill Lander said that other than the Rogers and Corbett areas, she didn’t know why there was such a division of views between midtown voters and those on the East and West sides.

“I tried to look at a map of charter schools, to see if there were more in the areas against the override, but they’re all over,” Lander said.

And so are TUSD schools. “We had plenty of schools on the East Side, so it’s not like those households aren’t getting exposure to TUSD schools. And we have plenty of schools on the West Side, too.”

Ann-Eve Pedersen, a TUSD parent and one of the organizers of the override drive, said the map was similar, but not identical, to the one of the 2004 override, which was defeated by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent.

“It looks like we did better this time in moving support farther west and east. However, the lack of support last time was also concentrated on the far west and far east,” she said.

Paul Eckerstrom former Pima County Democratic Party chairman who is spearheading the next TUSD override push, said people who live outside the city limits historically are more anti-tax. “You live outside the city limits for a reason. You want to get away from city taxes.”

Data reporter Eric Sagara analyzed the canvass and created the precinct maps for this story.

To find out the voter registration make up of your precinct, click on the link below for an interactive map.

To find out the voter registration make up of your precinct, click on the link below for an interactive map.

To find out how your precinct voted on Proposition 102, click on the link below for an interactive map.

To find out how your precinct voted on Proposition 102, click on the link below for an interactive map.

To see how your precinct voted on Proposition 403, click on the link below for an interactive map.

To see how your precinct voted on Proposition 403, click on the link below for an interactive map.

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Interactive maps online

To find out how your precinct voted for president, Proposition 102, Congressional District 8, and your precincts voter registration, go to tucsoncitizen.com/electionmap.

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