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  Tucson, AZ City Council Recall Election 1/18/1977
TypeGeneral Election
TitleTucson, AZ City Council Recall Election 1/18/1977
Start Date/TimeJanuary 18, 1977 08:00am
End Date/TimeJanuary 18, 1977 08:00pm
ContributorThomas Walker
Last ModifiedThomas Walker - February 19, 2009 09:29am
DescriptionOn January 18, 1977, the first and so far only City Council recall election in the city of Tucson, Arizona, took place.

The major issues involved in this recall were:

1) A huge increase in water bills
2) Customers being charged for lift charges
3) The perception of the water rate changes being used as a facade for an anti-growth agenda by the Council

In June of 1976, Council voted to increase water rates. Coupled with that was a "lift" fee, charging for how high a customers water meter was above Tucson's well sites.

Within the central parts of Tucson, monthly rates typically went from $8 to $13, $12 to $26 and so on. In the surrounding foothills, rates went from $19 to $107, $14 to $83 and so on.

Yhese charges were seen as a way to prevent expansion and growth into the surrounding areas.

The Council got its makeup following the 1975 election, when Margot Garcia and Doug Kennedy, "Reform Democrats", were elected, joining Robert Cauthorn and Barbara Weymann to give the "Reform Democrats" a majority on the Council. Other Counbcil members, Ruben Romero and Rudy Castro, were Democrats, but not aligned with the "Reform" group. Pima County Board of Supervisors member Ron Asta was also seen as an ally of the "Reform" group.

The recall effort, led by John Varga and Jack Fitzgerald, began in August, the month after the rate increases showed up in water bills.

The "Reform" slate quickly abandoned lift charges, and held sparsely attended public workshops to educate the public on water, as well as putting several water issues on the November ballot.

The recall effort continued, and the signatures were quickly obtained.

The recall, and numerous lawsuits greatly constrained Tucson's ability to sell bonds to finance the expansion of the water systems.

Four candidates were eventually supported by the pro-recall effort - Richard Amlee, Cheri Cross, James Hooten and Schuyler Lininger. Lininger never promised to roll back the higher rates, and the other three eventually backpedaled and said rates would be raised some, but not as drastically, and only due to inflation and other such causes.

By this point, it did not matter, everything was set in motion and come recall day, the Tucson City Council had four new members.

Ward 1 - Ruben Romero, incumbent. Was not a part of the recall. Ran for Mayor in 1979, becoming the only major party nominee in the last 60 years to not finish in the top two for Mayor.

Ward 2 - Douglas Kennedy, incumbent. Kennedy was defeated in the recall by the pro-recall campaign of Richard Amlee. Amlee 55.88%, Kennedy 33.72%, Others 10.39%. Amlee chose to not run for reelection in 1979.

Ward 3 - Robert Cauthorn, incumbent. Cauthorn, who stated in September that all four "Reform" candidates would be crushed, accepted a job in Florida in December, and did not run in the recall. James Hooten, the pro-recall candidate won the race with 16,200 votes, while the nearest of his 5 competitors had 10,564 votes. Hooten lost the Democratic Council primary later that year to future Tucson Mayor George Miller.

Ward 4 - Margot Garcia, incumbent. Garcia lost 56.68% to 31.49% to pro-recall candidate Cheri Cross. A third candidate polled 11.81%. Cross went on to lose the Council general election in 1979.

Ward 5 - Rudy Castro, incumbent. Castro was not a part of the recall, and was defeated in his bid for reelection in November, 1977.

Ward 6 - Barbara Weymann, incumbent. In the recall election, Weymann polled 28.64%, pro-recall candidate Schuyler "Sky" Lininger received 59.35% of the vote, while two other candidates combined for 12.00% of the vote. Lininger went on to lose the November general election to future Mayor Tom Volgy.

Mayor - The next race for Mayor was in 1979. Lewis Murphy (R) was reelected with 41.87%, followed by recall effort leader John Varga (I) at 34.75%, and City Council member Ruben Romero (D) with 23.37%.

In 1983, Murphy (R) once again won, with 56.92%. "Reform" group ally Ron Asta (D) polled 37.31%, followed by 5.76% for others.

*Following the 1971 election for Mayor, two Democrats have served as Mayor of Tucson. Both were first elected to City Council in 1977 defeating pro-recall incumbents.

* The recall election resulted in 3 seats switching party hands and one remaining in the same hands. The next time these 4 candidates seats came up, 3 switched party hands and one remained the same.

*One recalled candidate did not run in the recall. One pro-recall candidate did not run for reelection.

*This was the only non-partisan City Council race in Tucson history.

*This was the only time a non R/D group held a majority on the Tucson City Council. Since December of 1973, the Democrats have been the majority on Council otherwise.

*No candidate on the ballot during the recall, win or lose, has run for citywide office in a general election in Tucson since 1979.

*Three of the pro-recall candidates (Amlee, Cross, Lininger) were Republicans, while one, Hooten, was a Democrat.

*There was huge turnout for the recall election. In the 4 races, the turnout for the recall was higher than the turnout for at least the preceding of following Council election.

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