June 13, 2004
Pinal County officials will face unusually steep competition in countywide elections this fall, say Republicans who are backing four new candidates for the Board of Supervisors and county assessor spots.
Three Republican candidates for supervisor and one for assessor have collected the needed signatures and turned in their petitions. The contenders face a difficult challenge in Pinal County, where no Republican has ever held a countywide seat.
Sharron Gill, the county’s Republican Committee chairwoman, said all four candidates are respected leaders in their communities and have good chances of garnering support.
"We have people that are taking a stronger place within the county as far as being involved in things," she said.
Gill said Pinal County — particularly the northern portion that is stretching the East Valley’s population center to the southeast — is undergoing a transformation that could bode well for her party in 2004.
An influx of middle-class families, gripes about high property assessments and accusations of corruption could give Republicans their first real chance for an upset victory, Gill said.
"It’s definitely time for a change, and we’ve got to work our hardest to accomplish this," the Gold Canyon resident said.
The number of active, registered Republicans in Pinal County has increased slightly from 21,281 in 1999 to 22,650 in 2003, according to the Secretary of State’s Arizona registration report, while the number of active Democrats decreased from 38,066 to 32,206.
But more significant, Republican leaders said, is the sizable increase in active voters registered as independents or with other parties. The number of potential swing voters shot up from 7,317 in 1999 to 16,007 last year, the registration report indicates.
Still, based on Pinal County ’s vo ting history, it wouldn’t seem that the Republican candidates stand much of a chance.
The county Republican Party has been so weak in the past that incumbent Democrats have run unopposed as recently as the 2000 elections.
But Gill said recent discussions with voters have made her more optimistic.
"A day doesn’t go by that I don’t come across a longtime Democrat or independent who appreciates the choices they have with the new candidates," she said.