It pays to be a Gilbert incumbent.
The four Gilbert Town Councilmen seeking re-election are leading their seven challengers in the race for four open council seats, according to preliminary election results released Tuesday night.
Councilman Dave Crozier has the most votes among the 11 candidates, followed by Vice Mayor Steve Urie, Councilman Les Presmyk and Councilman Larry Morrison. The closest challenger, Lorin Hatch, trails Morrison by 124 votes. Hatch is followed by Cathy Pai, Daryl Colvin, Steve Shibley, Bobby Thompson, Michael Slattery and Abboud Bedro.
Only Crozier received more than 50 percent of the ballots cast, which is necessary to secure a seat in Tuesday's primary election. If he maintains that percentage through final vote counts he will not have to run in the May 20 run-off election. For every seat not filled, two candidates will advance to May's election. If the percentages remain the same, incumbents Urie, Presmyk and Morrison and challengers Hatch, Pai and Colvin would run against each other.
Final results are expected on Friday.
"It looks promising, but it can all change tomorrow," said Crozier, who was elected with more than 50 percent of the vote in his two previous council primary elections.
Presmyk, who along with Urie was elected to the council four years ago, was not surprised the incumbents had strong showings.
"As I talked with longtime residents at the polls who follow the election process, everybody was saying what they looked at was the experience each of the candidates brought," Presmyk said. "From the standpoint of the Town Council, Planning and Zoning Commission and Redevelopment Commission, we (the incumbents) all have between 12 and 15 years of community experience behind us, and I think people recognize that."
According to the preliminary results, 4,170 of Gilbert's 52,454 registered voters, or 7.95 percent, cast ballots. The preliminary totals do not include ballots that need to be verified and early ballots received by the Maricopa County Elections Department after noon Monday, Gilbert Town Clerk Cathy Templeton said. Templeton expects to receive an estimate today on the number of outstanding ballots.
Pai, one of two candidates to spend less than $500 on the campaign, was "thrilled" with her unofficial sixth-place finish.
"It's restored my faith in local politics that one can make a difference without breaking the bank," Pai said. Colvin, whose campaign manager is Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman, said he's going to be busy in the coming days.
"Until we sit down and analyze this large amount of data, there aren't any intelligent comments anyone can make," Colvin said. The nearly 8 percent turnout, which likely will rise by Friday, is slightly higher than 5.8 percent in the March 1999 election, which was the last race with four open council seats. In March and May 2001, in a primary and run-off election for mayor and two council seats, voter turnout was 14.8 and 16.4 percent, respectively.