For the first time in Oro Valley’s history, there is no need for a General Election.
Bill Garner, Mike Zinkin, and Brendan Burns each received more than 50 percent plus one of the votes in the March 13 Primary Election to claim the three open council seats.
The three seats were up for grabs with incumbent Bill Garner seeking reelection, incumbent Steve Solomon seeking his first official four-year term after being appointed in 2010, and councilman Barry Gillaspie opting not to run.
In 2008, Garner and Salette Latas were elected outright in the primaries, which, until now, was the closest the town came to withstanding a General Election.
Garner made another good showing this year, his 5,576 votes led all candidates. Following Garner was newcomer Brendan Burns with 5,067 votes, and Mike Zinkin grabbed the third and final seat with 4,975 votes.
Zinkin was running for the second time after narrowly losing the election for mayor to Satish Hiremath in 2010.
“It was certainly a shock to see three candidates move on in the primaries,” said Zinkin. “It’s quite a relief to not have to go to a General Election.”
Garner said it is comforting to have won back-to-back primaries, and credits his voting record as playing a big role in his reelection.
“I think people like transparency versus making a faith-based choice, and I think my voting record gave me an edge this time around,” he said. “I did what I pledged to do in 2007-2008, and I will continue to do that.”
The three candidates failing to claim a seat were Solomon, Mark Napier, and Fred Narcaroti. According to the unofficial results, Solomon received 4,285 votes, while Napier had 3,521 votes and Narcaroti finished with 2,147 votes.
Throughout the primaries, there seemed to develop a “three versus three” mentality amongst voters, with Solomon, Napier and Narcaroti on one side, and Garner, Zinkin, and Burns on the other. According to a blog by Napier on LetOroValleyExcel.com, he feels his attempt to bridge the gap between the candidates ultimately hurt his chances of being elected.
“What completely surprised me during my candidacy was how divided this town is,” he stated in a March 18 letter. “I was surprised by how many people were against me because of a perception I was on one side, without knowing anything about me. Equally surprising was that some would support me because I was thought to be on one side, without ever really knowing my position on any important issues.
“In no small measure, I found myself disheartened by the process. What I came to know is that I was not on any one side. I only wanted to serve the best interests of the Town as an independent candidate. That proved not to be a recipe for success. I accept that.”
Solomon, who often found himself in disagreement with Burns, Garner, and Zinkin, said he is disappointed with the result, and cited “dirty politics” as one of the reasons he was not elected.
“Unfortunately I was the unrelenting target of lies regarding my character,” he said. “I ran an honest, positive, truthful campaign.”
Zinkin, who Solomon claimed lied about receiving endorsements in his campaign, argued Solomon was not honest in his campaign.
“I think Steve’s voting record hurt him, and he even denied his voting record,” said Zinkin. “He did vote against things like Coyote Run.”
In the past, residents of Oro Valley have criticized the current council for voting in a lopsided manner, something Zinkin said he is hopeful will stop with the election.
Interim Town Manager Greg Caton said while not every issue should require an argument, a variety of opinions is productive.
“It’s most important for the council to represent the community,” he said. “Some votes will still be unanimous, but differing opinions can lead to a lot of good discussions.”
Burns said he expects to see a lot of unanimous decisions still, as he met with the Mayor and other members of the council and feels they all want what is best for Oro Valley. Burns hopes the addition of himself and Zinkin to the council will supplement in-depth discussions and thoughtful examination of town issues.
Regardless of the candidates’ pre-election classifications, Garner said he thinks the council will benefit with the addition of Zinkin and Burns.
Burns, who will become the youngest member of the current council following his swear-in on June 6, will bring with him a young professional’s perspective, something Garner said is not currently a demographic well-represented on council.
Burns said his top priority when taking his seat will be to ensure the long-term fiscal sustainability of Oro Valley by examining big-budget items like parks and recreation and the police department.
“I think it’s invaluable in finding cost savings,” he said. “The police budget is the largest budget item in the general fund, and also the most important item, in that it provides public safety to residents of Oro Valley.”
Burns said the study is important when considering future annexations, and will likely open up cost savings, allowing further sustainability of police officers by potentially offering raises to those in uniform.
Zinkin said he plans to follow through on issues promised during his campaign, including a police management study and economic development.
Garner said he plans to maintain his platform of making decisions as a “steward of the people’s money,” making decisions based on evidence, and providing an open voting record to the public.