The 2020 general election has been divisive and your vote in that election is hugely important.
But we also believe that change begins at home and that casting a vote is community-affirming and an important way to stay connected.
If you haven't been able to stay on top of every local race and decision, you aren't alone — 2020 is a marathon not a sprint. To that end, we have gathered the recommendations of the Arizona Daily Star's Editorial Board, which researches candidates and issues and offers endorsements each election. The Star is a sister site to #ThisIsTucson.
The Star Editorial Board is currently comprised of President and Publisher John D’Orlando, top newsroom leader Editor Jill Jorden Spitz, Opinion editor Sarah Garrecht Gassen and Opinion writer and producer Edward Celaya. The board discusses each candidate in each race, and comes to an agreement on who they think will do the job best. They research the candidates’ experience, track records, and ideas. They do not pay attention to political party; over the years the board has endorsed candidates across the political spectrum.
The Editorial Board and the Star’s news reporters and editors operate independently of each other.
You can watch some of the the candidate interviews yourself — the board has held 25 candidate interviews since early September via Zoom.
Prop 207: The Smart and Safe Arizona Act
What it is: A yes vote on Prop. 207 would make it legal for adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. Adults could also grow up to six plants in their home. All marijuana products would be subject to applicable city and state taxes, as well as a 16% excise tax. Tax revenue would go to the Smart and Safe Arizona Fund, which would be distributed like this: 33% to community college districts, 31.4% to local police and fire departments and 25.4% to the Highway User Revenue Fund.
The initiative establishes that anyone of legal age found to possess between 1 and 2.5 ounces of marijuana would be charged with a misdemeanor offense instead of a felony. There are also additional enforcement provisions for minors. The proposition also opens a potential pathway for those charged in the past for certain marijuana-related offenses by allowing a petition of expungement of their criminal records.
Recommendation: Vote yes.
Prop 208: Invest in Education Act
What it is: A yes vote on Prop. 208 would increase the pay for Arizona teachers and other classroom-connected educators by creating a 3.5% income tax surcharge on those Arizona taxpayers who make $250,000 in taxable income for individual, or $500,000 per couple — note that benchmark is for taxable income, what’s left after tax deductions have been taken. About 90,000 Arizonans make enough to qualify for the surcharge.
Recommendation: Vote yes.
Prop. 481: Pima Community College
What it is: Prop. 481 doesn’t ask voters for more dollars, but it asks for approval to increase what is known as the “base expenditure limit,” which sets the maximum amount of tax revenues PCC is allowed to spend on operations.
Prop. 481 would increase PCC’s base expenditure limit from roughly $19 million to about $30 million, which is in line with other community college districts in Arizona.
In simple terms, PCC already has the money but it needs Prop. 481 passed so it can be spent.
Recommendation: Vote yes
Pima County Sheriff
Candidates: Chris Nanos (D) vs. Mark Napier (R)
Recommendation: Mark Napier
In an often contentious and combative contest, the Arizona Daily Star endorses Sheriff Mark Napier to continue in the role of Pima County Sheriff.
While his opponent, former Sheriff Chris Nanos, is just as experienced, Napier sets himself apart with his demeanor and understanding of the issues facing both the department and the profession.
Although the administration of the law knows no party, the office of sheriff is partisan in Arizona. However, even running as the Republican candidate, Napier is the more progressive — and better — candidate.
Pima County Recorder
Candidates: Gabriella Cázares-Kelly (D) vs. Benny White (R)
Recommendation: Gabriella Cázares-Kelly
During normal times, the recorder’s office would be a nearly invisible force, but pressures from outside the county have suddenly turned the race for who is ultimately in charge of counting votes into a prime-time election. And Cázares-Kelly is ready for her close-up.
Although she has no experience within the office, Cázares-Kelly brings new ideas and energy to an already professionally staffed office. That solid staff will allow for Cázares-Kelly to better implement her campaign platform of reaching out to underserved and underrepresented communities.
With the future of voting and voter enfranchisement likely forever changed by the pandemic and the social unrest of this summer, Cázares-Kelly’s plan to include more voices isn’t just welcome, it’s part of the remedy for a divided nation.
Pima County Assessor
Candidates: Suzanne Droubie (D) vs. Jo Ann Sabbagh (R)
Recommendation: Suzanne Droubie
Droubie's specific experience with appraisals, work as a real estate agent and representing property owners makes her the more qualified for this particular elected position.
Pima County Board of Supervisors
Candidates: Rex Scott (D) vs. Steve Spain (R)
Recommendation: Rex Scott
Scott is a rational, reasonable centrist with a career of public service as a teacher and school principal — positions that require a cool head, smart ideas and the ability to problem solve amid competing interests.
Steve Spain, backed by retiring supervisor Ally Miller (R), has shown himself to be a science-denying flame-thrower whose ill-conceived positions and reliance on public personal attacks make him unsuitable to effectively represent a district that is ideologically, demographically and economically diverse.
Scott has demonstrated independence in his positions, a focus on District 1 in his priorities — including his plans on fighting COVID-19 — and his steady leadership is the right fit for a Pima County Supervisor.
Candidates: Matt Heinz (D) vs. Anthony Sizer (R)
Recommendation: Matt Heinz
Seemingly always active on the Democratic side of the ballot this time of year, Heinz is in the position to represent the diverse district that stretches from Sahuarita to South Tucson after challenging and defeating incumbent supervisor, Ramon Valadez.
Heinz has smartly chosen to make his campaign focus the same as his everyday job: health. As a hospital physician at Tucson Medical Center, and as someone who has helped treat COVID-positive patients, Heinz offers a unique insight and perspective on an issue the county will face into the foreseeable future.
When it comes to the nitty-gritty of policy making, Heinz’ background in the state legislature will help him with the horse-trading and deal making that comes along with getting things done at the county level.
Ultimately, in perhaps the most uncertain time facing the county in recent memory, Heinz’ background in medicine, coupled with his prior legislative experience, makes him one of the most qualified supervisor candidates on the ballot.
Candidates: Sharon Bronson (D) vs. Gabby Saucedo Mercer (R)
Recommendation: Sharon Bronson
Sharon Bronson is the best choice to represent this vast district, which includes the Flowing Wells area of Tucson, small communities like Picture Rocks, Arivaca and Ajo, the Tohono O’Odham Nation, the U.S.-Mexico border and vast natural areas. Bronson is deservedly best known for her work on the County’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan and in on a board with at least three new Supervisors, her institutional knowledge will be essential.
Candidates: Steve Diamond (D) vs. Steve Christy (R)
Recommendation: Steve Diamond
Steve Diamond is the better choice to represent this large district that includes the county’s east side, including Coronado National Forest and Saguaro National Park East, and southeast to the U.S.-Mexico border.
We value Steve Christy’s business perspective on the Board, but we find two of his positions so extreme as to be disqualifying: “Is climate change the fault of man? No, I don’t believe so. I don’t believe man has the capacity to affect Mother Nature in that regard;” and putting political philosophy over public health: “A mask mandate does not coincide with our ability to make our own decisions.”
Steve Diamond strikes us as a common-sense candidate who supports sustainability and science, but is mindful of businesses’ contributions and won’t be a rubber stamp for the Pima County administration.
Candidates: Adelita Grijalva (D) vs. Fernando Gonzales (R)
Recommendation: Adelita Grijalva
Adelita Grijalva is the best choice for this district that encompasses Tucson’s west side, part of Saguaro National Park West and most of the Pascua Yaqui Nation.
Grijalva is a known quantity from her years on the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board, and her experience on that fractious board and dealing with strapped budgets, state mandates and an engaged public prepares her the broader Pima County Supervisor role.
Grijalva listens to constituents and centers her problem-solving perspective on those without institutional power, a needed and useful point of view especially when making decisions that affect more than 1 million people.
Candidates: Martha McSally (R) vs. Mark Kelly (D)
Recommendation: Mark Kelly
Mark Kelly is the best choice to serve Arizona in this election, which will decide who completes the remainder of the late John McCain’s Senate term thru 2022.
Martha McSally is running for election to the seat she was appointed to in 2018 after McCain’s death. Her decision to ally closely with President Trump hurt her in 2018 when she ran for Senate and lost, and her continued embrace of Trump doesn't fit in a state more inclined toward independent thinkers.
Candidates: Tom O’Halleran (D) vs. Tiffany Shedd (R)
Recommendation: Tom O’Halleran
O’Halleran, who is running for a third term, is the epitome of bipartisan — he served in the state Legislature as a centrist Republican and in Congress as a centrist Democrat. The political parties’ platforms changed over the years but O’Halleran remained constant in his dedication to working for children and seniors, good jobs and a growing economy.
Candidates: Ann Kirkpatrick (D) vs. Brandon Martin (R)
Recommendation: Ann Kirkpatrick
Kirkpatrick faces Brandon Martin, a Republican whose stated priorities include, among mainstay issues like veterans and constituent services, abolishing the 16th (federal income tax) and 17th (taking away citizens’ ability to vote for Senators directly) Amendments; and ending “social engineering” and all funding for “transgender programs” in the military.
Kirkpatrick reflects the political diversity of CD 2 — a mix of Democrats, Republicans and large number of registered Independents. She sits on the Agriculture and Appropriations House committees and supports the Affordable Care Act, much-needed COVID-19 financial assistance, Indigenous issues and voting rights.
Candidates: Raúl Grijalva (D) vs. Daniel Wood (R)
Recommendation: Raúl Grijalva
Grijalva has chaired the House Natural Resources Committee since 2016 and is a leader on conservation, public lands and environmental issues. He's also on the Education and Labor Committee and has long fought for high-quality and attainable education from pre-K through college.
He’s held educator roundtables on Zoom to find out what Arizona schools need during the COVID-19 pandemic, seeking information from the grass roots to better understand a challenge facing families and educators. Grijalva embodies the doggedness needed to be effective in Congress, especially during the years Democrats have been the minority party.
Legislative District 2
House candidates: Andrea Dalessandro (D), Daniel Hernandez Jr. (D), Deborah McEwen (R)
Recommendation: Andrea Dalessandro, Daniel Hernandez Jr.
Senate candidates: Rosanna Gabaldón (D) vs. Mark Workman (R)
Recommendation: Rosanna Gabaldón
House incumbent Rosanna Gabaldón is running for the Arizona Senate, and Senate incumbent Andrea Dalessandro is running for House. Both should be retained at the Legislature. We also endorse Daniel Hernandez Jr. in his bid for re-election to the state House.
The upcoming Legislative session will be difficult, given the economic, public health, educational and social challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. In such a varied district — which includes urban, rural, suburban, retirement communities and small towns — we believe that the incumbents’ hands-on knowledge of the region’s diverse and specific needs, and the nuts-and-bolts legislative process, will benefit LD2 residents.
Legislative District 9
House candidates: Randall “Randy” Friese (D), Pamela Powers Hannley (D), Brendan Lyons (R)
Recommendation: Randall “Randy” Friese and Pamela Powers Hannley
Senate candidates: Victoria Steele (D) running unopposed
Recommendation: Victoria Steele
For the two House seats, the Arizona Daily Star Editorial Board endorses Randall “Randy” Friese and Pamela Powers Hannley. Both are incumbents with extensive backgrounds in public health, science and medicine — expertise definitely needed in the Arizona Legislature.
Political newcomer Brendan Lyons, also running for the state House, has a bright future in public service, and we hope he continues. Originally a firefighter, he has turned his experience surviving a life-changing vehicle crash caused by a distracted driver into a community safety mission.
Legislative District 10
House candidates: Domingo DeGrazia (D), Stephanie Stahl Hamilton (D), Mabelle Gummere (R), Michael Hicks (R)
Recommendation: Domingo DeGrazia and Stephanie Stahl Hamilton
Senate candidates: Kirsten Engel (D) vs. Justine Wadsack (R)
Recommendation: Kirsten Engel
Kirsten Engel has served in the Arizona House and is now running for the state Senate against challenger Justine Wadsack (R). Our endorsement is for Engel, in part for her experience with environmental law.
In the House race, we endorse incumbent Domingo DeGrazia and newcomer Stephanie Stahl Hamilton. Her advocacy for public education, fueled by involvement her children’s school site council and PTO, is needed at the Legislature.
Legislative District 11
House candidates: Felipe R. Perez (D), Bret Roberts (R), Mark Finchem (R)
Recommendation: Felipe R. Perez and Bret Roberts
Senate candidates: JoAnna Mendoza (D) vs. Vince Leach (R)
Recommendation: JoAnna Mendoza
Arizona Corporation Commission
Candidates: Bill Mundell (D), Shea Stanfield (D), Anna Tovar (D), Lea Márquez Peterson (R), James O’Connor (R), Eric Sloan (R)
Recommendation: Shea Stanfield, Bill Mundell and Lea Márquez Peterson
Márquez Peterson, the only incumbent running this year, not only has the past experience needed to help distinguish herself from the crowd, she also knows the committee’s reputation and has taken steps to combat it: She passed a new code of ethics as one of her first actions after being appointed to the board by Gov. Doug Ducey.
Stanfield, a former teacher and member of the Cave Creek Town Council, comes from an environmental preservation background. In a time where consideration to conservation and green practices is not just smart business but good for the environment, hers will be a needed voice.
Mundell, a savvy political veteran who served on the commission previously in the early 2000s, brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the table. His campaign focus, to make Arizona carbon neutral by 2050, is the sort of long-term policy making the state needs to help manage increased growth.
And make no mistake, Arizona is growing. In order to avoid the pitfalls so often cited by longtime locals and newly located transplants from Los Angeles, the Bay Area and other crowded locales, smart utility oversight and regulation will be needed going forward.
Pima County Treasurer
Candidates: Beth Ford (R) vs. Brian Bickel (D)
Recommendation: Beth Ford
Ford is running for her sixth term as Pima County Treasurer and should retain the office. She has been a steady hand in a position that we think requires not only managerial skills but detailed public sector financial knowledge. Ford is a CPA and has 20 years experience in the office, which, in this kind of operational office — collecting tax payments and disbursing funds — is valuable.
Brian Bickel has some good ideas to improve customer service, but we don’t think that’s weighty enough to forgo Beth Ford’s accumulated expertise.
TUSD Governing Board
Candidates: Sadie Shaw, Ravi Grivois-Shah, Nick Pierson, Cindy Winston, Adam Ragan, Natalie Luna Rose (non-partisan election)
Recommendation: Adam Ragan, Ravi Grivois-Shah and Natalie Luna Rose
With no incumbent members running in this year’s election, new faces abound. All three candidates endorsed by the Star from the six-person field on the ballot would be first-time TUSD Board members, a trait shared by all the candidates.
However, all three bring a wealth of life experience and unique insight to the position that will be sorely needed on a board known for infighting and intransigence and that will be facing a pandemic and all of the ancillary issues that arise from it.
Ragan, a current ninth grade teacher, has been active in district, local and county politics for some time, and would fulfill the need for having an active educator on the board who knows how to lobby.
Grivois-Shah, in addition to being the medical director at Alvernon Family Medicine, is a TUSD parent and active local PTA member at one of his children’s schools. He brings medical expertise to a council that may need help parsing out the logistics and outcomes of policies both now and post-COVID.
Luna Rose, the current communications manager for the Arizona Center for Disability Law and a TUSD parent, will be an advocate for a community that is often left out of the decision-making process.
Together, these new additions to a board that had become staid and devoid of new ideas should help reinvigorate a district that always seems to find itself a step behind.
Pima Community College Board
Candidates: Catherine “Cat” Ripley (D) vs. Ethan Orr (R)
Recommendation: Catherine “Cat” Ripley
The race pits the two candidates who most understand what the position they are running for is and why they want to fill it. Both the veteran Ripley and former state legislator Ethan Orr exhibit a genuine love for the college punctuated by different understandings of how to make it more inclusive to all Pima County residents.
Although Orr boasts more time spent in a legislative body and has served the Southern Arizona community for years, Ripley is used to being somewhere new and adapting quickly: She was one of the first women to be admitted and graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy.
Additionally, she held the position of assistant professor at some of the country’s most prestigious universities and is currently an adjunct professor at PCC in political science.
On top of an impressive résumé, Ripley promises a more community-inclusive plan to keep PCC competitive in a new era complicated by new, for-profit online universities and COVID-19.
Amphitheater Unified School District Governing Board
Candidates: Scott Baker, Deanna M. Day, Vicki Cox Golder and Nathan Davis are vying for three seats on the Amphitheater School District governing board.
Recommendation: No endorsements
Sunnyside Unified School District Governing Board
Candidates: Rebecca "Beki" Quintero, Matthew Taylor and Lisette Nuñez are running for three open seats on the Sunnyside school board. Joaquin Nuñez has withdrawn his candidacy.
Recommendation: No endorsements
Tanque Verde Unified School District Governing Board
Candidates: Raj Murthy, Jeffrey M. Neff, Jeremy Schalk, Anne Marie H. Velosa are running for three open seats on the Tanque Verde school board.
Recommendation: No endorsements
Vail Unifed School District Governing Board
Candidates: Kim Fargusson, Christopher King, André P. Mixon, Allison Pratt, Callie B. Tippett are running to fill three open seats on the Vail governing board.
Recommendation: No endorsements
Ajo Unified School District Governing Board
Candidates: Windy Robertson
Recommendations: No endorsements
Continental Unified School District Governing Board
Candidates: Andrew McGibbon, Richard Ulery, Shelly Kais
Recommendations: No endorsements
There are several judges who are up for retention and their names are listed below. The Star has not made recommendations for or against the retention of any of these judges. The Arizona Commission on Judicial Performance Review compiles performance reports for each judge ahead of the election and rates them on key aspects of their performance from information collected by surveying jurors, witnesses, litigants, people who represent themselves in court, attorneys and court staff who have observed the judge at work. You can find each judge's ratings here.
Justices of the Arizona Supreme Court up for Retention
Robert Brutinel, Andrew Gould, John Lopez IV
Judges of the Court of Appeals Division 2 up for Retention
Judges of the Superior Court Up for Retention
Division 1: Brenden J. Griffin
Division 3: Kenneth Lee
Division 5: Kyle A. Bryson
Division 8: Richard E. Gordon
Division 9: Michael J. Butler
Division 11: Wayne E. Yehling
Division 12: Deborah Bernini
Division 14: Renee T. Bennett
Division 16: D. Douglas Metcalf
Division 18: Casey F. McGinley
Division 23: Greg Sakall
Division 24: Joan L. Wagener
Division 25: John Charles Hinderaker
Division 26: Kellie L. Johnson
Division 28: Paul E. Tang
Division 29: Scott D. McDonald