Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio Foe Rebecca Jimenez Leads in Guadalupe Mayoral Race (w/Update: Jimenez the Winner)

Please see update below.

Former Guadalupe Mayor Rebecca Jimenez's camp is partying tonight, celebrating what they believe may be a win over incumbent town Mayor Yolanda Solarez.

See also: -Guadalupe made it clear that Joe Arpaio's attacking anyone with brown skin -Joe Arpaio's Nemesis Rebecca Jimenez, Guadalupe's Once and Perhaps Future Mayor -Joe Arpaio's Nemesis Rebecca Jimenez Leads in Guadalupe Mayoral Race, Run-Off Certain for May 21 (w/Update)

Currently, Jimenez leads Solarez in Tuesday's runoff election in the square-mile burg by 85 votes, 330 to Solarez's 245.

The tabulation is not final, and Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne says she will not know how many provisional and early ballots remain to be counted till tomorrow.

"Everyone here is elated," Jimenez said this evening when I called for comment. "But you know me, I still want to see the final results."

A prudent answer, seeing that the town's March primary initially had Jimenez up by 21 votes, but after the provisionals were counted the next day, Solarez led by five votes.

Nor was Mayor Solarez in any mood to concede.

"I'd say it's like the last time," she stated, referring to the initial primary results. "You never know."

The contest has been intense, like only small town politics can be, with each side accusing the other of shenanigans. Signs blanketed the town's main stretch of Avenida del Yaqui when I visited last week.

Jimenez's purple and yellow placards seemed to dominate. The mayor's large signs featured herself and Councilwoman Gloria Cota, as the two were running as a team.

The vote in the council race is still tight, though Cota and Faustino Valenzuela, Jr. were the top vote-getters in a four person race, where voters could pick two candidates.

If Jimenez becomes mayor-elect, her win would be a major upset. Solarez was backed by members of the local political establishment, including Congressman Ed Pastor and state Representative Catherine Miranda.

Solarez has been seen as willing to work with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose department is paid by Guadalupe to provide law enforcement services.

That's unlike Jimenez, who butted heads with Arpaio in 2008, when the MCSO did an anti-immigration sweep of the town, setting up its command center at the town's center.

Guadalupanos were not amused and protested Arpaio's deputies, who harassed citizens by stopping their cars on the flimsiest of pretexts. Citations were issued for horn honking as well as other minor violations. Even pedestrians were stopped, and asked for I.D., all as cover to inquire about the immigration status of those detained.

The irony, as I wrote after the sweep, was that many residents of Guadalupe grew up there, some in the same houses their parents were raised in. About half are members of the Pascua Yaqui tribe, the other half are of Mexican descent.

On the first night of the sweep, Jimenez asked Arpaio to leave, in a confrontation that was captured by a local news camera. Arpaio turned apoplectic, yelling and spitting that he and his deputies would be back in the morning, "full force."

But the following day, the MCSO moved its command center outside the town, while continuing the sweep, even going so far as to terrorize a group of Catholic children during a confirmation ceremony led by Bishop Thomas Olmsted.

Patrol cars circled the ceremony. An MCSO helicopter hovered in the air. Some of the children did not attend for fear their parents would be arrested.

Jimenez emerged as a heroine and a dogged opponent of Sheriff Arpaio. She even made an attempt to secure new law enforcement for the town, but was unsuccessful.

Internal politics deposed Jimenez, at a time when councilmembers elected a mayor from among themselves. After serving out her term, she returned to family life and gave birth to a daughter.

She soon became a persistent critic of Solarez, addressing her at council meetings during time for open comments. In response, Solarez eliminated comments from the agenda, infuriating Jimenez and her supporters.

I asked Jimenez what would be the first order of business, should she prevail. She said it would be to "hire an independent auditor," to look into the current state of the town's finances.

One thing's for sure, if Jimenez is mayor-elect, Arpaio will be one very unhappy camper, and Guadalupe could once more become an irritant for the 80 year-old autocrat.

More tomorrow when I get it.

UPDATE May 22, 4:00 P.M.: It's official, Rebecca Jimenez is now mayor-elect of Guadalupe. Final tally, 429 to 386. Jimenez bested incumbent Mayor Yolanda Solarez by 43 votes, ending up with 52.64 percent of the vote.

Congratulations to Rebecca Jimenez who I know will be a strong voice for her community. and congrats to all of the civic and activist groups that assisted her in this win.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons