Matt Nielsen, Brigette Peterson appear headed to runoff for Gilbert mayoral spot

Gilbert elections
Gilbert held elections Aug. 4. (Community Impact Newspaper)

Gilbert held elections Aug. 4. (Community Impact Newspaper)

Political newcomer Matt Nielsen and former Town Council Member Brigette Peterson appear headed to a runoff in the town's mayoral election.

Nielsen passes Peterson (34.71%) in the last count released Aug. 7 by 176 votes ahead of Peterson (34.4%) with Lynne King Smith (30.67%) trailing. Peterson led from the earllest returns through all releases through Aug. 6.

But the candidates will get a reset in the runoff at the November general election. A candidate needs 50% plus one vote to avoid a November runoff in the mayor’s election. Second place would get a runoff spot if a winner is not produced in this election.

Nielsen said he was feeling good about his standing the morning of Aug. 5.

"I knew that I had a large contingent that would walk-in their mail-in ballots and also vote in person," he said in a text message. "So I was hoping to keep the race tight on the initial drop of mail-in ballots, which turned out to be the case. Subsequent updates seem to have confirmed what so many supporters had told me about how they would be voting."

Said Peterson on election night: "It's been a tough campaign, but I'm really pleased with this early roll of votes."

King Smith was in second place in the earliest returns, slightly ahead of Nielsen.

"As we wait to find out the final results of tonight's election, I'm encouraged by the turnout of so many voters, appreciative of the support for this campaign and am humbled by the votes that have been cast," King Smith said in a statement released while she was sitting in second place.

Gilbert residents cast 57,404 votes that had been counted as of 4:40 p.m. Aug. 7, according to results from the Maricopa County Elections Department. What's unclear is how many votes are left to be counted, leaving candidates cautious as they paid attention to the counts.

Town council

In the four-year term race, because there are two seats available, candidates will need to clear 25%, and Vice Mayor Scott Anderson (28.75%) and former Gilbert Chamber of Commerce President Kathy Tilque (28.68%) are ahead of that pace with Gilbert Redevelopment Commission Chairman Tyler Hudgins (22.49%) and Bus Obayomi (19.9%) trailing.

"I'm very optimistic and hoping these numbers stand," Tilque said. "It's really hard not knowing how much of the vote there still is to be counted."

Anderson also was pleased with the early count and the prospect of avoiding a runoff.

"I certainly hope so," he said about that possibility. "I don't want to have to continue on into November."

Obayomi said he is waiting to see more results and staying positive.

"A lot of the results that have been counted have been mail-in votes," he said. "We'll see once the in-person votes get counted."

Hudgins was unavailable for comment.

The race for the two-year seat, which was neck and neck early, widened some later with Laurin Hendrix (51.17%), a Maricopa County Community College Board member, holding a slight lead over appointed incumbent Bill Spence (48.5%).

"I don't think there is any way, regardless of the outcome, that I lose," Spence said. "Whatever happens, this would not be the end of my service to the community."

Hendrix could not be reached for comment.

That position will fill the final two years of Eddie Cook’s term. Cook left the council when he was appointed Maricopa County assessor.

In his bid to retain the assessor's seat, Cook (52.44%) leads Rodney Glassman (47.16%) for the Republican nomination.

"I haven't come off the roof yet as to how happy we are," he said. "We are honored and humbled to be leading ... at this point in the race."

Another former council member, Jordan Ray, leads the four-person race for the Republican nomination for Justice of the Peace of the Highland Justice Court. Ray has 36.68% of the vote, with the next competitor, Ken Sampson, at 31.18%. No Democrats are running, and the primary winner will be uncontested in the general election.

Ray said he was "cautiously optimistic" and was waiting to see the rest of the results. He did note that the election-day polls were "unbelievably busy" in Gilbert for in-person balloting.

Proposition 430

Gilbert Proposition 430, the town's 10-year General Plan, achieved overwhelming support, winning 80.31% yes votes. Among other things, the plan lays out Gilbert's principles for managing growth over the next 10 years.

Contested county races

Longtime county Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who lost re-election to his office in 2016, was losing ground in his bid to regain his old job after being neck and neck with his former deputy, Jerry Sheridan, for the Republican nomination. Sheridan had 37.17% of the vote to Arpaio's 35.67%. The winner would face off with Democrat Paul Penzone, who ended Arpaio's long run as sheriff, which lasted from 1993-2017.

Stephen Richer was headed to victory with 57.32% of the vote against Clair Van Steenwyk (42.25%) for the Republican nomination for county recorder.

Former Legislator John Allen (56.83%) looked likely to beat incumbent Royce Flora (42.74%) for the Republican nomination for county treasurer

Julie Gunnigle won the Democratic nomination for county attorney with 59.34% of the vote against Will Knight (22.47%) and Bob McWhirter (17.85%).

Sam Goodman (74.2%) easily beat Warde Nichols (25.45%) for the Justice of the Peace position in the San Tan Justice Court Justice of the Peace spot, while Steve Allen (57.39%) was beating Warren Solomon (42.36%) for constable of that justice court.

Contested federal races

U.S. Sen. Martha McSally easily won the Republican nomination for her seat against Daniel McCarthy, who appeared on the ballot as "Demand" Daniel McCarthy. McSally, who garnered 76.06% of the vote against McCarthy's 23.03%, will face Democrat Mark Kelly in the general election bid to retain her seat.

Joan Greene likely won the Democratic nomination for U.S. Congressional District 5 with 49.84% of the ahead, easily ahead of Javier Ramos (39.19%) and Jon Ireland (10.55%). Greene would face Republican incumbent Andy Biggs in the general election.
By Tom Blodgett
Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent 30 years in journalism in Arizona and is the editor of the Gilbert edition of Community Impact Newspaper. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he now serves as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.


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