Benton’s victory and Arnold-Jones’ potential runoff offer Democrats some hope still of reclaiming a majority on the City Council.
If Arnold-Jones were to lose the runoff on Nov. 19, Democrats would hold an edge on the council. Coming into Tuesday’s election, Republicans held a 6-3 majority on the council, but Benton’s win trims it at least to 5-4.
Tuesday’s unofficial election results handed victory to all other council incumbents, including District 9’s Don Harris and District 5’s Dan Lewis. Those two men, both Republicans, won by large margins.
City Clerk Amy Bailey said there were roughly 100 ballots that hadn’t been counted by late Tuesday because they were rejected by vote tally machines or had other problems. Those ballots will be counted in the canvassing process.
In District 7, Arnold-Jones almost kept her two Democratic opponents at bay, winning 49.2 percent of the vote. Diane Gibson came in second with 39.5 percent, and Matthew Biggs came in third with 11.3 percent, according to unofficial results.
It looked as though Arnold-Jones would avoid a runoff, until the last few voting centers reported results showing she was at about 49 percent. That’s just one percentage point below the threshold and will, if the votes are validated, force a runoff with Gibson.
The new face on the City Council is in District 3: Klarissa Peña, a neighborhood leader and special projects director at the nonprofit Youth Development Inc.
That is a newly created district, which covers a chunk of the fast-growing West Side – everything south of Central Avenue, west of the Rio Grande.
Peña, a 47-year-old Democrat, said she would develop strong collaborations to bring jobs to the city and provide incentives for small businesses. She also said she wanted to increase workforce training programs to provide avenues for youth and adults seeking employment.
“For too long, the West Side, the Southwest side and the South Valley have really been underserved,” she said late Tuesday. “I intend to bring jobs and retail to the district.”
Arnold-Jones, who served four terms in the state Legislature, was appointed to the job in April after former Councilor Michael Cook was arrested on a drunken driving charge. He was found not guilty.
Gibson, a former machinist at Sandia National Laboratories, and Biggs, a former Marine and small-business owner, combined for just over 50 percent in unofficial returns Tuesday.
In District 2, Benton won handily, having earned more than 62 percent of the vote. Benton’s opponent, Roxanna Meyers, called Benton after 9 p.m. to concede and congratulate him on the victory, Benton said.
“I think it’s a pretty solid win,” Benton said in a phone interview. ” … We’re gonna have to take it from here. It’s gonna be interesting.”
Benton, who currently sits as the District 3 city councilor, had to run against Meyers after a redistricting battle sent his district to the west side of town. That meant it was an open seat because of redistricting after the last census.
Three political newcomers vied for the new seat.
Peña avoided a runoff to win, having garnered a little more than 56 percent of the vote. In second place, Tania Silva came in at just under 29 percent.
In District 5, Dan Lewis got two-thirds of the vote over opponent Eloise Gift. In District 9, Councilor Don Harris got 63.2 percent over opponent Lovie McGee.
Councilor Ken Sanchez won after running unopposed.