Union organizer Betty Guardado will be the new representative for District 5 in West Phoenix, unseating councilwoman Vania Guevara, and immigrant rights activist Carlos Garcia is poised to defeat former councilman Mike Johnson in District 8, according to preliminary election results.
Guardado has worked for 21 years with Unite Here, a union representing airport, hotel and food service workers. She led Guevara by more than 20 points. Guevara had worked as a District 5 staffer since 2012 under former councilman Daniel Valenzuela. She was appointed to the seat last year after Valenzuela resigned to run for mayor.
“I was striving to win big,” Guardado said Tuesday night, surrounded by family and supporters at a Señor Sushi restaurant in West Phoenix. “I’ve worked hard for every single thing I’ve had in my life. I feel great, humbled, honored to have the voters decide I was the person to represent them at City Hall.”
Guardado she will be a council representative with an open-door policy.
Garcia, who founded immigrant-rights group Puente Arizona in 2007, held a slim two-point margin over Johnson when ballot counting stopped Tuesday night. Johnson served as District 8 councilman for 12 years before terming out in 2013, and worked in the Phoenix Police Department for 21 years before that.
District 8 covers south Phoenix and parts of Laveen and central Phoenix, including Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
Garcia and his campaign held a festive gathering at Corona Ranch in Laveen.
“People are willing to take a risk on us,” Garcia said Tuesday night of the preliminary results. His voice was drowned out by a live band performing banda nearby. “We didn’t hold any punches in this campaign.”
Johnson was hesitant to concede the race Tuesday night.
“We’re within the margin… I expected us to be close, but I expected us to be on top. We’ll wait and see… We gave it our best shot,” he said.
Johnson spoke surrounded by his campaign team and supporters at El Portal restaurant in downtown Phoenix. They were dished plates of enchiladas, fried taquitos, rice and beans. The walls were decorated with paintings of Cesar Chavez, and a colorful drawing of Martin Luther King Jr. faced a wall where a TV showed an NBA game.
Both Guardado and Garcia received the most votes in the March election.
Guevara couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday night. Earlier in the day, she told Arizona Mirror she was proud of her work campaigning.
“I feel so proud,” Guevara said, sitting outside her home on a breezy afternoon. “I feel we’ve been able to shift the narrative in the way people traditionally think about west Phoenix. I want people to think of, when they think of Maryvale… I want them to think of the people as resilient, hard-working, dedicated, beautiful community members.”
In a Facebook post, Guevara congratulated Guardado, and called the campaign “a blessing and an honor.”