Richard Elias|Public Profile Image Richard Elias|Public Profile Image

Tucsonans are heartbroken after longtime Arizona Democrat Richard Elias died Saturday morning. He was 61 years old.

The Tucson community is heartbroken after longtime Arizona Democrat Richard Elias died Saturday morning. He was 61 years old.

Elias was the Board Chair on the Pima County Board of Supervisors, where he served for 18 years representing Tucson’s District 5. He was appointed to the Board in 2002 after Congressman Raúl Grijalva resigned to run for Congress.

The Arizona Republic reports that just last week Elias had filed for his candidacy to run for another four-year term.

Elias was a fifth-generation Tucsonan who was passionate about social justice, economic equity, and “for our precious Sonoran Desert Habitat,” according to his official website.

He was also committed to the Neighborhood Reinvestment Bond. It’s a program that revitalizes neighborhoods with small improvement projects like putting in sidewalks, improving parks, or fixing street lights.

Shannon Bronson, who represents District 3 on the Pima County Board of Supervisors, told KVOA that the Neighborhood Reinvestment Bond would have never been passed if it wasn’t for Elias.

“That was his commitment: to make the community better one neighborhood at a time,” Bronson said.

There was an outpouring of love and condolences in Elias’ honor throughout the day on Saturday as people learned of the Supervisor’s passing.

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero shared this tweet that included the phrase, “Much love, hermano.”

Congressman Raúl Grijalva echoed those sentiments with his own heartwarming homage and stunned reaction that included a certain four-letter word. 

Grijalva also released a statement Saturday night, saying, “We are left with the overwhelming sadness that so many of us who loved and worked with Richard can’t gather together to honor and respect our friend.”

The Arizona Daily Star‘s David Fitzsimmons drew a tribute to Elias (also shared on Twitter by Mayor Romero) showing him being greeted in heaven by labor leader and community organizer Cesar Chavez. The caption reads: “In heaven, there’s no distance between great souls.”

Additionally, in a statement, Arizona Democratic Party Chair Felecia Rotellini said, “I am crushed by the passing of Pima County Board Supervisor Richard Elias. The Arizona Democratic Party and the people of Arizona and, especially, Pima County have lost a vibrant leader and loyal public servant today. I will forever appreciate Richard’s friendship, quick wit, inspirational speeches and his support over the years. He was a tireless advocate for working families, our most vulnerable and social justice.

Although the cause of death has yet to be released, Elias’ family did say he died peacefully in his sleep. 

He is survived by his wife, Emily, and daughter, Luz.