2 hot Mesa

Three Mesa City Council seats are up for grabs in Tuesday’s Primary Election but voters will be deciding only two of them.

The third race already is resolved as the District 5 seat drew only one candidate, corporate lawyer and former Las Sendas HOA board member Alicia Goforth.

The deadline to mail in early ballots has passed, but voters can drop off their early ballot at any early voting location, any ballot drop box, or any Election Day voting location by 7 p.m. on Aug. 2. Vote Centers for in-person voting on Election Day are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Visit elections.maricopa.gov for locations.

In the other two districts, two candidates who started the election season looking like underdogs had made the races appear more competitive heading toward the finish.

To win outright and avoid a runoff in the Nov. 8 General Election, a candidate must garner at least 50% of the vote plus 1.

In District 4, two candidates, college student and disability advocate Nathaniel Ross and former governor’s office staffer Trista Guzman Glover are challenging the incumbent, downtown arts booster and business owner Vice Mayor Jenn Duff.

In District 6, business owner and volunteer Darla Trendler is vying with former Phoenix firefighter and former two-term council member Scott Somers.

The District 4 and District 6 races feature candidates who brought campaign cash carried from previous elections and many endorsements and donors lined up early on.

But over time, the two districts’ races appear to have become nailbiters.

Trendler jumped to the top of the fundraising pack, thanks to eight supporters who each gave the maximum donation allowed under state law, $6,550.

Guzman Glover picked up an endorsement from the Mesa Chamber of Commerce in May and received some large donations that have kept her competitive with Duff in the money race.

The outcome of the elections already assures at least two new faces on City Council as both District 5 Councilman David Luna and District 6 Councilman Kevin Thompson are termed out. Thompson is a candidate in the Republican primary for Corporation Commission and Luna is simply retiring.

None of the candidates have campaigned on taking Mesa in a radical new direction from the current council.

Unlike in neighboring Gilbert, where one block of candidates for town council can campaign on a pithy slogan

like “No light rail, No apartments,” in Mesa no issues have emerged in the

campaign to create a sharp wedge between candidates.

But which candidates ultimately hold the seats will matter, as Mesa City Council faces tough decisions right off the bat where individual judgment will come into play.

Water is one area that will challenge the new council. This fall, the city will find out the extent of cuts to its allocation of water from the Colorado River.

The cuts will begin in 2023 and may be deep enough to trigger a council vote on moving the city into further stages of its water shortage management plan, which include recommended mandatory conservation measures.

New multifamily housing developments can be a sore spot in Mesa, and with high demand for housing encouraging multifamily residential projects, the next council will likely hear many controversial zoning requests.

The next council may also have to allocate tax dollars at a time of uncertainty in city finances.

Mesa’s financial planners are anticipating an economic slowdown beginning in fiscal year 2024/25, and already inflation is hitting many Mesans hard.

Here’s how the two competitive races are shaping up.

District 4

The downtown district pits fishing tackle entrepreneur and former professional bass fisher Duff against Arizona State University doctoral student and disabled persons’ advocate Ross and political insider and community activist Guzman Glover.

Guzman Glover’s husband Chris Glover represented District 4 on the council from 2010 to 2018, and she worked in Gov. Doug Ducey’s office in constituent services.

She is also a Flinn-Brown Fellow with the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership, a non-partisan group that supports expanding political participation in Arizona.

Duff has maintained a significant cash advantage, though Guzman Glover attracted enough funds to get her name out on signs across the district.

She ended up raising $16,348 this election cycle, $12,813 in the last three months alone, against Duff’s $35,650 raised this cycle, according to their campaign financial statements.

Duff outraised Guzman Glover overall, but the latter’s donations accelerated toward the end, and she raised roughly the same amount as Duff in the last quarter.

Guzman Glover’s campaign coffers were boosted last quarter by $2,500 from the Arizona Leadership Fund, Gov. Ducey’s political action committee, and $1,000 from the Chandler Police PAC.

Ross collected a dozen individual donations last quarter plus $750 from the Realtors of Arizona, for a total $2,624 this cycle.

Duff had substantial funds for her campaign and she also stood out as the Goliath in the race in terms of endorsements.

Her roster of endorsements includes LGBTQ+ rights group Equality Arizona, the local Mesa firefighters union, and several local trade unions.

She counts several current council members among her political endorsements, including Mayor John Giles and council members Francisco Heredia, Julie Spilsbury and David Luna. U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton has also endorsed Duff.

Duff has also garnered support from many Hispanic leaders in the region, including Frankie Jo Rios, the president/CEO of the East Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo, chair of the Mesa Association of Hispanic Citizens.

But in the face of Duff’s long list, the Mesa Chamber of Commerce board of directors gave Guzman Glover a big boost in May by endorsing her campaign. She subsequently picked up endorsements from the Mesa Police Association and Arizona Police Association.

These developments – combined with District 4’s historical low voter turnout rate – make this race especially unpredictable.

District 6

As a direct participant in many decisions that supported southeast Mesa’s current economic growth, former two-term Council member Scott Somers has a lot of past experience he can talk about with voters to make his case he is the right person for District 6 in this moment.

The former Phoenix firefighter also brought previous campaign cash to the race along with a healthy fundraising network, as he demonstrated by raising $26,600 in the last quarter for a total of nearly $59,000 this season.

The name recognition and cash made Somers the Goliath in the race against business owner, podcaster and local volunteer Darla Trendler, who did not report any campaign contributions in the first quarter of 2022.

But Trendler’s fundraising met the moment in the second quarter.

Her campaign went from $0 in March to $56,425 at the end of June, ensuring Trendler had the financial resources to get her name and talking points in front of voters in her sprawling district via road signs and mailers.

Mesa’s Cardon family played an outsized role in the upgrade in Trendler’s campaign resources.

In April and May seven Cardon family members and business associates in their real estate enterprises gave $6,550 apiece to the campaign, the maximum allowed for individuals under state law.

Paul Cardon of Gilbert, Kastle Cardon of Gilbert, Craig Cardon of Queen Creek, and Grif Hiatt, Elijah Cardon, Broc Hiatt, Marcus Ridgway and Brent Bowden, all of Mesa, gave the maximum of $6,550.

Trendler told the Tribune that the Cardons are cousins of her husband.

“We are family and I know them well,” she said.

With her super burst of fundraising, Trendler, who at the start looked something like an underdog, became the second-best financed city council candidate in the primary election after her opponent.

In the second quarter of 2022, Somers continued to garner strong financial support from the firefighting community, as well as numerous local developers and business people.

In the last period, five Valley firefighters unions gave $1,000 or more to Somers, including $6,500 from Phoenix Firefighters Local 493 PAC.

In District 6, the candidates have raised a lot of money and they are spending it more vigorously than in District 4, where no candidate spent more than $10,000 in the last three months.

In contrast, Somers and Trendler disbursed $23,900 and $17,383, respectively, last quarter.

One reason for the big outlays in the last months of the election season may be District 6’s rapid expansion. District 6 has added lots of new residents since the last election, which both candidates may see as up for grabs, even though Somers is a familiar face on the council.

Whereas the spending in District 4 is primarily on signage, the District 6 expenditures run more of a gamut.

Both candidates have spent thousands on direct mail advertising to residents.

Somers has also laid out thousands in consulting fees to Highground Inc., a prominent public affairs firm based in Phoenix.

Trendler spent $3,000 on video production last quarter in addition to outlays for signage and mailers.

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