PHOENIX — Tuesday is election day in Phoenix with two city council seats up for grabs.
In the process, we may find out if Mayor Kate Gallego will be able to maintain a governing majority on the city council. Voter turnout is light in District 7 where Cinthia Estela and Yasamin Ansari are in a runoff to replace outgoing City Councilman Michael Nowakowski. The stakes are high.
The City Council will soon decide who will be part of the Office of Accountability and Transparency, a police watchdog agency that will investigate police use of force incidents.
“It’s a shame cities have these important elections in the spring when voters aren’t paying attention,” said Barrett Marson, a political public relations consultant.
Police accountability is an issue in the District 7 race. Estela, who won the primary, says residents in her district want more police, not another watchdog. Estela cites three council created groups who investigate issues involving Phoenix police officers.
“Everybody wants public safety, everybody wants more police,” Estela told a Maricopa County Democrat online forum recently.
Ansari also wants more police. Saying she would push for more police substations in the district. But she also wants accountability.
“Police officers must also take responsibility for any wrongdoing that happens on their part,” she said to the same Maricopa County Democrat forum. Ansari added, “I am in favor of an office of accountability and transparency.”
Ansari was part of the United Nations effort to curb global warming before returning to Arizona and moving to Phoenix. She has received a number of high-profile endorsements including one from Mayor Gallego. But Estela has worked for community groups and causes in Laveen for 17 years. Voters in the district know her. Both are running for the first time and early voting turnout is low.
Councilwoman Deb Stark is running for re-election in District 3. Stark has backed efforts to bring reforms to the police department. Stark is running for re-election against Republican Nicole Garcia.
In a campaign video showing pictures from last summer’s civil unrest, she says, “There are decision-makers who want to make Phoenix look like San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and Chicago.”
Garcia promises to stand with the police.
So far more than 30,000 people have voted in District 3, which is a good sign for Councilwoman Stark, who has a reputation for working hard on behalf of her constituents. But Stark has not always sided with Mayor Gallego. So the outcome in District 7, where the first candidate to reach 10,000 votes may win the election, very well could decide how much of the Mayor’s agenda sees the light of day.
Barrett Marson, who has been through his share of local elections, believes, “how the Phoenix City Council goes forward with a lot of the police reform that has been proposed, whether Mayor Kate Gallego can get her agenda through the city council, whether she will have a governing majority in the city council, there is a lot at stake in Tuesday’s election.”