Giles appears cruising to second term as Mesa’s mayor The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Giles appears cruising to second term as Mesa’s mayor

Giles appears cruising to second term as Mesa’s mayor
Mesa
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By Jim Walsh

Tribune Staff Writer

Mesa Mayor John Giles today continued holding a commanding lead in his quest for a second four-year term and a hotly contested City Council race indicates an upset was brewing, according to unofficial results.

In unofficial results updated late Wednesday afternoon, Giles is easily defeating Verl Farnsworth, a constitutionalist and frequent council critic, 67-33 percent margin.  

The County Recorder reported that all ballots have been counted from its 99 voti9ng centers but that an unspecified number of write-ins and other ballots remained to be counted today, Aug. 6. Another update will not be released until after 5 p.m.

Giles also appeared to have laid the foundation for another victory of sorts as his frequent critic, Councilman Jeremy Whittaker was trailing political newcomer Julie Spilsbury in the District Two council race. Spilsbury is leading Whittaker 55 percent to 45 percent margin. Giles had been supporting Spilsbury.

In the only other contested council race, Vice Mayor Mark Freeman is dominating general contractor Danny Ray by a 69-31 percent margin. Freeman is a farmer and retired Mesa Fire Department paramedic whose family’s roots date back to the Mormon pioneers.

North Mesa Justice of the Peace Kyle Jones, a former Mesa council member who was appointed to fill out a term retired judge Cecil Ash by the county Board of Supervisors, holds a lead over challenger Ed Malles 52-48 percent. In the constable race for that court, Jon Curtis holds a commanding 77-23 percent lead over Robin Carlos Beach.

If elected, Jones stands to win the job because there is no Democrat running for the position.

The unofficial results released so far are subject to change as they only include early ballots and some others with the counting slated to continue today.

Farnsworth leaned heavily in his campaign on a newspaper he mailed to Mesa voters that touted a ticket of himself, Whittaker and Ray.

Spilsbury was Giles’s hand-picked candidate in the east-central Mesa district to run against Whittaker, who has been the mayor’s opponent on his signature asu@mesacitycenter project and a frequent critic on other city financial issues.

Giles and Whittaker also clashed consistently on how much of the Enterprise Fund, created mainly by utility revenue, should be transferred to the general fund to support public safety.

Whittaker seemed to head onto a collision course with Giles after he joined with east Mesa Councilman Kevin Thompson in voting against the Arizona State University building, billed as a vital cornerstone of downtown Mesa’s reawakening as an innovation district centered around high technology.

While Thompson eventually voted for a series of appropriations to build the $63-million building, Whittaker consistently voted against them. He also voted against a successful Giles initiative to cap the Enterprise Fund public safety transfer at 25 percent, while adding a 30 percent discount for low-income seniors on their water bills.

The Giles plan allows for a 5 percent transfer for other city needs and a 3 percent surcharge paid by all utilities, including Mesa’s utilities. Whittaker sponsored an initiative that would have capped the transfer at 20 percent, a restriction that Giles said would have devastated city services, including public safety.

But Whittaker was unable to collect enough signatures to place his initiative on the ballot, with the effort hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic. He argued that Mesa’s water rates are too high, while Giles said that slightly higher utility rates are part of the price residents pay for being the largest city in the nation without a primary property tax.

The utility revenues, he said, have acted as a substitute for property taxes since the council abolished the property tax during the post- World War II boom in 1945.

The rift created a series of 6-1, and occasional 5-2 votes on many issues that came before the council, with Giles rarely, if ever, on the losing end.

Spilsbury insisted that she is an opinionated person who would not necessarily support Giles’ initiatives automatically. She attracted many of his supporters in the business and development communities and raised three times more for her campaign than Whittaker garnered for his.

Whittaker has criticized the system of donations for political campaigns as corrupt, saying at one point that the Mesa council was more corrupt than Washington, D.C and accusing his peers of embezzlement, during a controversy about the use of gift cards purchased on the council’s expense account.

While Whittaker alienated some of his peers, he backed up his assertions by putting together an extensive spreadsheet charting the donations and by largely financing his own re-election campaign.

 

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