Mesa’s Primary Election field established The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Mesa’s Primary Election field established

Mesa’s Primary Election field established

By Jim Walsh
Tribune Staff Writer

The field has been set for the 2020 Primary Election season in Mesa and voters in both parties will have plenty of city and legislative races to choose from, depending on where they live.

All voters from both parties will have a chance to choose Mesa’s mayor for the next four years as Mayor John Giles squares off against frequent City Council critic Verl Farnsworth in the upcoming city election this summer.

In all three council districts up for election this year, there also are contests.

Vice Mayor Mark Freeman is facing off against Danny Ray in District 1; Councilman Jeremy Whittaker will face challenger and first-time candidate Julie Spilsbury in District 2; and a rematch will pit incumbent Francisco Heredia against Christopher Bown in District 3.

Council candidates were required to collect 250 signatures from their district, while mayoral candidates were required to collect 1,000 signatures from throughout the city.

Mesa’s primary election is scheduled for Aug. 4 and the general election is scheduled for Nov. 3. People have until July 6 to register to vote in the Aug. 4 election.

Whittaker had considered a run against Giles but in the end, turned in signatures to run for his council seat against Spilsbury, a longtime school volunteer whose husband runs a tree business. Whittaker has described Spilsbury as Giles’ hand-picked candidate.

Giles and Whittaker have tangled in a running feud over city finances.

Whittaker has criticized Mesa’s high water rates repeatedly and is pushing an initiative to cut the city’s annual transfer from the Enterprise Fund, supported mostly by utility revenues, to the General Fund to pay for public safety, from 25 percent to 20 percent.

Giles has criticized Whittaker’s initiative as a “stupid idea,’’ especially as the city faces a financial crisis. City Manager Chris Brady has said the initiative would cost Mesa $50 million on top of a decline in revenues from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beyond the water rates issue, there has been friction between Giles and Whittaker ever since Council voted, 5-2, in June 2018 to approve the Arizona State University@mesacitycenter project.

Giles and other council members consider the ASU project vital in awakening the city’s downtown development.

Bown, an ally of Whittaker, is the treasurer of Whittaker’s Yes on Affordable Utilities initiative and an opponent of the ASU building. Bown is a Gulf War veteran, an accountant and a controller who has a background in auditing and works for a commercial real estate brokerage firm. He ran unsuccessfully against Heredia in 2018.

Giles has argued that the higher water rates are part of living in the nation’s biggest city without a primary property tax, which was abolished by a previous council in 1945.

Mesa uses the utility revenues as a substitute for a property tax.

Farnsworth is a retired construction contractor from New Mexico who has lived in Red Mountain Ranch for 25 years. He said he is now working as an assistant to state Sen. David Farnsworth, R-Mesa, who is his fourth cousin.

Verl Farnsworth has appeared at a series of council meetings to criticize the city. He adamantly opposed the sale of a large, pristine swath of desert, originally planned for a park, to Blandford Homes, which bid $21 million for the property.

Farnsworth said the city backtracked on its promise to build a park on the site but Brady said voters twice rejected bond issues to pay for construction of a park.

Ray is a construction contractor who ran unsuccessfully for mayor against Giles in 2014 and is concerned about the city’s debt.

Only Republicans are vying in North Mesa for the justice of the peace and constable positions. Incumbent JP Kyle Jones, a former city councilman, is fending a challenge from Ed Malles while Jon Curtis and Robin Carlos Beach are fighting to become constable.

Meanwhile, some legislative districts covering Mesa will have primary contests while others likely will have no election at all this year because only one candidate made the ballot.

The latter development is the case in the State Senate race in LD16, which covers part of East Mesa. Only Republican Rep. Kelly Townsend filed from either party for the Senate seat, being vacated by David Farnsworth, who is in a dogfight for a November spot in the state Corporation race.

In the LD16 House race, incumbent John Fillmore will be duking it out with Forest John Moriarty, Jacqueline Parker and Lisa Godzich.

In LD 25, the only primary contest is a three-way Republican race two House seats as Speaker Rusty Bowers and incumbent Michelle Udall are facing a challenge from Kathy Pearce. 

LD 26 offers Democrats contests for both House and Senate nominations. Incumbent Juan Mendez is facing Jana Lynn Granillio while a four-way contest for two November ballot slots pits incumbent Rep. Athena Salman against Debbie Nez-Manuel, Melody Hernandez and Patrick Morales.

And in LD 18, neither party is offering any primary decisions for voters, though they can expect contests for both House and Senate seats in the fall.

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