Lyhn Bui from the Arizona Republic discusses candidates looking to replace Mayor Phil Gordon in the upcoming mayoral election.
Ted Simons: Learn more about the Phoenix mayoral race that promises to be the most competitive in decades. And what is the over all state of Arizona's tourism industry? Those stories are next on "Horizon."
Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Foreclosure rates in the valley are down for a fourth straight month. A report shows foreclosures represented 31% of existing home sales in June, a 4% drop from May. Real estate observers say its unclear if that trend will last. Results for the aims test will be released tomorrow. The test historically shows a statewide passing rate of 60 to 70%. Those rates may change and not for the better when aims is replaced by a national education exam set to begin in 2015.
Ted Simons: There are six, maybe seven, candidates for next month's Phoenix mayoral election. The candidates are looking to replace mayor Phil Gordon, who has termed out of office. Lynh Bui has been following the race and joins us for an update. Good to see you here. Thanks for joining us.
Lynh Bui: Thanks for having me.
Ted Simons: How many, six, seven? What do we got here?
Lynh Bui: Six if you count the candidates who turned in enough signatures to be on the ballot, and we also have one candidate who is looking to be a write-in.
Ted Simons: We have four major candidates, correct?
Lynh Bui: Four who have a lot of political experience and background. Three former council members. We have Wes Gullett who has never been on the counsel before, but he was planning commissioner in Phoenix and he worked for John McCain and Vi Symington as chiefs of staff. We have Claude Mattox, whose been on city council for 12 years, representing district 5 in Maryvale. Peggy Nealy, who recently resigned from district 2 Northeast Phoenix, councilwoman. We also have Greg Stanton, who also was a former councilman. He resigned in 2009 to work for Attorney General Terry Goddard.
Ted Simons: What are the polls showing for the four major candidates? Sounds to me like a lot of folks are not sure what's going on.
Lynh Bui: A poll commissioned by Stanton's campaign shows that Stanton is in the lead. But there are about 52% of voters who are still undecided. I don't think we can dismiss candidate Jennifer Wright yet. She might have very polarizing sort of conservative views, but a lot of people might consider her dark horse candidate. She's excited a lot of hard core conservatives.
Ted Simons: If not a dark horse candidate certainly someone who could take votes away from some of the more conservative of the top four.
Lynh Bui: There's concern about splitting votes. Wes Gullett asked for support and some threw their support for Wright.
Ted Simons: As far as raising money, who is doing the best so far?
Lynh Bui: So far, Claude Mattox has the most cash to spend. A lot of that money was rolled over from his city council campaign in the past, around $250,000. According to the last campaign finance reports, Greg Stanton raised from January to May, $250,000. So they are all kind of close in terms of spending, but Greg has a lot of money, Mattox has surpassed the $500,000 mark in receipts if you count the rollover from his prior campaign.
Ted Simons: Wow! As far as issues are concerned, I'm guessing jobs. In Phoenix, downtown I would think would be an issue. What about illegal immigration? How much of an issue is that even in a mayoral race in Phoenix?
Lynh Bui: Sure. I think in terms of the issues, the economy colors the race two different ways. We have the jobs, economic development sort of angle. Folks are talking about what is the appropriateness of tax subsidies to lure economic development, folks are talking about how much should we reduce government roadblocks to support small business and grow business that way. Then the economy colors it in a government reform sort of angle. The city's financial. We need to look at the city budget people will say, to make sure we have a zero-based budgeting system so we can exactly see what money is coming in, what money is going out. May be more efficient. It's tough times.
Ted Simons: Let's talk about some of the economic aspects first then. Which candidate is saying we do need to do the incentives? We need to try to lure these things, and which are saying we shouldn't be playing favorites. That's not the best way to go?
Lynh Bui: Definitely Jennifer Wright coming out very hard against the tax subsidies. Limited government sort of standpoint. Greg Stanton has come out hard against Claude Mattox and Peggy Neely because they both voted in favor of city north subsidy. He says subsidies are okay but within certain measures. If the jobs we're bringing in are above the average median income to a certain extent or they are going to help downtown.
Ted Simons: We mentioned illegal immigration. Is that a factor? Are we hearing much about that?
Lynh Bui: The candidates are talking about it, but I think the economy and the government reform is for most. But it is something that Phoenix will have to deal with because they have to decide whether to continue SB1070 and deal with the economic impacts of the boycotts. We have these convention center and hotel that Phoenix put a lot of money in and they are worried about the business that they are loosing.
Ted Simons: As far as Phil Gordon termed out as mayor, is there a â€˜Phil Gordon candidate'. Is he throwing his support behind anyone? Is anyone taking Phil Gordon's ideas?
Lynh Bui: I don't think the mayor has endorsed anyone yet. He said he's going to try to lay low last I spoke with him about it. But I don't think anyone says I want to be the next Phil Gordon. I think if you're a city voter and you believe that Phoenix has been well run, and is on the right track, you're going to probably vote for Claude Mattox or Greg Stanton, who fundamentally believe Phoenix has been well run and efficient. They are not -- the city isn't perfect, but it's been well managed. The other candidates are coming in on a reform angle. We need more openness and transparency, more fiscal responsibility. So those are kind of how people are splitting.
Ted Simons: And those ideas are coming from what seems to be from a distance here kind of the power behind the election in Sal. It seems like a lot of his ideas are being floated around and a number of candidates are taking up those ideas.
Lynh Bui: Sal has been very influential in terms of coloring what people are talking about in Phoenix. That kind of national mal-contentness with government has taken on in Phoenix, it's trickled down. You hear people saying -- talking about employee compensation, talking about whether we should have implemented 50% free tax. They are talking about pensions, about fiscal transparency. So a lot of folks are adopting that.
Ted Simons: They are also talking about unions, which from a distance I think a lot of folks would be a little surprised that we had four mayors talking about union bosses. The CCO mentioned a union takeover. For a lot of folks this is confusing because Arizona is a right to work state.
Lynh Bui: Arizona is a right to work state, but every two years the city has to sit down at the table with its labor organizations and renegotiate employee contracts. So we don't have the traditional sort of union system that we think of when we think about the east coast, but when we think about the labor contracts and how much employees are paid, this is the same money that comes from the general fund. This pot pays for parks and libraries and senior centers. I think when we talk about the power of the unions, people think of it in those terms.
Ted Simons: Interesting. As far as being a nonpartisan race, which it is supposed to be, what are you seeing as far as that holding firm? It seems like in other elections around the state, around the country, these nonpartisan elections can get pretty partisan.
Lynh Bui: Sure. On paper Phoenix is supposed to be not-partisan. You are not going to see the (R) or (D) next to anyone's names in August. But I think more so now than ever we have seeing more overt partisanship. I think it's because of the economy and discontent people have with government. You see the tea party getting involved for the first time in local elections. That kind of pulled it more partisan. In district 2 candidate Jim warring is putting on his campaign signs, Republican city council. Jennifer Wright is saying conservative choice for mayor. Even though we don't necessarily have a partisan system in Phoenix, it's showing signs here.
Ted Simons: Basically what we have right now in this election is we have a number of major candidates, four to five major candidates, here and you've got half of the electorate still not sure. It's going to get -- it could get wild and woolly here. As we mentioned earlier, first time in 30 years we've had a competitive election here.
Lynh Bui: It's true. I think that's what makes it so 7 compelling. Everyone else in the past 30 years has glided toward victory or won by very comfortable margins. Here we have six candidates to choose from who have the power to color the complexion of the city council. We have to remember that the mayor is the only seat that's open right now. We have at least all the odd numbered districts and district 2, which Peggy Neely resigned from to run for mayor. We'll get a completely different face in district 5 covering Maryvale. A completely different face in district 2. We could really turn the administration depending on how the electorate goes.
Ted Simons: When is election day?
Lynh Bui: August 30. Early ballots go out first week of August.
Ted Simons: Good stuff. Thanks for joining us.
Lyhn Bui: Arizona Republic;