That will be a difficult charge for either candidate, but particularly for Gullett, who has suggested throughout his campaign that city staff can't be trusted. He accuses them of playing "shell games" with the budget and hiding money in "slush funds."

Gullett doesn't offer proof that city employees are operating "slush funds" or playing "shell games" with tax dollars, but he routinely uses those phrases to fuel government distrust.

In any case, the truth is that, since there isn't inherent power in the Mayor's Office, the power to get things done within City Hall actually comes from outside the halls of the city.

Phoenix mayoral candidate Wes Gullett
Social Eye Media
Phoenix mayoral candidate Wes Gullett
Phoenix mayoral candidate Greg Stanton
Michael Ratcliff
Phoenix mayoral candidate Greg Stanton

Using the Mayor's Office as a bully pulpit, getting broad community support and buy-in on specific plans, gives the mayor leverage among his colleagues, city administrators, and city staff.

Taking an agenda on the road and generating support for it almost always leads to successful outcomes.

Mayor Phil Gordon demonstrated his keen ability to get community buy-in in 2006, when he was selling to the public the idea of a nearly $1 billion bond and then giving most of that money to Arizona State University to build a downtown campus.

He pulled together a bond committee with dozens of community leaders from all walks of life and personal interests. In the end, the bond was overwhelmingly embraced and approved by Phoenix voters.

By contrast, Gordon failed in 2010 when he and the City Council hastily, and without community support, pushed through a 2 percent tax on food that would pull in about $50 million a year.

Stanton served nearly a decade on the City Council, and he understands how City Hall works and appreciates that slashing programs and dipping into contingency funds have long-term effects on the community and on the city's interest rates and credit rating.

Gullett calls for such changes despite the potential short- and long-term effects, dismissing warnings from city staff as part of their "shell game" with city money.

Stanton's track record shows he has enjoyed broad support from the community, if not always from his colleagues. And during his tenure, his political positions and priorities remained largely unchanged.

When it comes to Gullett, there is more than meets the eye.

Wes Gullett is a masterful pitchman, and many political insiders say that he is as brilliant when it comes to destroying political reputations as he is at repairing them.

He's certainly done a good job on his own. A decade ago, it would have been hard to imagine Gullett running for public office, let alone emerging from a crowded mayoral primary. "Nasty" is simply not a descriptor that gets you ahead in elected office, though in Gullett's case it certainly can get your candidate elected and keep him in power.

Gullett paints himself as an outsider on a mission to fight the status quo, but the 50-year-old father of three daughters is hardly a newcomer to Arizona's political scene. In fact, he's spent much of his career representing the status quo; so has his wife, Deb, who spent time as Phil Gordon's chief of staff and served in the state Legislature. The two met while both worked for John McCain — awkward, since Gullett was married to his first wife at the time.

Longtime political observers remember Gullett for a temper that's as fiery as his red hair, but one of his supporters, Rick DeGraw, says that he has seen the softer side of Gullett.

"When I'd go over to his house, he and his girls are picking vegetables and spices out of their garden. They spent four hours preparing and making dinner. That's not the normal idea of a high-powered politician," says DeGraw, who worked for years in Democratic politics and now is an executive with SCF, an Arizona workers' comp insurance provider.

Today, Gullett comes across as a mild-mannered, almost soft-spoken man as he makes appearances throughout Phoenix. But in December 1999, the Arizona Republic described him one of "McCain's leading enforcers" with an "aggressive style."

Gullett is not from Arizona. He attended the University of Iowa but leapt into the political arena on Capitol Hill before he graduated. Gullett tells New Times that he has more than enough credits for a degree, but they're just "not in the right order."

In 1983, he started producing radio and television ads for the U.S. Senate Republican Conference in Washington, and in 1986, he started what would be a long political career working on behalf of McCain, first as an administrative assistant for the senator.

Gullett left McCain's office to work on his Senate campaign in 1992, and the Republicans sent him in 1993 to the office of embattled Arizona governor Fife Symington.

Jay Heiler, a conservative consultant who runs in political circles similar to Gullett's, has known the mayoral candidate since 1993 when they worked together for Symington.

"I don't agree with him on everything in the three years we spent together," he tells New Times. "But I would have to give him high marks for doing the job he was hired to do. And for his politically seasoned judgment."

Some credit Gullett for wrangling control of Symington's office and helping him win re-election in 1994. He was Symington's right-hand man until 1996, leaving just a couple of months before the governor was indicted in connection with extortion, bank fraud, and making fraudulent financial statements as a commercial real estate developer.

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