By New Times
By Connor Radnovich
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Ray Stern
By Keegan Hamilton
By Matthew Hendley
By Monica Alonzo
By Monica Alonzo
The following year, a jury convicted Symington of seven felony counts, and the governor resigned from office. His conviction was overturned on appeal, and before any charges could be re-filed, Symington was pardoned by President Bill Clinton.
Over the years, Gullett developed a close friendship with McCain. The men took weekend gambling trips to Las Vegas, and Gullett adopted one of two ailing babies whom McCain's wife, Cindy, rescued from an orphanage run by Mother Teresa in Bangladesh.
He helped run McCain's 2008 presidential campaign against Obama and attended the GOP National Convention with his adopted daughter to offer his personal endorsement of McCain.
Back up a decade and a much different Wes Gullett was hard at work with his then-sidekick, Chuck Coughlin, at their ironically named political consulting firm, HighGround. Hardly. These two have a legacy of down-and-dirty political savagery.
Gullett and Coughlin, representing Kaites, concocted a scheme to portray McGovern as a convicted criminal in a TV ad, with the candidate dressed in orange prison garb.
Though the ad claimed that McGovern was a criminal arrested for possession of marijuana, that simply wasn't the truth. And Gullett and Coughlin knew it. They knew all about McGovern's almost-immediate exoneration with respect to the 1983 charges, and the fact that McGovern had never hit a pipe was widely reported at that time.
Coughlin, who didn't return New Times' phone calls, reportedly has found Jesus and long ago apologized to McGovern.
Back then, Gullett told the Arizona Republic that he and McCain acted aggressively, but that their tactics stopped short of retaliation.
"If we can't win them over with logic and reason, we'll use muscle," he was quoted as telling a Republic reporter.
The decision to run the McGovern commercial was a devastatingly poor decision that torpedoed — on the very day the ad aired — Kaites' credibility and his political career.
Gullett and Coughlin, however, made it out fairly unscathed and have done well for themselves. No one in today's political circles speaks about it, but the two had an ugly breakup long ago and went their separate ways, each now with interest in his own political consulting and lobbying firm.
Gullett says that he's since matured.
"After spending a lot of time in the early parts of my career in fights and battles, I've figured out that working with people . . . works a lot better and it's more productive."
Coughlin kept HighGround, and Gullett is the founding partner in FirstStrategic Communications and Public Affairs. The firm lobbies on behalf of major players in Arizona politics — many of whom have had interests before Phoenix City Hall, including the Home Builders of Central Arizona, the Arizona Realtors Association, and the Arizona Cardinals.
Deb Gullett works as a lobbyist for Gallagher and Kennedy, a Valley law and lobbying firm.
Surprisingly, Wes Gullett's inside track into Arizona politics — including endorsements from Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, and other high-profile Republicans — hasn't done much for his fundraising efforts.
The mayoral candidate hasn't come close to raising the $1 million he said he would in this race. Instead, he has peaked at a little more than $310,000, and he has about $32,000 cash on hand. He has floated more than $26,000 of his own money to his political campaign, as of the latest campaign reports.
Jason Rose, a political adviser known for taking on clients in the midst of public relations nightmares (including Mayor Phil Gordon), gives credit to Gullett for taking the plunge and running for public office.
"It really takes brass balls to do what he's doing," Rose tells New Times. "It's the type of gutsy decision that his peers could use against him if he doesn't win this race. And yet, he's willing to put it all on the line."
Greg Stanton also is putting it all on the line.
The 41-year-old father of two has submitted only one job application since leaving the Arizona Attorney General's Office in 2010 — for Phoenix Mayor.
He has been campaigning full-time and working as Mr. Mom, taking care of his 4-year-old son, Trevor, and his 1-year-old daughter, Violet, when he isn't on the trail.
He's been criticized for getting too excited when he speaks in public, using big gestures and talking too fast. But he is widely regarded as the frontrunner in the mayor's race, with two polls showing him with double-digit leads — 20 points and 19 points. One poll was commissioned by his campaign; the other was done by Washington-based pollsters who work for the Democratic Party.
Gullett's camp dismisses them as biased polls.
Stanton largely has managed to keep his political career drama-free. The mayoral candidate comes from a working-class family, and his parents still live in the same West Phoenix home where he grew up. He mentions the fact that his father was a shoe salesman every chance he gets. He's married to Nicole, a partner at Quarles & Brady, a large Phoenix law firm.
When he served on the City Council, Stanton clashed with his colleagues when he sided with neighbors in opposing major city projects.