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
Like his opponent, Stanton is working hard, pounding the streets to shake out one more vote, one more financial supporter.
In September, during a changing of the guard ceremony for the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association at Bentley Projects, an art gallery in downtown Phoenix, Stanton strolled into a room full of hardcore Republicans, a group that might make a lesser Democrat quiver in his shoes.
Among them were state Senator Russell Pearce, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and Mark Spencer, former president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association — three of the most polarizing figures in Arizona politics.
As those men have rallied for tougher measures, laws that would force local cops to act as immigration enforcement agents, Stanton has been a vocal opponent of SB 1070. He favors a comprehensive approach to immigration reform that deals humanely with immigrants living in the United States.
(Gullett stammered when he was asked, at a mayoral debate, whether he supported SB 1070 as it was adopted by Arizona lawmakers. He eventually said that he did support the measure.)
Stanton moves through the crowd comfortably, shakes hands, pats old acquaintances on the back and pauses briefly to bend a few ears.
As the ceremony gets under way, Stanton pours himself another cup of coffee and grabs a sandwich off a buffet table. He stands in the back of the room, munching and rocking on his heels.
Stanton's campaign hasn't been unmarred by controversy; his started early in the race.
Just as Stanton made official his bid to run for Phoenix mayor, New Times broke a story about Mindy Shields, daughter of influential lobbyist Billy Shields (Stanton's longtime friend and campaign treasurer), and her draining all the money from his campaign coffers — nearly $80,000.
Although he is the godfather of one of Mindy Shields' children, Stanton reported the alleged embezzlement to police. After she was exposed, Shields' father lent her the money, and she put it back in Stanton's political account.
As the investigation got under way, Stanton wanted to pull back, saying that Mindy Shields, who lost her job and was facing prison time, had already suffered enough.
Billy Shields, former head of the local firefighters union, never supported Stanton's political run for mayor. He instead had backed Councilman Claude Mattox, who was knocked out of the race in the August primary election.
A court sentenced the younger Shields in September to a year of supervised probation after she changed her plea to guilty.
Stanton's political detractors, including Gullett's camp, used the incident to charge that if he couldn't protect his own money, how could he be a steward of the public's money? And Gullett's people also claimed that Stanton shouldn't have accepted repayment of the money, calling it an illegal campaign contribution that exceeded the state's $430 per person limit on donations.
Reasonable people chalk it up to what it is — restitution for the money Mindy Shields stole, not an infusion of new money into Stanton's campaign on behalf of her or her father.
Stanton has done well on a financial front — raising more than $534,000 for his campaign so far, with more than $114,000 cash on hand. (That includes the money he rolled over from the account raided and restored by Mindy Shields.)
Stanton has been hammered by his opponent for being endorsed by labor unions, but it should be noted that Gullett's own campaign supporters have close ties to local unions.
Rick DeGraw, who has chosen Camp Gullett, is a man with very close ties to the firefighter "union bosses" whom Gullett blames for having a stranglehold on Phoenix and for decimating the city's budget. In fact, the local fire union dubbed DeGraw an honorary firefighter, and he even worked to try to get the union to endorse Gullett.
"I talked to the firefighters about [endorsing Gullett]," he says. "I've worked with them for 35 years, and the thing is that firefighters are loyal and that when [Stanton] was on the Phoenix City Council, he was a solid supporter of things that the firefighters needed. I told Wes beforehand."
Gullett still sought the endorsement, twice — and twice was rebuffed.
DeGraw disagrees with Gullett's assessment of labor unions, but he says they agree on the basics.
"I think Wes has the ability to be a conservative — not a crazy, but a conservative — and balance the whole idea that government has to play a major role in everyone's life. It has to have a role for people who can't make it on their own, but it can also be reasonable."
Gullett's problem is that a slot in the Phoenix mayor's race already is occupied by Stanton, a fiscal conservative and established advocate for the social services in Phoenix. Stanton has been an advocate for the homeless, for the arts, for the GLBT community, and for endlessly pushing the federal government to give Phoenix its fair share of funding for Head Start and energy-assistance programs that help impoverished residents pay their utility bills.
Another advantage that Stanton has over Gullett is that during Stanton's nearly 10 years on the City Council, he represented District 6, which includes Ahwatukee, Arcadia, Biltmore, and other neighborhoods with active community leaders, large numbers of Republicans, and high voter turnout.