Those might be tough constituents for Stanton, a lifelong Democrat, to represent, but he earned their respect by being responsive, making their issues his issues. He also sided with neighborhood leaders on major Phoenix projects: Stanton voted against the infamous high-rise that Donald Trump wanted to erect near 24th Street and Camelback Road; he voted against a nearly $100 million tax rebate for the CityNorth parking garage — a decision the City Council is now trying to undo.

DeGraw says that he trusts Gullett to "make the right decisions for the right reasons."

"I could say the same thing about Greg," he adds. "I like Greg. And Phoenix will not be ill-served by either candidate, but I just believe that Wes is strong in his ability to bring corporate leaders to the table."

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

Stanton contends that's because Gullett's lobbying and political consulting firm has represented many of those corporate leaders that do business with Phoenix. And Stanton's campaign has created various political ads painting Gullett as a lobbyist who will be riddled with political conflicts if he is elected mayor.

Gullett has taken shots at Stanton, blaming him for the economic mess that Phoenix finds itself in because he's part of the "status quo," claiming that he prefers a bloated government.

The mutual attacks have picked up intensity as the November 8 election draws near, and DeGraw sums it up this way: "None of them are pure."

Gullett dubs his opponent a government-lover who represents the status quo, and Stanton paints Gullett as a lobbyist trying to reinvent himself, someone who tells voters whatever they want to hear in order to pocket their votes.

During mayoral debates and other joint appearances, Gullett tends to interrupt Stanton, desperate to get in a jab — some out-of-turn comment about Stanton's "union buddies" or making vague references about Stanton being admonished by the Phoenix City Attorney for alleged conflicts of interests during his days on the City Council.

Stanton does take public shots at Gullett, but in a more subtle way. He damns Gullett with faint praise, for instance, telling the audience at a debate that Gullett is a "great lobbyist" and deserves credit for helping establish projects like the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), a nonprofit biomedical research institute.

Stanton likes to say that Gullett was well worth the money he was paid to lobby on behalf of certain entities — reinforcing at every turn that he is the public servant while Gullett was in it for the cash.

Mostly Stanton is dismissive, ignoring Gullett's comments and creating uncomfortable silences.

The discomfort is seemingly justified: Gullett's colorful past has included seemingly contradictory views of the world.

Gullett says that unions are too powerful and destroying public budgets. He believes that government should get out of the way and that it overtaxes its citizens. He opposes water-rate increases in favor of keeping money in homeowners' pockets.

But his firm, FirstStrategic Communications and Public Affairs, helped for-profit entities, such as the P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, get public-safety expenses subsidized by city taxpayers; helped the Service Employees International Union get established in Pima County and Chandler; helped create laws to establish earmarks for early childhood development through a special tax on tobacco products; and helped a water company increase rates charged to Fountain Hills residents.

And Gullett, who supports SB 1070, made a campaign contribution in 2010 to Congressman Raul Grijalva — a southern Arizona Democrat who called for a boycott of the state after the Governor Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law.

Now that he's jumped into the mayor's race, Gullett's revealed his more conservative view of the world. (As long as he's not being asked about Obama in front of a black crowd.)

He leaned far to the right of center to curry favor with the Tea Party presence in Phoenix, and he even convinced the leader of the Original North Phoenix Tea Party to rescind his support for Jennifer Wright, a true believer in the Tea Party philosophy and former candidate in the Phoenix mayor's race.

It's a strategy and message that is working for Gullett, to some extent. As he keeps delivering an anti-union and anti-tax message and portraying himself as a government reformer and City Hall outsider, he is winning more support from those likeminded camps and politicians who haven't bothered to do their homework.

"There is a very interesting debate going on in this race, and it's going on between Wes Gullett and himself as he tries to figure out where he stands on any given issue," Stanton tells New Times. "With me, I've got a solid track record. I'm not reinventing myself. I'm running an authentic campaign."

Gullett fires back that Stanton, who calls himself the education mayor, is overstating what he can do in office, claiming that he is misleading people by preaching that he will bring light rail through South Phoenix, when there isn't any money to pay for it and its planning is still decades away.

Stanton tells New Times that planning for a South Phoenix route has to start now, as does the fight for federal dollars to fund it.

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