Gullet's supporter, Fred Taylor, says that "the Mayor's Office getting heavily involved in education, that's another untruth that's out there."

Yet Gullett signed a contract with the African American Community Forum that includes education, and he's told other groups that his goal, as mayor, is to raise third-grade reading levels, increase graduation rates, and consolidate school districts to reroute administrative costs back into the classroom.

When called on apparent contradictions or outright errors, Gullett says he "misspoke." Sometimes clarifications are offered.

Whether Gullett misspeaks or intentionally aims to leave a certain impression upon his audience — only Gullett knows.

But it strains credulity that a seasoned political strategist who is a founding partner in one of the premier lobbying firms in Arizona would be given to such bush-league errors.

And lately, Camp Gullett has been firing off press releases and statements raising questions about the Stanton campaign, implying Stanton is using tax dollars to pay for his political campaign and claiming that he violated conflict of interest laws when he voted on items pertaining to Maricopa County Community College at the same time that he was working for them.

Gullett admits that Stanton himself places the county college on his City Council conflict-of-interest list, maintained by the City Attorney's Office. The city's lawyers notify elected officials when organizations on the list appear on an agenda. Over the course of several years, the City Attorney's Office and Stanton nevertheless neglected to note some items on the agenda that related to the college.

Stanton says that those few "slipped through the cracks."

Stanton, who kept his campaigning civil during the primary election, has also taken the gloves off in the final stretch of this runoff election.

He and his own political operatives have pounded into the public consciousness the notion that Gullett is a lobbyist who will come to the table with a sackful of conflicts of interest.

Gullett says he won't have any conflicts because he will have sold off any interest that he has in his firm. Initially, he resisted, but nine months into his campaign, he finally agreed that if elected, he'll divest himself of all financial interest in the firm he helped found.

His critics point out that Gullett is still being paid, even as he runs for mayor of Phoenix, by these entities with deep pockets and political reach. Were there more separation between the time that Gullett was representing clients who regularly do business before Phoenix and his vying for a seat in the Mayor's Office, it's likely that there wouldn't be so many doubts whether Gullett's political decisions will be made with the city's or his previous clients' interests in mind.

Gullett points out that even as Stanton takes every opportunity to call Gullett a lobbyist and declare that he won't allow lobbyists to influence City Hall under his administration, Stanton voted in favor of appointing 10 lobbyists to Phoenix boards and commissions in his last year of office. And, Gullett observes, Stanton has also accepted campaign contributions from lobbyists.

Phoenix voters can expect to wade through more mud as Election Day draws near and candidates push to make themselves look good — or make their opponents look worse.

Given Gullett's spin-ful past, this is an area where he just may have an edge over Stanton.

"They spin," one longtime political insider tells New Times about Gullett and his allies — then and now. "They look you directly in the eye and they spin. They think that if they do it long enough — with enough veracity, manipulation — that people will believe it. They don't believe the public will do the research and connect the dots. And they are incredibly good at what they do. They always walk the line, nudge it."

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