Tuesday night, Warren Stewart's campaign says it logged a first in Phoenix politics -- a town hall where participants called in and asked questions, listened to a few stump speeches, and voted on a few questions asked by the moderators.
Stewart is seeking a seat on the Phoenix City Council, and he's running against Lawrence Robinson, a law professor and member of the Roosevelt School Board, and Kate Widland Gallego, a business liaison for SRP (who has taken a leave of absence from her job) and wife of Arizona lawmaker Ruben Gallego.
While Team Stewart was expecting about 10,000 participants, a press release notes that "more than 3,000 residents in Phoenix City Council District 8" participated in the call.
Only a handful of callers were heard asking questions about the Sky Train, dirty neighborhoods, and the expansion of light rail in the district. A couple of them complimented Stewart's dedication to the community.
It's unclear how the number of callers were logged or how participants voted on questions asked about their priorities for the district. New Times has asked the campaign for more information, and we'll report back when we get answers.
"Residents of District 8 live very busy lives," Stewart states in the release. "And to attend a traditional political town hall in the evening, to get away from family obligations, is difficult. That is why I am pleased that my campaign brought together more than 3,000 District 8 residents to the Stewart Town Hall. The discussion was lively, and the interaction with the voters was outstanding."
Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox and Attorney Danny Ortega, a longtime community activist, moderated the teleconference town hall.
During the phone conference, Wilcox said she admired the other candidates for stepping up to run for office but criticized their lack of experience or history with the community.
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"One of the candidates [Robinson] was elected to the Roosevelt School Board in November 2012," Wilcox said to callers. "You know what one of his first actions as school board member was? He announced that he was running for Phoenix City Council. Now, I am all for wanting to serve the community, but jumping to another political position when he has not even been in office for two months as a school board member is very concerning to me."
Then, she added: "The other candidate recently started using her married name from Widland to Gallego. I'm going to be frank with you, there are all kinds of political tricks to confuse the Latino and African-American communities, but in this election, those tricks are not going to work. Let me echo what Danny Ortega said: There are no Latinos or Latinas running for City Council, period. Kate seems to be a nice person, but she has only lived in the district for a few years and has little experience working in the community."
Stewart also laid out some of his priorities to callers, including beginning a "Reading for Success Program" for young people, creating a Work Force Development Plan to advocate for grant funding from the feds to bring "critical workforce development dollars to District 8" and working with "nonprofit organizations, corporations and anyone interested in bringing medical services to our community."