By a vote of 5-3, the Phoenix City Council today chose former councilman Sal DiCiccio to finish the term of Greg Stanton, who resigned last week to take a job with Attorney General Terry Goddard.
DiCiccio was nominated only after the council deadlocked on the nomination of Sal Rivera, an attorney at Fennemore Craig. Rivera received votes from Mayor Phil Gordon, Councilwoman Maria Baier, and councilmen Michael Johnson and Michael Nowakowski, but he needed one more vote to get the nod.
When Baier and Gordon subsequently threw their support to DiCiccio, he got the job instead.
The council's choice is an interesting one because Stanton is a middle-of-the-road Democrat. DiCiccio, who wrote a letter to the editor to the Arizona Republic last year defending Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas, represents a decided shift to the right.
Before the vote, DiCiccio was questioned by Councilman Michael Nowakowski about an op-ed he wrote for the Arizona Republic two years ago, warning of the dire consequences of allowing Mexican culture to take root in this country.
DiCiccio's column began, "The current debate on immigration reform leaves out the most important issue: the importation of a corrupt culture. South of the border, you have a governmental system that allows and sometimes encourages bribery of local officials. It is no wonder that more heinous crimes follow. It is only a matter of time before a wave of violence will be coming our way. The gun battles with police; the beheadings of journalists, the kidnappings of families -- these are a line in the desert away from our country and state."
Really, could Randy Pullen have said it any better? (Incidentally, DiCiccio did in fact endorse Pullen for mayor back in the day.)
To the council, though, DiCiccio claimed he is not anti-immigrant.
"Politics is the art of taking somebody down rather than promoting them," he complained. "I find these comments about me extremely offensive, because they are just not true. ... I clearly delineate between the violent criminals coming here and individuals just trying to come here and make a life."
Oddly, no one on the council questioned DiCiccio about his support of Arpaio -- an interesting omission considering the sheriff's hamhanded attempts to investigate Mayor Gordon last year.
DiCiccio, to be sure, was the only one of the 21 applicants for the position who bothered to mount much of a grassroots campaign. He had a flock of supporters at the meeting, sporting bright yellow T-shirts, and some homemade signs greeting the council members this morning.
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But a more important factor in DiCiccio's victory is likely the push he received from former firefighters' union chief Billy Shields. Shields' wife, Lora Villasenor, was a top aide to DiCiccio during his tenure on the council, and sources tell New Times that Shields lobbied hard for DiCiccio. Especially when Rivera couldn't muster the votes, Mayor Gordon may have felt that he couldn't turn his back on one of his biggest supporters.
We'll have more on this in next week's newspaper. We wouldn't be surprised to see some fallout from the Hispanic community -- we'll keep you posted.