Phoenix Mayor's Race: Gullett and Stanton Keep Swinging and Slinging Two Weeks Before Election Day
With just two weeks before Election Day, Phoenix's two mayoral candidates aren't letting up -- taking political swings and slinging mud at each other.
Phoenix mayoral candidate Wes Gullett says that if his opponent, Greg Stanton, is so adverse to lobbyists' influence in city government, then why did he take about $120,000 in political donations from lobbyists?
A recent press release from Gullett-land says that over the course of his political career, Stanton has "taken a total of $123,306 in cash from lobbyists."
But they aren't all lobbyists who get paid to influence the legislature on behalf of a client.
"Greg Stanton has been busted as a complete hypocrite," said Gullett spokesman Daniel Scarpinato. "He's spent a year ranting against lobbyists, but turns out they are keeping the lights on at his campaign headquarters."
The press release goes further, saying that Stanton even lied about accepting the money.
Camp Stanton says when Stanton denied Gullett's assertion during a debate on KJZZ that he had taken more than $120,000 from lobbyists, he assumed that Gullett was talking about current political contributions to this campaign.
Gullett's camp was adding up all donations that Stanton received since 2001, and while there are some notable lobbyists on the list, there are also some longtime community leaders who volunteer to "lobby" on behalf of organizations that advocate for the LGBT community or arts in Arizona.
"This list is laughable," says Ruben Alonzo (no relation to the writer), a spokesman for Camp Stanton. "He had to go back an entire decade and find community leaders like Kirk Baxter, Bill McDonald and Bill Shepherd, all who do volunteer work for Equality Arizona, advocating for LGBT rights before the legislature."
Equality Arizona is an organization that advocates for equality on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
Bill McDonald, a board member of Equality Arizona Advocacy Fund, said that he isn't a paid lobbyist.
"I've been a non-paid lobbyist for the gay and lesbian community," he tells New Times. "I've spent a good part of my life getting rights for my community, and to equate my lobbying and the fact that I gave $430 to Greg Stanton, basically because he's very supportive of diversity ... I feel resentment that the Gullett (supporters) singled out Equality Arizona."
Bill Sheppard, longtime lobbyist for arts in Arizona, is also on the list of lobbyists that have given money to Stanton.
"Yes, I've done a considerable amount of lobbying for the arts, but I've never been paid a dime for it," he tells New Times. "The implication is that these are high-powered paid lobbyists. And I'm neither high-powered nor paid."
"I find it more amusing more than anything else," he says. "I think it's just more desperation from Gullett and them trying to imply that Greg is supported by hired guns, which is what Wes Gullett is."
Gullett is a founding partner of FirstStrategic, one of the largest lobbying firms in Arizona. But he says that he spends most of his time on strategic planning, not actually lobbying. As a partner, however, Gullett does get a cut of the money that rolls in from the lobbying work done by the firm.
He has previously declined to share information about how much money he makes from the firm's lobbying efforts, citing that it was a personal matter and not anyone's business.
Alonzo says that Equality Arizona has already been under attack by Gullett's supporters via a campaign mailer paid for by the Arizona Republican Party.
The mailer (below) says that Phoenix is headed in the wrong direction as it lists Stanton's endorsements by both the AFL-CIO and Equality Arizona.
"The innuendo is that you shouldn't vote for Greg because the unions and gays support him," McDonald says. "We're highly resentful of that. They shouldn't be trying to divide communities."
Gullett's camp declined to comment on the Arizona Republican Party's mailer or the campaign including non-paid community leaders in their list of lobbyists who support Stanton.