Black Leaders Urge District 8 to Vote for Diversity in City Council Race

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There is precious little time to convince District 8 residents who haven't voted to cast their ballot on November 5 in favor of diversity -- that is, to vote for Pastor Warren Stewart over Kate Widland Gallego in Phoenix's council race.

For the first time in nearly 50 years, the Phoenix City Council faces the possibility of not having a black representative at the table. Councilman Michael Johnson, the only African-American on the council, is barred by term limits from running for re-election.

Stewart and Widland Gallego emerged as the top vote-getters during the August primary election, but Widland Gallego fared far better than Stewart with 47 percent of the vote. Stewart received almost 22 percent.

"Diversity is at stake," Aubry Barnwell, a pastor at First New Life Missionary Baptist Church said during a press conference that took place on the steps of the Calvin C. Goode Municipal Building, named for an African-American who served on the Phoenix City Council for 22 years. "Every voice will not be at the table if we do not vote. We have to vote. We have to make our voices known."

In a booming voice that reverberated through the municipal complex, Barnwell shouted: "Vote. Vote. Vote! Just vote."

Others, including Goode, Johnson, and Reverend Jarrett Maupin, spoke about their concern of losing representation in local politics, and positive role models for black youth.

It isn't easy facing that possibility.

But Senator Leah Landrum Talyor said that Phoenix is the "sixth-largest city in this nation, and it's more than an atrocity not to have good and fair representation and diversity."

She said that losing the seat was not an option.

It was ironic that as she spoke about retaining black leadership in the community, she had just been ousted, in a surprise move by her colleagues, from her post as Senate minority leader.

The state of the black community -- and the bitter political and social fights that were waged to secure that one Phoenix seat, and statewide leadership roles -- isn't a good feeling for former Councilman Goode.

"It's a feeling that people need to wake up," Goode said. "Diversity is important. I've never seen that woman [Widland Gallego] involved in any African-American events. How can you represent me when you don't know the community?"

Widland Gallego's campaign has said that race doesn't play a role in serving the community and also noted that you don't have to be black or brown to fix a pothole.

Maupin said that you still have to be part of the community to know where the potholes are.

"It's only fair for our community to be one of the nine voices [on the Phoenix City Council] that leads this city," he said.

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