After going to considerable effort to qualify for the August 30 ballot, a Tea Party candidate in Phoenix City Council's District 1 abruptly pulled out of the race June 15 after New Times reported that he'd pleaded guilty to charges stemming from his arrest in January for assaulting a man police identified as his "ex-boyfriend" and "intimate partner."
Gary Whalen ended his campaign to represent residents living in northwest Phoenix with a brief note to the Phoenix City Clerk on June 15: "I officially withdraw from the Phoenix City Council race. Please ensure that my name does not appear on the ballot. Thank you."
Phoenix election officials say they can't remember a time in recent history that a candidate resigned after qualifying for the ballot. Whalen's campaign collected at least 200 signatures, the minimum required.
Whalen, 42, was one of three candidates challenging the district's current representative, Councilwoman Thelda Williams. He pledged "conservative leadership," had a blog page on the Greater Phoenix Tea Party Patriots' website, and noted on his own now-defunct website that he was educated at the Legionaries of Christ Seminary in Connecticut.
Local political experts say that Whalen was a legitimate candidate who was expected to give incumbent Councilwoman Williams a run for her money. (Williams had raised about $17,000 as of last December; the next campaign filing's not due 'til the end of this month, so there's no way of knowing how much Whalen had raised.)
According to a Phoenix Police Department report, Whalen came home from a bar sometime after 9 p.m. on January 23, apparently intoxicated, and kicked in his 27-year-old roommate's locked bedroom door, grabbed a piece of broken molding, and whacked repeatedly at his former partner, striking him only once on his "inner left thigh."
The ruckus was apparently so loud that Whalen's neighbor called 911, telling police that he heard "Gary's voice screaming and yelling" at someone in the house and "crashing sounds coming from inside."
When cops arrived at Whalen's house, they found his roommate locked out, standing in front of the home in his underwear.
The roommate, Daevon Turner — who identified himself as Whalen's ex, according to the police report — told police that he was lying in bed when Whalen started pounding on his bedroom door "with such force that it eventually broke." Whalen told him to pack up his belongings and get out. As he tried to get dressed, Whalen picked up a piece of wood from the broken door and started swinging it at him.
Whalen hit his victim hard enough to leave a "swollen bruise" on his "inner left thigh," according to the police report.
Police wrote that Whalen was "extremely rude and uncooperative," smelled of alcohol, and that his speech was slurred. He refused to open the screen door through which he was talking to cops. When they asked him whether he "kicked in a bedroom door or if he had struck . . . [his roommate] with a broken piece of wood," he refused to answer and said only that "the black male . . . was a transient and this situation was over with."
When they asked him why a "man wearing only his underwear was standing in his front yard," Whalen said he didn't know the man and that he "must have got dropped off out front."
Cops tricked Whalen into opening the door, telling him that if he would just give them some clothing for the man standing in front of his home, they would leave and "be done with this call."
Whalen walked away and came back to the door with a blue bathrobe. When he opened the door to hand the officer the robe, the officer grabbed Whalen's wrist and arrested him.
Inside the house, cops found that the bedroom door was busted and confirmed that Turner did live with Whalen, based on mail addressed to him at the home. Whalen's neighbor also told cops that he'd seen Turner at the house and believed he did live there.
(Turner agreed to meet with New Times on Monday, but he didn't show up for the interview.)
Police handcuffed Whalen, took him down to the local police precinct, and booked him into the Fourth Avenue Jail.
"I asked Gary if he understood his Miranda warning, and Gary stared at me," the police officer wrote in his report. "I asked Gary several more times if he understood . . . Gary stared back at me with no expression."
Whalen had signed up to run for the District 1 seat just four days before his arrest. He reached a plea agreement on May 11 that dismissed the charges against him after he completed counseling sessions in a domestic violence diversion program.
An arrest for domestic violence might make it tough for any politician running for office. Make that a domestic violence arrest involving another man and you've got a real political problem. Whalen had aligned himself with the Tea Party and reportedly was expected to get a nod from the group in the August 30 Phoenix election.
While philosophies among individual Tea Party groups vary, it's safe to say that most members have conservative views on social issues such as homosexuality.
"If the reports are accurate and this did happen, neither the domestic violence nor the ex-boyfriend [were] going to ingratiate Mr. Whalen with the social conservatives," Michael Bailey, one of the leaders of the Greater Phoenix Tea Party Patriots, said a day after Whalen pulled out of the race. "You're just not going to carry that crowd."
Apparently, Whalen knew trouble was afoot as soon as New Times called to inquire about his arrest, given the bizarre circumstances involving the paper's efforts to reach him for comment.
New Times tried to contact Whalen several times at the phone number listed on Whalen's campaign website, Facebook page, and campaign documents filed with the city clerk's office.
A man answered the phone but insisted he was not Gary Whalen. Moments after that call ended, the man called back. Sure enough, the number popped up on caller ID as Gary Whalen. But again, the man said he was not Whalen and didn't know Whalen.
He did know, however, that Whalen didn't have anything to do with the assault incident.
Instead of coming clean about his January arrest, the man claiming not to be Whalen told New Times that it wasn't Gary Whalen but someone named "Gaby Whalen" who was involved in the January incident.
The unidentified man, clearly Gary Whalen, even faxed a court document to New Times that listed Gaby Whalen as the defendant in the case. He explained that Gaby Whalen was a tenant in Gary Whalen's home.
The caller kept up the charade, even when he was unable to say whether Gaby was male or female, provide contact info for "Gaby," or explain why police arrested Gary Whalen and not Gaby Whalen on the night of January 23.
The man also couldn't explain how his phone number ended up on Whalen's website or campaign paperwork. The caller defended Gary Whalen and said that Whalen's only connection to the incident was that he owns the house where the assault took place.
The police report obtained by New Times states that Gary Whalen showed police his identification and lists Gary Whalen as the individual who was arrested and booked.
The name Gaby Whalen was nothing more than a typo on Phoenix Municipal Court records. A Phoenix Municipal Court summons dated March 3, 2011, indeed lists a "Gaby D. Whalen" as the defendant and orders Whalen to appear in court on March 24 for the assault-related case.
However, Phoenix Municipal Court records show that on March 24, court officials amended the files to fix that error. Subsequent files, including the one that Gary Whalen signed on May 11, in which he pleaded guilty to assault, all list the defendant as Gary Whalen — not Gaby.
Court records also show that Gary Whalen was facing 36 months of probation and 30 days in jail, with 25 of those days suspended if he went to counseling.
Whalen may have thought there weren't any records of his case since part of his plea agreement included a provision that the court would "suspend the entry of judgment and imposition of sentence for a maximum of 365 days," as long as Whalen signed up for counseling sessions in a domestic-violence-diversion program, among other things.
The agreement further outlined that "if the defendant successfully completes the domestic-violence-diversion program, the Court shall not enter the judgment nor execute sentence, but shall set aside this Plea Agreement and dismiss the charge(s) without prejudice."
New Times was able to obtain the police reports and court records because unless files are sealed by a judge, they remain part of the public record — even when plea agreements are reached, judgments are set aside, or charges against a defendant are dismissed.
Whalen is the second would-be candidate this season to withdraw from a Phoenix City Council race after stories of past run-ins with the law bubbled to the surface.
Ben Bethel, owner of the Clarendon Hotel, dropped out of the race for Phoenix City Council's District 7 after New Times' Ray Stern wrote about his 1996 drug convictions.