Although the election for the Phoenix City Council seat in District 8 -- a seat that has been held by African-Americans for the past 46 years -- is still months away, race is definitely going to be an issue.
Several people, including leaders in Phoenix's African-American community, already have publicly stated that they'd like to see the council seat won by an African-American this year, but perhaps local civil rights leader Reverend Jarrett Maupin has been the harshest (which shouldn't come as a surprise to those familiar with him).
Maupin tells New Times that he believes support of the only official candidate thus far, Kate Gallego -- whom Maupin refers to as Kate Widland-Gallego -- is an attempted "political lynching of Phoenix's black community."
That comment was pointed specifically at Councilman Michael Nowakowski, who has endorsed Gallego, the wife of Democratic state Representative Ruben Gallego.
At one point, Maupin says, he helped Nowakowski land votes from voters who attend Phoenix's black churches, and Maupin feels a bit betrayed at this point.
"He campaigned in our houses of worship on a unity platform. He would read a favorite prayer of Cesar Chavez, quote Dr. King, and now he has thrown all of those promises he made, promises made in God's House, under the bus," Maupin says. "He has turned Si Se Puede and We Shall Overcome into Si Yo Puedo and Me, Myself, and I."
As we noted last week, Vice Mayor Michael Johnson is term-limited this year, and the district likely has more Hispanic voters than it did in 1992, when Johnson was first elected. This year's election has the 46-year streak of African-American councilmen representing District 8 in jeopardy.
Without an African-American on the city council, that would make the most powerful elected African-American in the city a, what, school board member?
Kate Gallego, however, hasn't seen it that way.
"I don't think there's an African-American or Latino way to fill a pothole," she told the Arizona Republic.
To this, Maupin strikes back.
"Kate Widland-Gallego is right. There is no black or Latino way to fix a pothole," he says. "But what a candidate does have to know is where the potholes are in the black and Latino neighborhoods. That's the real issue. Kate Widland-Gallego doesn't know us. Kate Widland-Gallego doesn't drive where we drive or walk where we walk."
While Maupin's already got some harsh words -- again, which isn't surprising -- he's not alone in his thoughts.
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A short opinion piece from former city Councilman Calvin Goode, who's African-American, was just published this weekend in the Arizona Republic.
"Recently, Kate Gallego announced her intention to be a candidate for District 8. She is white," Goode writes. "She states she will represent all District 8 citizens, including African-Americans. I find it strange that I have not seen her at any African-American affairs or events. I am unaware of a single action that she has demonstrated to support African-Americans."
Meanwhile, we're told there was a consensus among several of the city's high-profile black leaders, including potential candidates, that Pastor Warren Stewart of the First Institutional Baptist Church is the consensus choice to replace Johnson.
Stewart hasn't made his candidacy official, as of yet.