Pastor Warren Stewart's life in Phoenix has been deeply rooted in fighting for civil rights, and he has been a bold voice for immigrants' rights and immigration reform. But his run for District 8 has fallen short of that same glory.
While he's received support from some of the heavyweights in the Black community, and the endorsement of longtime Latino leaders, which is important in a predominately Latino district, the campaign hasn't been able to pull in the money or momentum worthy of such support.
Indeed, Stewart's campaign has been the one to watch -- but not necessarily for the reasons that campaign leaders would want it to be watched.
See also: Black Leaders in Phoenix Struggle to Retain Power in a District They've Historically Controlled
See also: Pastor Warren Stewart Boasts Ex-Mayor Phil Gordon and Mayor's Ex-Girlfriend/Fundraiser, Elissa Mullany, As Part of his Money Team
See also: County Attorney Bill Montgomery's Endorsement Rejected by Pastor Warren Stewart in District 8 Phoenix City Council Race
New Times got word that Stewart's campaign consultant, Mario Diaz, "fired" Luther Holland, a retired pastor, a staunch supporter of Stewart and member of First Institution Baptist, Stewart's own South Phoenix congregation.
Holland tells us that after he sent an e-mail with concerns about how the campaign was being run to one of Diaz's paid staffers, Diaz fired back and told Holland to cease any contact with anyone in the Stewart campaign.
Holland was upset because he said he learned that someone from Stewart's campaign had sent internal campaign information to one of Stewart's challengers in the District 8 race.
"They shouldn't be communicating with them. Period," says Holland, acknowledging that he questioned whether the staffer was "royally stupid" or was working for Stewart's opponent.
"I was told (in an e-mail) my services were no longer needed, and that I was not to contact anyone in the Stewart campaign," Holland explained, adding that Diaz also said he felt "personally threatened" and that he had "contacted his attorney."
Diaz also wrote that if Holland did communicate them again, Diaz would have his attorney reach out to the appropriate law enforcement authorities, Holland says.
Holland says he's just waiting for Diaz "to do something like that so I can own Mario Diaz and Associates."
Holland was confounded.
"You're going to call the appropriate law enforcement authorities on me? A retired clergyman, for what? Because you felt threatened by an e-mail? An e-mail that said nothing about "I'm coming after you." It said nothing about "be careful because I'm following you." It's just stupidness on his part, but that's the way he conducts his businesses, and I have proof."
The skirmish is inexplicable. And Diaz didn't response to a New Times' request for comment.
Holland attends Stewart's church. Holland has been one of the most vocal defenders of Stewart in the community. And, he says that as things like this situation with Diaz just fester, they hurt his candidate.
"I'm not out to hurt my pastor," he said. "Stewart has done nothing. He's the only candidate of the three who can prove by documentation that he's been fighting for justice for black and brown and white people and Native American people in Phoenix for 35 years. He is the one who has the integrity that is beyond reproach."
Diaz has also posted some cryptic campaign message on Twitter, but he didn't seem interested in explaining them.
Mario Enrique Diaz @medarizona When dead weights and knuckleheads try to get you off your game, just clean them off your shoes like poop. Quote of the day.
Mario Enrique Diaz @medarizona Quid pro quo in campaigns is not bueno. Be very very careful.
Mario Enrique Diaz @medarizona Internships for field work. They do that in Chicago.
And, when rumors surfaced that Republican political consultant Jason Rose, the architect of Maricopa County Joe Arpaio's controversial persona, was going to be helping the campaign, the Republic posted a blurb about it.
Then, there is this Twitter exchange:
Mario Enrique Diaz @medarizona Very concerned that respectable journalists are blogging based on rumors. What is the editor check and balance on blogs? Standards people
Dustin Gardiner @medarizona So are you denying that top surrogates, people who drafted @stewart4phx to run, have been meeting w/ @jasonrosepr?
Diaz didn't respond.
(Rose would be a hard -- if not impossible -- sell for the Latino leaders backing Stewart who have also dedicated their lives to fighting for the rights of undocumented immigrants.)
Rose says there were some discussions, but that he is not working for Stewart campaign. Although, he adds, there is no more impressive candidate than Stewart.
And, a true kicker: Members of the First Institutional Baptist Church tell New Times that on Wednesday night Steward was soliciting prayers for the success of an "independent expenditure" being started up for his campaign to combat an unholy alliance between his opponents Kate Widland Gallego and Lawrence Robinson to attack him for his theological stance on gay marriage.
We haven't seen any independent expenditure formed yet.
The trouble with Stewarts supplication -- if members heard it right -- is that as a candidate, the pastor isn't supposed to coordinate with any independent expenditures, hence the word "independent."
An independent expenditure can raise unlimited money in support of a candidate, but it is against the law for the candidate to work in conjunction with its organizers.