There are two major endorsements Valley politicians go after with gusto during election season -- police and fire.
And while one candidate usually grabs both endorsements, unions are divided on who is best qualified to serve as Phoenix mayor.
The Arizona Police Association is behind former Phoenix Councilman Greg Stanton and the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona is in Phoenix Councilman Claude Mattox's corner.
Getting the backing of those employee associations matters so much to candidates because it sends a persuasive message to voters and goes a long way toward helping candidates pocket votes. It also supplies the candidate with an army of volunteers willing to campaign on behalf of the candidate.
That leaves other mayoral candidates, including Phoenix lobbyist Wes
Gullett, former Councilwoman Peggy Neely and Tea Party favorite Jennifer
Wright, without the coveted endorsement.
It isn't surprising that the PFFA is in camp Mattox considering the councilman has long and loyally worked with the local firefighters to educate the public on water safety issues.
"Claude is so committed to this effort that he regularly fundraises on our behalf to quell the number of drownings in our community," Rich Woerth, PFFA representative said in March press release. "He raises money for pool fences and water safety programs and gives to the fire fighter charities and Phoenix Children's Hospital. That just tells you what kind of a guy Claude is, and what kind of a mayor he will be."
Mattox also chairs the city's Subcommittee on Public Safety and Veteran's Affairs, the first stop for policy decisions involving public safety issues. That's not to say that former council members Neely and Stanton have not been just as supportive of firefighters, but Mattox has the added advantage of being a longtime friend of Billy Shields, former head of the local firefighters' union and still a controlling force behind the local union.
Stanton's police endorsement, however, was not as expected, particularly given that his views on immigration enforcement differ from some of the associations' that represent law enforcement workers.
While Stanton says comprehensive immigration reform is the way to go, many police unions favor attrition of illegal immigrants through enforcement of federal and state immigration laws.
Stanton says the APA is not a one-issue organization.
"Where we agree is that we need strong advocacy to protect the residents of Phoenix and to support the men and women of law enforcement," he says.
Brian Livingston is the executive director of the Arizona Police Association, which represents nearly 9,000 federal, state and local law enforcement officers from 32 different public safety agencies in Arizona.
Livingston told New Times that what made Stanton stand out was his ability to build coalitions with different groups.
"He takes advice from all people and then he makes a decision," he says. "Some people call that indecisive, we call that realistic. And when he makes a decision, he's firm and committed to it. He doesn't worry about how it might offend some political groups. He does what he feels is right. We don't want someone who is just going to go with the flow."
Livingston also says the APA believes Stanton will project his energy -- "vigor and vitality," he says -- on to Phoenix and help chase away the controversy and negative publicity that has visited the city in recent years.