Kate Gallego and Daniel Valenzuela are both running for mayor of Phoenix. They're both Democrats. And they both sought the endorsement of Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club.
But now, Valenzuela's business allies are bashing Gallego because these two organizations backed her campaign.
A recent mailer produced by the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce suggests that voters should reject mayoral candidate Kate Gallego because of her endorsements from Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club – two traditionally left-leaning organizations. The mailer urges Phoenix residents to vote for Daniel Valenzuela instead, contrasting his more-conservative network with the groups standing behind Gallego.
On one side of the mailer is Valenzuela's image, followed by a list of his endorsers: the Arizona Police Association, the Arizona Fraternal Order of Police, the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona, and, of course, the Greater Phoenix Chamber.
On the other half is a sepia-tinted image of Gallego with her name in a scary font, accompanied by her endorsers.
The mailer did not go over well with some.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona executive director Jodi Liggett said in an interview on Thursday that Valenzuela should "disavow" the mailer sent by the Chamber.
"You either approve of what they did, or you don’t," Liggett told Phoenix New Times. "And to be clear, they’re piling on Planned Parenthood in a very cynical way to activate base conservative voters – the clear implication being, Planned Parenthood is bad and supporting us is shameful."
Even more puzzling is that both Valenzuela and Gallego sought Planned Parenthood's endorsement, Liggett said. The candidates were interviewed by the organization's board, which ultimately endorsed Gallego in July.
Liggett, however, noted that Valenzuela has supported Planned Parenthood. She also acknowledged that his campaign did not produce the advertisement.
"Although Kate’s our friend, Danny’s our friend," Liggett said. "He’s been supportive for a long time, but Kate just outshone him."
Strangely, soon after the mailer started making the rounds on Twitter on Wednesday, Valenzuela posted a photo on his Facebook page of the hashtag #StandwithPP. He did not add any commentary to the image.
Liggett and Planned Parenthood Arizona CEO Bryan Howard wrote that they were "deeply disappointed" by the mailer in a letter to Greater Phoenix Chamber CEO Todd Sanders on Thursday.
They described the Chamber's strategy in the mayor's race as "cheap political opportunism."
"The Chamber chose to lift up their candidate by tearing down his opponent, a woman, for being endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of AZ and another organization," Liggett and Howard wrote. "The clear implication is that Planned Parenthood is a bad organization and that a woman supporting women’s access to health care is shameful."
Liggett said that during a phone conversation with Sanders, he offered to refund Planned Parenthood's dues. It was not the response they were looking for.
"It’s almost like, 'We apologize by way of kicking you out of our club,'" Liggett said.
Sandy Bahr, the director of the Grand Canyon chapter of the Sierra Club, said that she was taken aback by the tone of the mailer, despite her many years of environmental advocacy in Arizona.
“It’s disappointing that Phoenix Chamber is moving in this direction, and that somehow they see Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood as a negative," Bahr said. "I think that’s pretty sad."
She said that Valenzuela sought the Sierra Club's endorsement and interviewed with the organization.
Bahr called the mailer an "appeal to the lowest common denominator, if you will."
Valenzuela and Gallego both recently resigned from the Phoenix City Council to run for mayor to replace Greg Stanton, who himself resigned in May to run for Congress.
Like other city offices, the mayor's office is nonpartisan, but the candidates' affiliations are well known. Besides the two Democrats, Republican Moses Sanchez and Libertarian Nicholas Sarwark are also in the race. If no candidate achieves a majority in November, the city will hold a runoff election with the top two candidates in March.
In response to questions from New Times, Valenzuela did not address the mailer sent by the Chamber, nor his Facebook post yesterday.
"I have been a consistent supporter [of] a women's right to choose, access to healthcare, and access to contraception," he said in an emailed statement. "I outlined my position in great detail when I sought the endorsement of Planned Parenthood."
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The Greater Phoenix Chamber did not respond to repeated requests for comment. The organization represents 2,400 businesses in the Phoenix area and, according to its website, is the largest business association in Arizona. The Chamber's political action arm was established 40 years ago to elect "pro-business candidates" and promote a favorable economic climate in Phoenix.
Valenzuela's latest campaign finance filing shows that the Greater Phoenix Chamber's political action committee has contributed $3,000 to his campaign.
For her part, Gallego is sticking with both organizations.
In an emailed statement to New Times, Gallego said, "I couldn't be prouder to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club. As mayor, I'll champion both women's health care and environmental protection."