Though Dubs bristles a bit at the "mystery candidate" image that was hung on her by the Arizona Republic, her campaign did modestly awaken the media's radar. A political neophyte whose previous political experience had been as chairwoman of the Loma Linda Neighborhood Association, Dubs avoided public debates with Nadolski, taking as her chief theme the idea that the councilmember--who late in her second term was ending up on the wrong end of a lot of 8-1 votes--was not a "team player." Dubs also suggested Nadolski's pointed criticism of then-Phoenix police chief Ruben Ortega was counterproductive. Much of Nadolski's support had come from the older women in her district--District 6 has the highest percentage of older voters in the Valley--and Peter Martori, a citrus farmer and longtime council observer, says these voters saw Nadolski's attacks on Ortega as evidence their councilmember was "disrespectful" and had gone "soft on crime."
Another important component of the incumbent's support, the small but influential circle of neighborhood activists from which Nadolski had sprung, was alienated by revelations Nadolski had accepted campaign contributions from downtown zoning attorneys.
And a third segment of Nadolski's constituency, members of the gay community who had helped in her previous campaigns, underestimated Dubs as a candidate. "It was a technical blunder," says Charlie Harrison, a longtime gay political organizer. "We thought it was impossible for Nadolski to lose, so we concentrated our efforts on other races. We did not make one phone call, we did not walk one district for her, we did absolutely nothing. But we voted, sort of: I think a lot of people didn't bother to even go to the polls."
Harrison says he believes Dubs was offended by the gay community's historic support of Nadolski. He says that during the campaign he tried to explain to Dubs that the gay community's support of Nadolski was "not personal" but that the gay community had a working relationship with Nadolski. "I said Linda Nadolski had done so much for the gay community over the years that Jesus Christ could be running against her and the fags would support Nadolski," Harrison says, "but I think she was still offended."
Dubs, however, says she had a modicum of gay support in her campaign. "In the neighborhood where I live, we have some gay people who I'm good friends with," she says. "There were some gay volunteers who walked for me."
And though Nadolski outspent her by more than four to one--$46,727 to $10,714--political neophyte Dubs had some big help. She says she was talked into running for office by friends. One of those friends, Chris Warner, a local real estate broker who also happens to be one of Mayor Johnson's closest friends and advisers, helped run her campaign.
Warner, the son of former gubernatorial candidate Carolyn Warner, is a member of the mayor's informal kitchen cabinet, a group of young businesspeople who often sees the mayor socially and offers Johnson advice on everything from policy matters to his choice of suits. Described by council watchers as a publicity-shunning, low-profile "political junkie," Warner did not return New Times' telephone calls.
Mike Morgan, an attorney and close friend of longtime councilmember John Nelson, also advised Dubs during her campaign. Mark Dioguardi and Tom Smith, Nadolski's opponents in prior races, likewise served as Dubs' advisers. On election day, near some District 6 polling places, Dubs' yard signs were staked next to the mayor's placards, linked by banners that read, "The Winning Team: Paul Johnson and Kathy Dubs."
While both Johnson and Dubs have denied knowing anything about these yard signs, most council observers and some councilmembers agree the mayor was not unhappy to have Nadolski off the council. Many observers see Johnson's council as a political incubation chamber, where tender, young political lives are nourished and insulated while they prepare for bigger and better things. Nadolski was perceived as a bomb thrower, apparently unconcerned about running for higher office, or even for hanging on to the one she had.
"Linda was pretty ambivalent about the job," Martori says. "She was beginning to question her effectiveness. . . . When she came in, she was seen as an activist, charging in on a white horse, but at first she really did try to play ball with the council. It was only toward the end of her second term that she started mouthing off, but by then she'd lost too much political capital."
Martori says Nadolski's own mixed feelings about her role on the council led her not to work as hard campaigning as she had in previous years. And that, as much as Dubs' unflagging energy and "smart" campaign, was enough for Dubs to upset Nadolski by 1,353 votes. In the end, the redistricting didn't seem to matter much as Dubs outpolled Nadolski in almost every precinct in both the old and new District 6.