Wes Gullett, Phoenix Mayoral Candidate, Is a Connected Contender

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Phoenix Councilman Claude Mattox has shifted his message of support for CityNorth -- flip flopping in that he voted for it, said at one debate that he wouldn't have voted for it given today's public reaction and later told 12 News that he would vote for it again.

Wes Gullett, one of the contenders in the race for Phoenix mayor, has also left some mixed messages along his campaign trail.

While he goes to great lengths presenting himself as an outsider who will shake up the status quo in Phoenix City Hall, he has a lengthy -- and impressive -- political resume.

He is a founding partner for a very influential lobbying firm, a chief of staff for former Gov. Fife Symington and a top political aide to Arizona Senator John McCain.

He has close ties to Councilman Tom Simplot -- the two grew up together and are like brothers, he has also served on the Planning Commission and FirstStrategic Communication and Public Affairs, his company, has a long list of heavyweight clients.

It's not like the connections make Gullett evil ... but he's not an outsider. He is as connected as they come.

Gullett says that if he's elected, he will repeal the food tax as soon as possible. And yet he also says that he favors putting on the ballot a tax that would support the arts in Phoenix.

He explains that the difference is the City Council approved the food tax, and an art tax would be decided by voters.

Gulllett tells 12 News that he chuckles when people call him a lobbyists because he hasn't lobbied the legislature for 10 years.

But as a partner in one of the largest lobbying in the Arizona, lobbying is how Gullett earns a living. And that pretty much makes him a lobbyist. It's not like he's working in the mail room.

And he readily says, when directly asked, that he recently lobbied at a federal level on behalf of a California Indian tribe seeking to build a casino.

He also explains that his gig as a partner in a lobbying firm won't pose a conflict of interest if he's elected mayor.

"I'm going to be taking a leave of absence from my firm," he tells New Times, adding that his partners at the firm agreed that "they would not be doing work lobbying the City of Phoenix."

Although he will be on leave, he'll still be getting paid by FirstStrategic. He said that one option is that the company would put his share of the money in a blind trust -- essentially earning money without knowing where the money is coming from.

But even that arrangement raises more questions than it answers.

Lobbying firms, such as FirstStrategic, are required to list their clients with the Secretary of State. So if the public knows who the clients are, wouldn't Gullett?

Other candidates aren't so keen on the idea.

"It's not appropriate for the mayor to have an equity partnership in a lobbying firm," says former Councilman Greg Stanton, who is also running for mayor. "The public should be confident that the mayor's only interest is in doing the right thing for the people of our city."

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