Jarrett and Goliath

"With the people's David in the race, we're going to slay the Phil-istine giant," the Reverend Jarrett Maupin II informed this cynical sandgrouse, referring to his just-announced campaign against Phoenix Mayor Phil "Goober" Gordon, the cash-bloated Goliath to Maupin's slingshot-bearin' David.

"Who're the Philistines?" continued the 19-year-old Rev, while getting his famous hair permed at Shante's, a black-owned barbershop in south Phoenix. "They're the developers, the big-money men, the people with the deep pockets. David? Nobody wanted David. But God wanted David. Justice wanted David. Equality wanted David. The level playing field was calling David's name."

The Bird recently winged its way down to Shante's and took a load off its talons while discussing with the boy-wonder Bible-thumper his promise to "kick Phil's butt" in the race for P-town's top spot. Ever since former New Times staffer Jimmy Magahern's profile of the teen civil rights advocate ("Kid Sharpton") came out on February 3, 2005, it's been obvious that the precocious pastor has a future brighter than the bling on Kanye West’s wrists. But becoming Phoenix's first black mayor, and the youngest man ever to lead a major American city — over the political corpse of a glad-handin' incumbent who's stacked $655K-plus in campaign contributions — may require divine intervention.

Maupin's secret weapon (the stone in his slingshot, if you will) is the sheer force of his personality, something of which Gordon has zip. Let's be real, Gordon's about as electrifying as a wet pair of stanky socks. How this nebbishy schlub became the mayor of the nation's fifth-largest metropolis is truly beyond this acerbic avian.

Phil's record in office is uninspiring to all but PHX real estate moguls and developers. Loads of public funds are getting pumped into downtown, but with ho-hum results, so far. Crime stats remain alarming, with Phoenix named 59th-most dangerous city in the nation, worse in violent crime per 100,000 people than NYC. Goober's reaction? Twiddling his thumbs and tut-tutting the numbers.

Last month, Morgan Quitno Press labeled Arizona the third most dangerous state in the union, up from fourth last year. What's the mayor of the Zona's most populous city been doing? Handing out benches and playing Mayor Scissorhands, cutting ribbons at every frickin' photo op.

Yet, no one of any stature or name recognition other than Maupin has huevos enough to enter the race. AZ's Republican Party has effectively ceded the election to Phil and his soon-to-be million-dollar war chest. True, the Phoenix mayoral contest is nominally nonpartisan. But Goober's a Dem (really a DiNO, a Democrat in Name Only), and he receives AZ Democratic Party backing, without having a face-off in a partisan primary against fellow Dem Maupin. That's why this outraged ostrich was flabbergasted to hear Zona Republican chair Randy Pullen confess, "At this point, we're not going to go out and recruit a candidate to run in this race."

Pullen, who challenged Phil in 2003 and lost big, cited what must seem like a stacked deck: low caps on donations, $370 per person before this February, and $390 since, thus making fundraising a time-consuming enterprise; elections held on off-years to ensure low voter turnout; and general voter apathy (in '03, only 21 percent of the electorate bothered casting ballots).

Still, The Bird faults Pullen's apathy. In the '80s, under the reigns of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. , the constant refrain of pundits was the "lock" Republicans had on the electoral college, thus denying Dems the White House. But along came a Southerner named Bill Clinton, and that lock got picked.

Point is, you've got to be in it to win it, Randy. Why, Pullen was unaware there's a registered GOPer in the race until this feathered Fourth Estater informed him. Admittedly, businessman/lawyer Steve Lory's a longshot, but you'd think his own party'd know he's running. (It was in the daily paper, Randy. Geez!)

Which brings us back to the people's champ, Jarrett Maupin, who at his tender age has already earned notoriety as the charismatic Prez of the Arizona chapter of the Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. In 2005, he challenged District 8 Councilman Mike Johnson and lost, only to rebound in '06 and win a seat on the Phoenix Union School Board.

What was Phil doing when he was a teenager, collecting bottle caps?

If Maupin could speak to every voter in P-town, his verbal skills might just win them over, and if there's a televised debate with Gordon and the Rev going toe-to-toe, Maupin'd mop up, at least in the debate.

"You talk about leadership and experience," replies Maupin when asked about his competency to lead. "I'm well-versed enough to know cities don't thrive off of big business and giving in to developers. They survive off of empowering small businesses, which employ most of the people of this city. Businesses like the barber shop up the street, hip-hop shops and record stores. These are absent from downtown."