No suspense in mayor’s race but plenty in others - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

No suspense in mayor’s race but plenty in others

June 16th, 2018 development
No suspense in mayor’s race but plenty in others

BY Gary Nelson, Contributor


When Jay Tibshraeny first joined the Chandler City Council in 1986, the town was barely a dot on the map.

Even then, however, growth was coming. And fast. It was all but automatic as waves of new residents fled America’s rust and snow belts for a better place to live.

Given that scenario, any town with enough sunshine and land can add people. But Chandler knew it needed more – it needed an economy of its own and an identity, a vibe.

More than 30 years later the thriving Price Corridor, with its plethora of high-tech employers, and a revitalized downtown have checked those boxes even as other parts of the city also blossomed – most notably around Chandler Fashion Center.

No one person can claim credit for all that, of course. But Tibshraeny has been in the thick of Chandler’s transformation from desert outpost to 21st century powerhouse.

Now, after serving seven terms as mayor, Tibshraeny will have to surrender his gavel when new City Council terms begin next year.

Term limits prevent him from seeking another four years in the office he has held twice – first, from 1994 to 2002, and again after the 2010 election.

As for his replacement, that’s already a foregone conclusion.

Only one mayoral candidate – City Council veteran Kevin Hartke – had emerged in Chandler by the May 30 filing deadline. He is lead pastor at Trinity Christian Fellowship in Chandler and has a lengthy resume of involvement with government boards and community-service groups.

But voters can expect lots of campaign fireworks at the municipal and legislative levels this summer as a result of contests among six candidates for three Chandler City Council seats and a plethora of hopefuls for seats in all three legislative districts that cover Chandler.


Chandler City Council

The primary election is Aug. 28. If no clear winner in a municipal race emerges from the primary, the top vote-getting candidates move on to the general election on Nov. 6.

And even before the election, drama has emerged. At 3:30 p.m. June 25 in Council Chambers, City Council interviews nine candidates selected from a pool of 36 applicants to fill former Councilwoman Nora Ellen’s remaining two years. She had to quit to run for a House seat in LD12.

Of those nine candidates, three – William Crawford, Matt Eberle and Aaron Harris – are running in the primary for a full term. Whether any of them would quit the primary if they are picked is unclear.

The others who will be interviewed are Victor Hardy, Jill Hudson, Jeremy McClymonds, Diane Ortiz-Parsons, Eshe Pickett and John Repar.

Municipal races in Arizona are nonpartisan and the issues are often generic – public safety, balanced budgets, quality of life. But candidates’ general political leanings often emerge through their websites, lists of endorsements and campaign statements.

Council members are elected at large and are term-limited after two consecutive four-year terms. Seats held by Hartke, Rene Lopez and Terry Roe are up for election this year.


The candidates:

William Crawford, a 24-year employee of the Maricopa Community College District and former vice president of Chandler-Gilbert Community College. Serves on Chandler police and fire pension boards. Website:

Matt Eberle, a Chandler resident since 2008 with deep business background. Endorsed by four current Council members. Member of Chandler’s Architecture Review Committee. Also ran for council in 2016. Website:

Aaron Harris Sr., professional educator.  “I will encourage the best possible business climate for economic development and the creation of good jobs and work to streamline the burdensome, antiquated permitting processes that stifles smart growth.”  Also ran in 2016. Website:

Rene Lopez, incumbent, served on Chandler Parks and Recreation board before joining council in 2014. Favors further city tax reductions while enhancing public safety and recreational opportunities. Website:

Matt Orlando, seeking a return to Council after serving 1990-98 and 2004-13. Retired after a long career in the defense industry. “During my time as a Council member I supported and led many activities that benefitted and laid the foundation for our community and our quality of life that we enjoy today.” Website:

Terry Roe, incumbent, stresses economic development, public safety and fiscal frugality on his website. A long list of endorsements includes other current and former Chandler City Council members and U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz. Website:


Legislative races and teachers

Chandler and the rest of Arizona are about to find out whether the red sea that flooded the state Capitol this spring will erode Republican domination of the Legislature.

The “#RedforEd” movement, in which striking teachers shut down schools across the state for six days, did succeed in wringing a 19 percent teacher pay raise from the Republican-dominated Legislature.

But many teacher demands, such as raises for support staff, smaller class sizes and hiring more school counselors, remain unfulfilled, suggesting that education will be back on the front burner when the new Legislature begins work in January.

Of course, it’s the rare candidate who doesn’t profess support for education. They generally also like Mom and apple pie.

But teachers and parents of kids in public schools showed this spring they’re serious about lifting Arizona from the bottom of the national pile when it comes to education funding. And since it’s Republicans who for years have ruled the Legislature, they could bear the brunt of that ire.

That teacher strikes have moved the needle in “red” states such as Arizona was borne out by an April 12 article in The New York Times, which reported that backlash against Republican budget cuts in Kansas and Oklahoma “spurred Republican-dominated legislatures to enact taxes that would have been unimaginable a few years ago.”

While most Arizona legislative candidate websites have avoided direct comment on “#RedforEd,” some have addressed it.

For example, Nick Myers, a Queen Creek Republican seeking a House seat from District 12, strongly criticized the movement, to the point of calling it illegal. He proposed a deeper look at why education in Arizona is struggling.

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, has suggested parents could sue teachers for participating in the walkout and tried to make it illegal for teachers to use classroom time to “espouse political ideology or beliefs” – a proposal that was clearly aimed at #RedforEd supporters.

On the other side, District 12 Democratic candidate Joe Bisaccia did not mention #RedforEd directly but said on his website, “I stand with public schools in Gilbert and Queen Creek, with giving teachers well-deserved raises, and against voucher expansion… Our representatives have eviscerated our public education system. It’s time to fix this once and for all.”

Regardless of how education plays in the campaign, the East Valley stands to lose some legislative clout as two powerful lawmakers bow out because of term limits.

Sen. Steve Yarbrough and J.D. Mesnard, both of whom are Chandler Republicans, have served as Senate president and House speaker, respectively. They have represented District 17, which covers most of Chandler and a small slice of northwest Gilbert.

Yarbrough is leaving the Legislature after 16 years – four terms in each the House and Senate. Yarbrough’s seat is the only legislative seat for Chandler districts where there is no primary contest.

Mesnard will square off in November with Democrat Steve Weichert, clinical services director for a healthcare group that serves the Gila River Indian Community.

Legislative District 17 House

Nora Ellen, Chandler Republican and Chandler City Council vice mayor until she had to resign last month under state election law, is in a three-way fight for one of two GOP nominations for the seat her son Mesnard occupied.

She states, “The sanctity of life, protecting the unborn, and strong family values are important for our future. I also believe it is vital that we safeguard the freedoms laid out in the Constitution.” Website:


Her opponents are:

Jeff Weninger, Chandler Republican incumbent. “Jeff has demonstrated his ability to lead on critical issues, including regulatory reform, the creation of a business-friendly economy, access to capital for small businesses, and investment in our education system.” Website:

Julie Willoughby, Chandler Republican. “Julie believes families should have the right to choose which school their child attends. Choice creates an environment of healthy competition and raises the educational bar.” Website:

Jennifer Pawlik of Chandler is the only Democrat, so she gets a pass during the primary election and will campaign against the Republican winners in the primary.

She co-chaired the successful Yes for Chandler Students! override committee in Chandler and has been active in numerous other pro-education political campaigns and organizations. Website:


District 12 Senate

Elizabeth Brown, Gilbert Democrat.  “I am running for the state Senate because being ranked 48th in K-12 education, 49th in pupil-teacher ratio and 50th in teacher pay is a travesty, an embarrassment and is unacceptable for the people of this state.” Website:

Eddie Farnsworth, Gilbert Republican. Current member of Arizona House. Website lays out conservative platform on government finances, school choice, border security, property rights and guns.  Website:

 Jimmy Lindblom, Gilbert Republican. Current member, Maricopa County Planning and Zoning Commission. “Pro-life Republican with a record of fighting to protect families, the unborn and the vulnerable… strong supporter of the Second Amendment and a fiscal conservative.” Website:


District 12 House

Joe Bisaccia, Gilbert Democrat. “Fighting to restore public education funding, pay our teachers a living wage, increase access to quality healthcare for every Arizonan, and to protect your rights to vote and for citizen initiative.” Website:

Travis Grantham,  Gilbert Republican incumbent. Vice president, International Air Response Inc., based at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. Website stresses “unique background relating to aviation, world events, and sound conservative business policy.” Website:

Nick Myers, Queen Creek Republican. Background in information technology; advocates limited government with transparency and stricter term limits. “Strong believer of family values and educational choice.” Website:

Warren Petersen, Gilbert Republican, currently serving in Senate. “I have protected the rights of parents to choose the best education options for their children. Since I have been elected the Legislature has increased education funding by hundreds of millions of dollars.” Website:

Lynsey Robinson, Queen Creek Democrat. “Lynsey fully understands that public schools are underfunded and teachers are underpaid.” Website:

D.J. Rothans, Gilbert Democrat. Previously ran for House in 2014; was unopposed in Democratic primary. Website focuses on education funding, environmental quality and equal rights. Website:

 Blake Sacha, Gilbert Republican. Degrees in chemical engineering, education; industrial background. “With proper reinvestment in public education and keeping Arizona economically competitive we can create an economy that works for everyone.” Website:


Legislative District 18

Both incumbent State House members in the legislative district that includes Ahwatukee are facing challenges within their own parties while the State Senate seat will see a replay of the 2016 election in November.

Republican incumbent Rep. Jill Norgaard will be vying for a chance at a third term with former Tempe legislator Greg Patterson and Chandler newcomer Farhana Shifa.

On the Democratic side, incumbent Tempe Rep. Mitzi Epstein will be trying to hang on for the November election by competing against two Chandler Democrats, Jennifer Jermaine and Ladawn Stuben.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Sean Bowie has clear sailing in the primary and will face Tempe Republican Frank Schmuck, whom he defeated two years ago to win his first term.

Epstein declares on her website, “We must educate the whole child. Neither a child nor a school should ever be reduced to one test score.  Our schools need arts, PE, technology, school counselors, as well as rigorous courses in English, math, science and social studies.”

Jermaine, on, states, “I am running because the children of Arizona deserve fully funded public schools, our disability community deserves to have access to public spaces, and our residents deserve to be free of harassment and racism as they lead their daily lives.”

Stuben, whose only site so far on twitter at, says, “You can often find me in the streets advocating for Medicare for all, a living wage, environmental protection and racial justice.”

Norgaard sets out part of her position on by calling attention to her work the last four years in the Legislature, noting her work on “protecting businesses from state regulatory overreach” and restoring joint tech education funding.

Patterson, a former Arizona Board of Regents chairman who resigned from that position after a year in June 2017, does not appear to have set up a campaign website, although he has operated a site on Arizona politics,, where he states, “I have worked to protect consumers, increase access to healthcare and support higher education.”

Shifa, a native of Bangladesh, says on her site, “If we will follow the Constitution and return government to its rightful function we will fix much of what is broken. Protecting and restoring our constitutional rights (particularly the First and Second Amendments) will be a passion of mine.”

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