Battle royale looms in LD17, county seat races SanTan Sun News

Battle royale looms in LD17, county seat races

Battle royale looms in LD17, county seat races
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By PAUL MARYNIAK
Executive Editor

Just because the City Council races have ended doesn’t mean Chandler voters will be on the outside looking in this fall when it comes to hot campaigns in their own backyard.
Beyond important races like President and U.S. Senate and other top-ballot contests, the Legislative District 17 and County Supervisor District 1 campaigns will offer politics junkies plenty of drama.
Democrats have targeted LD17 as a “flippable” district in their quest to take control of the State Senate and are pouring money into furniture store owner Ajlan “A.J.” Kurdoglu’s campaign to deny Republican Sen. J.D. Mesnard a second term.
At the same time, Chandler Realtor Liz Harris is hoping to do the same to Rep. Jennifer Pawlik, the only Democrat vying for one of two State House seats in a district where Chandler restaurateur Jeff Weninger appears a virtual certainty to keep that seat for Republicans.
Meanwhile, Tempe community activist and nonprofit leader Jevin Hodge is mounting a well-funded effort to give Chandler Republican Jack Sellers a run for his money as Sellers tries to win his first four-year term in a seat to which he was appointed two years ago.
With control of the State Senate possibly in the balance, Democrats are again targeting Mesnard – this time with a newcomer to the political scene.
Kurdoglu, a native of Turkey and an engineer with an MBA from the Thunderbird Graduate School of International Management, is the owner of the Homemart furniture and interior design store.
He notes on his website that Mesnard lost to Steve Weichert in 2018 by one percentage point – a margin of 1,744 votes.
At the time Mesnard was in his first Senate race after being been termed out of the House after eight years, the last two of which were spent as House Speaker.
The County Recorder’s latest voter registration figures for the district show Republicans have an advantage over Democrats 55,706-46,055 with 49,077 registered without either party affiliation.
Despite those figures, Charles Fisher, executive director of the Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, posted recently on Twitter, “Those are the exact type of districts we see flipping all across the country.”
Added Kurdoglu on his campaign website: “We have an amazing opportunity to bring new leadership to the Arizona State Senate. My race has received national attention.”
In the race for cash, both Mesnard and Kurdoglu have attracted some national attention, according to their latest campaign finance reports to Secretary of State.
Kurdoglu has amassed a total $60,464 and spent $8,666 so far. Among his largest contributors are Henry Van Amerigen, a New York City real estate developer and philanthropist who donates heavily to candidates favoring legalized marijuana and LGBTQ rights, and Broadway theater producer Edward Snowdon, who also supports candidates championing gay rights.
Van Amerigen donated $5,200 and Snowdon kicked in $2,000 to Kurdoglu’s campaign.
Kurdoglu also garnered a $5,400 donation from the Future Now Fund, which supports progressive candidates across the country, $1,500 from the Arizona Education Association PAC.
Mesnard’s campaign has collected $79,405 since Jan. 1, 2019, and so far has spent only $2,444.
Among his larger contributions was $5,000 from Carleen Brophy of Wyoming, the wife of Dan Brophy, a Phoenix commodities trader who moved to Big Sky Country and is treasurer of the Goldwater Institute.
The Freedom Club in Minnesota, which supports candidates and causes favoring limited government and low taxes, also contributed $5,000.
Mesnard’s filings also list a $5,000 donation from Jason Mayor, president of MTI Tech Solutions in Chandler.
His larger political action committee support includes $2,000 from the Southwest Gas PAC, $1,500 from the Raytheon PAC, $1,200 from the Prudential Financial PAC.
PACs that kicked in $1,000 to Mesnard’s reelection effort include Pinnacle West, Greater Phoenix Chamber, Arizona Bankers Association, Farmers Employees & Agents and Wellcare Health.
In the Aug. 4 primary election, Kurdoglu received 22,858 votes to Mesnard’s 25,456 – the biggest primary tally among all five LD17 candidates, according to unofficial results.

Three-way race for 2 seats
The House race in LD17 includes a Republican political newcomer, Chandler Realtor Liz Harris, who says on her website that “liberals are moving into Arizona and attacking everything that makes the state great.”
“We need to make sure we don’t let this leftward push ruin everything that’s working in Arizona,” she states.
But Harris has her work cut out for her, judging by not only campaign contributions but apparently even support within her own party.
In the primary election – where voters didn’t necessarily even have to cast a ballot because there was no race – incumbent Republican Jeff Weninger captured 23,082 votes – slightly less than the 23,491 that Democrat Jennifer Pawlik received in her bid for a second term. Harris garnered 19,418 votes.
Both the Gilbert and Chandler chambers of commerce also have endorsed Mesnard, Weninger and Pawlik.
Pawlik’s financial support is close to Weninger’s, according to their latest campaign finance filings, while the amount Harris has collected so far doesn’t come close to either of them.
Weninger, a former two-term Chandler City Council member who will be termed out if he wins his fourth race this year, leads the race for campaign cash after collecting $129,647 and spending $14,106.
Pawlik has garnered $108,407 so far and spent $16,511, campaign reports show.
Harris has reported $30,325 in contributions – including $11,127 of her own money – and has spent $8,188, raccording to campaign filings.
Weninger has received a number of four-figure donations from political action committees, with the biggest contribution from the Arizona Leadership Fund, which supports conservative candidates in Arizona. Its contributions to Weninger total $5,200.
Other large donations are PACs belonging to Raytheon, $3,000; General Motors, $2,000; the Land Title Association and Arizona Restaurant Association, $1,500 each; and Prudential Financial, $1,200.
PACs contributing $1,000 to Weninger include CVS Health, Arizona Bankers Association, Union Pacific, Cox, the Arizona Technology Council, Arizona Chamber, Cigna, Nationwide Mutual, Young Leadership Council and Farmers Employees & Agents.
Pawlik’s single largest financial backer has been a national organization called Flippable, which has targeted 10 states’ legislatures now controlled by Republicans and, as their name suggests, is supporting Democratic candidates. Flippable has donated $10,400 to Pawlik’s campaign war chest.
She also has received $5,400 from the Future Now Fund and $2,600 from Emily’s List, a national organization supporting female progressive candidates. She also has received $5,200 from William G. Roe, a retired Florida citrus industry executive.
Pawlik’s largest PAC support has come from Southwest Gas, $2,00; Arizona Pipe Trades 469, $2,600 and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 99, $2,500.

County supervisor race battle
Jack Sellers, a former two-term Chandler City Council member and chair of the State Transportation Board, is seeking his first four-year term on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors after he was appointed two years ago to replace Denny Barney, who quit to become president/CEO of the Phoenix East Valley Partnership.
He’ll be battling Jevin D. Hodge, who is trying to become the second Democrat on the five-man board.
The son of Tempe Union High School Governing Board Berdetta Hodge – who is seeking reelection this year – Jevin is the national engagement director and Phoenix operations manager for Washington, D.C.-based LINK Strategic Partners, a strategic communications, stakeholder engagement and social impact consulting firm.
Hodge also chairs the Booker T. Washington Child Development Center, is the former president of the Tempe Union High Schools Education Foundation and sits on the boards of several non-profit charitable institutions around Arizona.
In the primary election, unofficial results show Hodge and Sellers were neck-and-neck in Supervisor District 1, which has 187,079 registered Republican voters to 166,349 Republicans and 169,234 voters not registered with either party.
The Aug. 4 election produced 73,801 votes for Sellers and 79,707 for Hodge.
Hodge also is leading the race for cash, amassing $117,184 in donations since Jan. 1, 2019. He has spent $60,559 and is starting his fall campaign with $56,624.
Sellers has collected $73,245 and spent $28,289 and is entering the fall campaign with $44.955.
Among Sellers largest contributors is East Valley strip mall developer Michael Pollack, who has donated $6,450 and Mike Ingram of El Dorado Holdings, $3,300.
Hodge’s larger supporters include Scottsdale philanthropist Nestor Guzman, who has donated $5,000, and Los Altos, California, physician Dr. Karla Juvelson, who kicked in $2,000.

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