City Council seats on the line as early voting starts - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

City Council seats on the line as early voting starts

July 4th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
City Council seats on the line as early voting starts

By Ken Sain
Staff Writer

The number of women serving on Chandler’s City Council is likely to double or more after this year’s election.

Mail-in ballots will begin showing up in residents’ mail boxes soon as early voting begins July 6 for the Aug. 2 Primary Election. In addition to state and county races, Chandler residents will be selecting a mayor and three council members for the next four years.

City candidates must get 51% of the primary vote to win outright or some hopefuls on the August ballot will have to face off again in the Nov. 8 General Election.

There are two candidates for mayor and five for three Council seats. Three of those Council candidates are women, so at least one is likely to be elected. They would join current Councilwoman Christine Ellis, who is not up for election this year.

There’s also a woman running for mayor, so the Chandler Council theoretically could have as many as five women sitting at the dais.

In the mayoral race, incumbent Mayor Kevin Hartke is seeking a second term. He has a lot of advantages in the race. He’s been a member of Council for since 2008. He has a significant financial edge with more than $228,000 in campaign funds at the start of the election.

The former pastor at Trinity Christian Fellowship has lived in the city since 1985. His major campaign themes have been his experience and building on the success the city has seen during his tenure.

Hartke’s challenger is newcomer Ruth Jones. She worked as a network analyst for the National Security Agency and has lived in Chandler for more than two years.

She had previously lived in the area, but left the state to seek medical treatment for her oldest son, who had cancer. He later died. Jones, a breast cancer survivor, said she served on some commissions while living in Utah to start her civic journey.

The biggest difference between the two involves a proposed non-discrimination ordinance to protect LGBTQ+ residents. Hartke opposes adopting one, and Jones is in favor.

“The ordinances are cumbersome,” Hartke said at a June 16 forum hosted by Chandler Pride, a LGBT group. “They have lengthy processes that take three, six, nine, twelve months in order to see any action come out of there. They’re difficult to navigate, and then enforce as well.”

“It doesn’t have to be cumbersome,” Jones responded. “It doesn’t have to be hard to deal with. We write the ordinance that works for our community that protects all of our citizens and keeps them safe.”

Jones says her top issue is supporting the police. Every candidate in the city election has expressed support for the police. Jones has been critical of the city for not hiring new officers for years because of budget concerns and worries about the economy.

The Chandler Chamber of Commerce has endorsed Hartke in this race.

Here’s a look at the race for the three Council seats:

Rene Lopez and Terry Roe cannot run for reelection because of term limits. Both are seeking a higher office. There is only one incumbent in the race, Matt Orlando. He is seeking his sixth term on the Council, having first served in 1990.

The Chandler Chamber of Commerce, the Arizona Police Association, and the United Phoenix Fire Fighters Association Local 493 have all endorsed the same three candidates for Council: Orlando, Angel Encinas and Jane Poston. The other candidates running are Darla Gonzalez and Farhana Shifa.

Angel Encinas: The immigration consultant and real estate agent calls himself the “Hometown” candidate, having been born and raised in Chandler. He graduated from Chandler High School and Arizona State University. He says he’s a proud member of the LGBTQ+ and Latino communities.

Darla Gonzalez: She’s a businesswoman running her own company, Gonzalez Professional Services. She and her family moved to Chandler in 2004 from Oregon. Gonzalez says her top three issues are public safety, keeping taxes low and maintaining the city’s business-friendly environment.

Matt Orlando: The Air Force veteran also ran a small business and has been a fixture on the Council since 1990. This is his third go-around seeking two terms before he steps aside because of term limits. Orlando says he still campaigns just as hard as he did the first time. “How can I ask my volunteers to go out and knock on doors if I’m not willing to work even harder than they do,” he said.

Jane Poston: She was once a city employee, which she says gives her an experience none of the other candidates have. She left that job to start her own company, J2 Media, with her husband.

Last year she chaired the Chandler Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Poston has worked with a number of nonprofits and promises to build partnerships between them and the city.

Farhana Shifa: The Bangladesh native says she appreciates living in the United States and feels an obligation to serve others as a way of giving back. Shifa said it was one of the lessons her mother handed down. The project manager, artist and author has lived in Chandler for 16 years and currently serves on the city’s art commission.

At the Chandler Pride candidate’s forum, Encinas, Orlando and Poston all said they would support the city passing a non-discrimination ordinance (NDO) to protect the city’s LGBTQ+ residents. Chandler is the largest city in the state without an NDO.

Shifa had previously said she was against it, but at a forum sponsored by a gay rights group, she seemed to soften a little bit.

“So about the NDO, if we have enough effect on the table, that is how many discriminations are happening, how they’re not getting their advantages in the society, then definitely that will need to be resolved,” Shifa said. “And if it is constitutional, then we’ll be talking about that.”

At the Chamber of Commerce forum, Shifa was against an NDO.

Gonzalez has yet to take a position on the NDO. She has said she is waiting for the results of a survey that the City Council commissioned to look at the issue and wants more information before making a decision.

“I would like to wait to see the outcome of that study before making a decision,” Gonzalez wrote in an email. She said she did not attend the Chandler Pride forum because of a work commitment. “I will also support positive ways to motivate people to act kind and be welcoming to everyone.”

Gonzalez has also not taken a position on allowing chickens in residential yards.

“More than likely there is more information out there that I would be privy to once I am elected to Council to make a final decision,” she wrote. “I think the best decisions are made with the most information. I am doing my best to gather the information and apply common sense to both situations.”

Encinas, Orlando and Poston have said previously they would vote against allowing chickens in residential backyards. Shifa said she didn’t see any reason to oppose it, comparing owning chickens to owning cats and dogs.

In addition to voting on the Council candidates, voters are also being asked to approve Home Rule. This is an exception that Chandler voters have consistently approved every four years. It allows the City Council to exceed state-mandated spending limits in its budget.

If the measure failed, Council would have to adhere to a budget formula that is based on what it spent in 1980 when its population was only 30,000 people. That formula allows increases for growth and inflation, but will fall short of what they city actually spends today. It would mean massive cuts to services if voters reject Home Rule.

In Legislative District 12, which covers northern Chandler as well as parts of Tempe and Mesa and all of Ahwatukee, there is a five-way Democratic battle for two House seat nominations and a two-way Republican battle for Senate between two Ahwatukee residents.

With Democratic Sen. Sean Bowie deciding not to seek re-election, incumbent Rep. Mitzi Epstein is unchallenged in seeking her party’s nomination for that seat.

But Realtor Suzanne Sharer and Ahwatukee businessman David Richardson are dueling for the Republican Senate nod.

In the House primary races, Chandler City Council member Terry Roe, who is termed out, and Chandler business CPA Jim Chastan have no challengers in the Republican House primary for LD12.

But two Chandler residents, former city Councilman Sam Huang and 2020 state senate candidate Ajlan “AJ” Kurdoglu are in a five-way Democratic fight that includes three Ahwatukee residents – Anastasia “Stacey” Travers, Paul Weich and Patty Contreras.