Phoenix Future Hinges On Ghost Election

Phoenix City Hall [Photo via City of Phoenix]

There’s an election underway in Phoenix. Judging by the early ballot returns, you probably don’t know about it. Neither does anyone else. But you should. Two offices are up for grabs, and on Tuesday, March 9th, the outcome of those races will determine the balance of the Council for at least the next few years. Choose correctly, and the (relatively) normal operations of the City will continue. Choose poorly, and our road to becoming a progressive disaster on the order of Seattle or San Francisco will get replaced by high-speed rail.

The big ticket race is the District 7 showdown between two young, Democrat women: Cynthia Estella and Yassamin Ansari.

Estella is a classic City Democrat. She’s a strong supporter of unions and liberal social programs, but isn’t in the “Defund the police” camp, and eschews most of the craziest policies of the progressive left in favor of tried-and-true governance focused on doing the basics, and doing them well. She has a lengthy history as an activist in the South Phoenix and Laveen areas. She knows the City, her people, and their problems. Estella is endorsed by outgoing moderate Democrat Councilmember Michael Nowakowski, Chicanos Por La Causa, and a number of other long-time local charity groups.

Yassamin Ansari is a modern ultra-progressive in the mold of Occasional Cortex…err…Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. She has declared that the number one issue facing voters in this election is “environmental equity”, whatever the heck that means. She promotes the most radical anti-police policies and organizations. Unlike Estella, Ansari has no history in Phoenix. At all. She’s the jet-setting daughter of a wealthy Iranian-American family from Scottsdale. She interned for Nancy Pelosi and most recently was a low-level staffer with the U.N. Office of Climate Action. She hasn’t lived in Arizona in a decade, and has never lived in Phoenix – until her family got her an apartment in a trendy downtown hi-rise so she could run for this seat. Ansari’s campaign is being propelled by Mayor Kate Gallego – and a huge amount of money from San Francisco and D.C.

In Council District 3, which includes mostly the North-Central parts of the City, current Councilwoman Debra Stark (D pretending to be IND) is being challenged by conservative Republican Nicole Garcia.

Stark presents herself as a moderate in a swing district – which she used to be. Since Gallego became Mayor, however, Stark has voted in step with Gallego’s extreme progressive agenda – casting several votes in line with the Defund the Police movement. Stark has also made a habit of conspiring with the Mayor ahead of votes to use procedural maneuvering to ensure that alternatives to the Mayor’s extreme agenda aren’t ever heard by Council. Councilman DiCiccio, for example, has worked on a number of significant proposals in the last year that were never given an airing in front of Council as a result of Stark and Gallego’s maneuvering – proposals to do things like convert the abandoned St. Joseph’s Hospital on Van Buren into a treatment center for homeless and destitute individuals with severe mental illnesses and drug addictions, and to send Gallego’s radical anti-police policies to voters rather than allow Council to implement them without input from the broader public.

Nicole Garcia, on the other hand, is about as conservative as they come. She’s a strong Trump supporter who has come under fire from the local media establishment, repeatedly. She is a strong supporter of police, and a fiscal conservative. For a Council that has been shifting to the left over the last two decades, Garcia’s election would represent a sea-change, giving the Council’s two standing conservatives – Sal DiCiccio and Jim Waring – a third vote that would likely alter numerous outcomes in the coming years.

Whoever is elected in these races is going to control an awful lot of what happens in Phoenix for a long time to come and voters are ghosting the election. Ballots went out almost two weeks ago and thus far less than 25,000 votes have been cast – in a City of 1.7 million people. This is one of those elections where your one vote can and will make a difference.

Vote, and vote wisely.