FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — No matter who wins, Phoenix will elect its first mayor with a Hispanic surname on Tuesday.
Two Democrats, Kate Gallego, 37, and Daniel Valenzuela, 43, face a runoff after neither got 50 percent of the vote in November’s nonpartisan election. Gallego led with 44 percent of the vote, followed by Valenzuela with 26 percent. (Two other candidates, Republican Moses Sanchez and Nicholas Sarwark of the Libertarian Party, but did not make it to the runoff.)
If Valenzuela wins on Tuesday, though, it would be even more historic: He would be the city’s first Latino mayor.
The election concludes a campaign that has been inundated with attack ads paid for by outside groups.
Both Gallego and Valenzuela resigned their seats on the Phoenix City Council last year to run for mayor.
Gallego, whose maiden name is Widland, grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the daughter of two attorneys. She went to Harvard and got an an MBA from the Wharton School. She was married to Rep. Rubén Gallego, D-Ariz., whom she met at Harvard; they have since divorced and have one child.
Among the issues Gallego champions is rebuilding the city’s riverfront, bringing more biotech and manufacturing businesses to the city and expanding transportation, projects which she advanced in the City Council.
Valenzuela, a fourth-generation Mexican-American, is one of six and was raised primarily by his mother; according to his campaign bio,both parents died before he was 21.
He has been a firefighter for 16 years and was elected to the City Council in 2011. Among the issues Valenzuela advocates is increasing public safety, touting his involvement in hiring more police officers and helping develop community policing. He also cites his work boosting private development, which has helped in job creation.
Both Democrats are considered ideologically similar on the issues, but Gallego’s progressive coalition helped her finish first for the runoff in November, and she has picked up endorsements from groups such as Emily’s List and Planned Parenthood.
COURTING CONSERVATIVES, ‘DARK MONEY’ MESSAGING
To counter Gallego’s lead among progressives, Valenzuela has been courting conservative voters who preferred the Republican and independent candidates in November.
Valenzuela recently picked up the endorsement of Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain, the longtime giant of the Senate, as well as Arizona and national politics. He also picked up the endorsement of his former Republican opponent, Sanchez, and the Arizona Police Association.
Valenzuela has garnered the support of groups such as the city’s Chamber of Commerce, whose views on issues like minimum wage increases (the group opposed it) are to the right of the Democratic candidates.
The latest headlines surrounding the last days of the race involve a flurry of ads and last-minute appeals, some of which have come under heavy criticism for their tactics as well as for misleading messaging being run by third-party interests.
For example, there is an ad for Valenzuela on Breitbart, the conservative news website whose former chairman is Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former strategist.
And even though both candidates are Democrats, a mailer in support of Valenzuela distributed by a political organization in Oklahoma touted him as the “conservative” choice and disparaged Gallego’s support of former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.