Mayoral Candidates Hitting Reset Button For November Election

The mystery has been solved about which candidate will face Greg Stanton in the run-off election for Phoenix mayor.  There are, however, several unsolved mysteries that linger after August 30th.

How was the Chamber of Commerce allowed to stage a debate with only four of the six qualified candidates without a wave of outrage from the news media?  Channel 5 went ahead and broadcast the 60-minute debate that excluded Anna Brennan and Jennifer Wright after the Chamber cooked up arbitrary criteria for which candidates could participate - even though Brennan and Wright's names both appeared on the ballot.  

Why did Councilman Claude Mattox finish in fourth place only a couple hundred votes ahead of Tea Party candidate Wright? Mattox hired Reister, the full-time ad agency and part-time political consultants, to help steer his campaign.  Tom Milton, formerly affiliated with Reister, served as the campaign manager.  Campaign finance reports will show that Mattox spent far more than half-a-million dollars.  But people are puzzled about where the money went - beyond pricey consulting and management fees.

And what moved enough of the electorate to vote for "political insider and uber-lobbyist" Wes Gullett, who finished second behind Stanton?  

All of this will soon be forgotten. But if voters are willing to vote for a campaign consultant/legislative lobbyist/political operative like Wes Gullett, that may open up unforeseen opportunities for others in the political consulting trade.

For instance ... Chuck Coughlin.

Settling The Score

Chuck Coughlin may be the most motivated of the consultants and lobbyists on Roosevelt Row to enter the mayors' race.  It was Coughlin's consulting outfit who wrote, directed and produced Peggy Neely's third place finish August 30th.  She finished behind Wes Gullett by more than 10,000 votes (8 percentage points).

Being beaten by the Gullet strategic team has to have been humiliating for Coughlin.  And if there's one thing that Chuck Coughlin doesn't digest well, it's humility.

Wes and Chuck broke into the political game at the same time and the same way.  Both worked for John McCain and went on to play roles in Fife Symington's storied political career.  Shortly after that the two Republicans started their respective consulting businesses.  Gullett and Coughlin became rivals competing for the same clients.  Wes was the calm policy wonk and Chuck was the combative political strategist.

Now Wes Gullett has beat Chuck Coughlin at his own game.

Coughlin and Company seriously under estimated Gullett -- especially his campaign's ability to raise money.  The business community rallied around him like nobody's business.  Not to mention the money poured into the race by two independent expenditure committees on Gullett's behalf.

The New Times calls Coughlin "The Dark Knight" because of what they say are his shady and strong-armed tactics.  The newspaper isn't alone.  Many people believe he plays politics below the belt.  Coughlin certainly plays for keeps, and, as a result, has trouble keeping his name out the news.  Frequently, the campaigns he works on end up becoming about him.  So why not get it over with? Make it official.

There's no better way for Chuck Coughlin to settle the score with Wes Gullett than to be a write-in candidate.

Do The Math

Meanwhile, over at the Greg Stanton campaign the candidate is probably feeling pretty good about his chances of becoming the next mayor.  But if the voting percentages from the August 30th election translate into how the November 8th election could turn out, Stanton's chances are slimmer than he would like.

While that's a big "if," still ...
do the math.

Stanton snared 37% of the vote a week ago.  For the most part, those voters were Democrats, some liberal-leaning Independents and a few moderate Republicans from his former City Council district (Ahwatukee and the Biltmore area).  The remainder of the vote (63%) was divided between the five other candidates.  All of them Republicans - including Wes Gullet, who garnered 20%.  

Surprisingly, the Arizona Republic's Bob Robb postulates that Gullet will struggle against Stanton - because Gullet won't automatically pick up the votes of all those who voted for losers Peggy Neely, Claude Mattox and Jennifer Wright. True, not "all" of the votes -  but "most" of them. Robb also hypothesizes that a big block of Wright's Tea Party voters (12% of total voters) may sit out the November 8th election because they refuse to support either Gullett or Stanton.  Don't count on it.  The city's mail-in-ballot process makes it easier for more people to vote, notwithstanding their political ideology or personal bullheadedness.

Greg Stanton and West Gullett both hit the ground running the day after the election last week.  But it's never too late for a write-in candidate to throw their hat in the ring.

Particularly someone who wants to change hats.