All politics are local. Therefore, let us talk local politics.
The current City of Phoenix municipal elections cycle is the most expensive such election on record. At this late stage, most of the dust is already settled. Virgel Cain never had a chance against Jim Waring in District 2. Karlene Keogh Parks put up a good fight in District 6 against Tea Party Republican Sal DiCiccio, and while she did not beat him she did force him to burn up his war chest. Down south, District 8 is about to elect its first woman ever.
Then, there's the mess in Midtown.
I wasn't going to comment on this race. I wasn't going to endorse anyone. Early on, the establishment lined up behind David Lujan, and I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Neither could I line up for an Independent - not for City 4. The turf is deeply blue, a moderate was just not necessary for that seat. There were then the two legacy candidates. Children of storied Arizona politicians, I simply did not feel they had earned it. At first, I was certain one of them would not survive the primaries, and that the other would end up facing the establishment candidate, and perhaps once the 6-ring circus of a general was over, we could get a real race for the runoff.
Then the race got underway.
Now, if my time in Arizona politics has taught me anything, it's not to marry a candidate based on early polling, and this bore out in City 4 as we've seen it bear out before. Justin Johnson went from a projected distant last to first, Laura Pastor finished close behind, and David Lujan finished a distant third. I voted for Austin Head. I thought he had worked hard, improved greatly, and was sincere in his desire to help the City of Phoenix. I also knew he wasn't going to win and that I could go into the run-off with no particular dog in the fight, and watch and see what happened.
Let's review what has happened, shall we? For one, David Lujan has endorsed no one. Were I a Lujan voter (and we've established I am not), I would take this as a signal to evaluate the two candidates, the races they've run, the messages they've spun, and make up my own mind. I can't fathom that Lujan would tell anyone to sit home and not vote on a critical issue, and shame on him if he would.
For two, the vitriol in this campaign has been a complete and utter embarrassment. It's a city council seat, people. We do not have a strong council form of government - we have a strong manager, which is an absurd state of affairs unto itself. Be that as it may, there has been much hand-wringing over what this race means hither and yon, about who is whose fifth vote and so forth. I've heard everything imaginable to sway my vote and at various points could've sworn someone had thrown an actual kitchen sink.
It is this vitriol that has finally swung my vote.
Justin Johnson has, like all candidates do, made a lot of noise about how he can't control the IEs. This is true. But he does not need to accept their support. There is no legitimate reason for him to issue statements calling for the electorate to move beyond partisanship while being silent on Putting Phoenix First pot-shotting Pastor for deserving "an 'F' for her Democratic spending priorities". I have not less than 50 pieces of campaign lit sitting on the floor behind me. The IEs running negatives against Johnson are pillorying him with his associations with other organizations, while the ones running against Pastor have dredge up dead issue after dead issue. They talk about her voting for payday loan shops as if she personally legalized them - never mind contravening state statute that makes the issue moot. They accuse her of diverting tax dollars away from the classroom, when she has never been a position to do so, never mind advocating any such thing. They beat the dead horse of the food tax which our current city council under Mayor Greg Stanton's leadership has put to rest through a smart compromise. One problematic endorsement after another has come out for Johnson, from the Conservative Business League to a de facto endorsement from Sal DiCiccio.
This, reader, bears a little extra scrutiny.
One of the advantages of being an activist who is up to his eyeballs in inside baseball is you're the type of person who gets to meet with candidates and electeds. To his credit, Justin Johnson extended such an offer to me, and after putting him off for really longer than was fair, I took it. I have to admit, the guy is smart. I heard a lot of what I wanted to hear. He had numbers at the ready on pension spiking and his plan there made sense. His thoughts on the food tax and on the transaction privilege tax in general are eerily similar to my own. He agreed that iconic properties like the Encanto Golf Course and the Veteran's Coliseum needed to be preserved. We disagreed deeply on privatization, and I respect the fact that he pretty concretely held the line on this portion of the conversation. I also brought up the 800 pound gorilla, his ties to Sal DiCiccio.
He talked about how Sal had changed, how Sal used to not be what he is today, how there was a once upon a time even Fire didn't hate him the way everyone from the center leftward does today. He said he was sure he'd given to DiCiccio but it had to have been long ago, maybe at one of the union fundraisers back in the day.
Likewise, it is not true that there is nothing Johnson can do about the right winged organizations lining up behind him. He does not need to accept the Conservative Business League's endorsement - but he does. He does not need to be silent as Putting Phoenix First launches one false attack after another against Laura Pastor - but he is. Simply put, if you lie down with dogs, you will rise up with fleas.
As such, I have found my way to a vote for Laura Pastor. She's not perfect, but I don't have a perfect candidate to vote for. I can take a chance on her, and hold her accountable down the road, or I can cast no ballot and let abhorrent dirty negative politicking run the table in yet another election cycle. I can try to sift through the noise of this campaign to find the signal, or I can look at the plain facts as they are on the ground in terms of whose allies are whose. Pastor has the backing of our unions, our civil rights organizations, and our Mayor. Johnson has the backing of dark money and right wing attack dogs. I will vote for her flaws before I vote for his fleas.
Do not sit this out in protest. Protest unacceptable electioneering. Vote for Laura Pastor.