Democrat Greg Stanton was voted mayor of Phoenix yesterday, becoming the only new mayor of a large city after yesterday's elections.
Incumbents in Baltimore, Charlotte, Columbus, Houston, Indianapolis and Philadelphia, all won re-election yesterday. In San Francisco, officials are still calculating the vote totals, but it appears that incumbent Mayor Ed Lee will win, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. (Results take longer to tabulate there, since the city uses ranked-choice voting system, in which voters rank their top three candidates.)
Stanton, a former Phoenix city councilman and deputy attorney general, defeated Republican Wes Gullett, a political consultant who has served on the city's planning and zoning commission and was a longtime aid to Sen. John McCain.
Current mayor Phil Gordon was term-limited after serving eight years in office, prompting what The Arizona Republic called "the most contentious mayoral election Phoenix has seen in nearly 30 years."
Unofficial results indicate Stanton beat Gullett 56.1 percent to 43.9 percent. The Arizona Republic reports the race drew record turnout.
Stanton's election comes at an interesting time for Phoenix, which was hit particularly hard by the foreclosure crisis and is looking for someone to help bring economic prosperity.
Stanton will make economic development a priority -- like most mayors these days -- and has said he's particularly interested in trying to recruit high-tech businesses to the area so that Phoenix residents will have access to higher-paying jobs.
More interestingly, Stanton has also said he'll make education a priority, despite the fact that elected city officials play little role in shaping education policy in Phoenix. That's typically the realm of the state governments and school district.
But Stanton tells Governing he realized the city needed to address education when former Intel CEO Craig Barrett said earlier this year that the state's education system is likely slowing down economic development, and if he could do it over again, Arizona likely wouldn't be considered for a spot as one of the company's major production centers.
Even though the city has little direct control over the school system, Stanton says there are areas where he'll seek to flex his muscle to improve educate opportunities in the city. For starters, he's pledging to push Washington to give Phoenix a larger share of money for programs like Head Start, since federal formulas were developed before the city's population boom. He believes Phoenix hasn't been getting its fare share of federal dollars for those efforts.
Stanton also says that he'll work to include a larger academic component in city-run afterschool programs, which currently are more focused on simply providing a safe environment for after school activities.
Most significantly, he’s even pitched the idea of issuing city bonds to pay for public school facilities, arguing that an educated workforce is in the city's own economic interests.
"The reality is this: The city of Phoenix is not as well-positioned as it should be to compete in the national economy,” Stanton says. “We need more of our kids graduating high school and studying in areas that will create the jobs of the future.”
He’s also says he will work to reform the public pension system, but he has pledged to so in partnership with city employees. “I don’t view them as adversaries,” Stanton says. “I view them as partners.” He added that he won’t be pursuing reform in the “Wisconsin style,” but local press has said his plans still seems vague.
Other initiatives getting attention include promises of strengthening the city's' ethics rules, transparency efforts and protections for whistle-blowers.
Stanton added that he'll try to serve as something of a
Stanton added that he'll try to serve as something of agoodwill ambassador on behalf of Phoenix and Arizona to try to change negative perceptions many around the country formed after the state created controversial laws targeting undocumented workers.
“We’re about to be a majority Latino city,” Stanton says. “We need to embrace that.”