Seven Republican state lawmakers have turned their backs on Republicans on the Mesa City Council who are seeking re-election in the spring.
In a faxed letter to the Tribune, the lawmakers endorsed Republican challengers Charlie Powell, Bob Hisserich and Tom Rawles.
Rawles, whose name will appear alone on the ballot for Mesa’s Council District 3, is a former Maricopa County supervisor. Powell and Hisserich have no political experience.
Hisserich is challenging incumbent Republican Mike Whalen in District 2. Powell is challenging incumbent Republican Claudia Walters in District 1.
The letter also did not endorse a candidate for mayor — a major snub to incumbent Republican Keno Hawker. The omission is striking because Hawker is being challenged by Teresa Brice-Heames, an independent with no political experience who is perceived by the Republican leadership to be pushing a liberal agenda.
"Sadly, we have seen in recent years an erosion of the commitment of some City Council members to serious issues such as private property rights," the letter states. "Some council members have advocated raising taxes or fees on the people of this fine city."
Signing the letter were state Sens. Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert, and Marilyn Jarrett, R-Mesa; and state Reps. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert; House Majority Leader Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert; Chuck Gray, R-Mesa; Karen Johnson, R-Mesa; and Russell Pearce, R-Mesa.
Monday, Johnson confirmed she signed the letter. The other lawmakers could not be reached for comment.
The city’s March 9 primary is nonpartisan, meaning candidates are listed without party designations and voters do not have to align themselves with a political party.
Whalen on Monday called it "unusual" for party leadership to back one Republican over another in a city race. Whalen pointed out that he is a Republican who has worked hard for Mesa in the past four years.
"It appears this group wants someone they can control in office," Whalen said.
Hawker said the lawmakers are seeking coverage for their candidates. The mayor said he has not sought the endorsement of Republican legislators because the city’s race is nonpartisan and he wants to keep it that way.
"I’d like to talk about the issues and the difference between candidates rather than adopt some state or national Republican platform," Hawker said. Hawker is backing Whalen and Walters.
Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce is endorsing Hawker, Walters and Whalen. The Chamber also is endorsing write-in candidate Frank Mizner — a Democrat and the city’s former planning director — over Rawles in District 3.