Two conservative, white City Council candidates received an overwhelming majority of votes in a Mesa council district election that was targeted by Hispanic activists as a golden opportunity to finally elect one of their own.
Councilman Kyle Jones, a member of a longtime Mesa Mormon family and the pick of the city’s political establishment, received a majority of votes last week in three of four precincts to win re-election, according to a breakdown of each district precinct. JT Ready, who tried to rally the anti-tax and anti-illegal immigration vote, came in second overall and in three of the four voting precincts.
Pat Esparza, a member of the Mesa Association of Hispanic Citizens with ties to the city’s established political structure but none of its backing, took second place in the precinct that included the historic downtown district — where she lives — and predominantly-Hispanic Escobedo neighborhood, but a distant third in the others.
Jones and Ready combined to earn 1,928 votes. Esparza had 497.
The results show that even in a council district that in 2000 had more Hispanics than whites, candidates backed by the Hispanic group continue to come up short. Esparza’s loss follows two other setbacks in 2004 — Teresa Brice-Heames earning only 36 percent of the vote in the mayor’s race against incumbent Keno Hawker and Carmen Guerrero finishing fourth in the race for three Mesa Unified School District seats.
It raises questions about Hispanic voter turnout, whether Hispanics are more inclined to support another Hispanic, and whether the association’s political philosophy is out of touch with Mesa voters.
“I haven’t thought about that, but if we are maybe we’re ahead of our time,” association president Phil Austin said.
David Molina, president of Valley Business Owners (And Concerned Citizens) and a former association member and two-time council candidate, said he parted ways with the group because he was too conservative. Since then, Molina’s group has successfully won at the ballot box touting conservative, anti-tax issues such as eliminating the sales tax on food.
“There is a perception from the average voter that (a Hispanic candidate) is more concerned with Hispanic issues, and not more concerned with ‘my pocketbook,’ ” Molina said.
In other election results, Scott Somers defeated Councilwoman Janie Thom in all nine precincts, earning 57 percent of the vote in southeast Mesa’s District 6. His widest margin in any precinct was 64 percent to 35 percent; his narrowest 54 to 45. In northeast Mesa’s District 5, Councilman Rex Griswold ran unopposed.
MESA DISTRICT 4
CANDIDATE VOTES PERCENTAGE
Kyle Jones 1,312 51 JT Ready 616 24 Pat Esparza 497 20 I. Kostopoulos 125 5