Mesa voters will get an opportunity to select two new City Council members in the Nov. 6 general election, after a large field of candidates contributed to splintered voting that gave no one a majority in the central and west districts.
Council member Dave Luna was the only incumbent facing an opponent to gain a plurality, or more than 50 percent of the vote, when he defeated challenger Verl Farnsworth in northeast Mesa’s District 5. Kevin Thompson, who was unopposed, and won re-election in District 6.
The two other contested elections in west Mesa’s district 3 and central Mesa’s district 4 were nail-biters, where no candidate gained 50 percent, requiring that voters pick a winner in runoff elections on Nov. 6.
Jake Brown and Jen Duff qualified for the runoff in District 4, after Brown beat Duff by only 46 votes. Brown garnered 2,206 votes (38 percent) and Duff 2,106 (37 percent) in the district with the lowest number of votes cast, 6,178.
In District 3, Francisco Heredia, who was appointed last year to fill out the term of Ryan Winkle, rolled to a comfortable lead over four challengers. Heredia captured 3,467 votes (39 percent). The real contest, however, was who would face Heredia in the general election.
Mark Yarbrough, who ran unsuccessfully in the past, scored a narrow victory over Christopher Bown by only 136 votes. Yarbrough captured 1,766 (20 percent), while Bown attracted 1,660 votes (19 percent).
Meanwhile, the only other East Valley municipal council race that remained unresolved into last week has been settled.
Matt Orlando won his third return to Chandler City Council by edging out Matt Eberle by fewer than 500 votes, 18 percent to 17 percent. Orlando has served two eight-year terms in the past.
Mesa City Clerk DeeAnn Mickelsen said turnout was light in the primary – which, she said, was not unusual. In all, 51,203 votes were cast in Mesa Council elections, according to the Maricopa County Recorder’s website.
Luna beat Farnsworth, 58 percent to 42 percent, with Luna capturing 9,845 votes and Farnsworth attracting 7,102.
That means the general election will pit Heredia against Yarbrough and Brown against Duff. A third challenger in District 4, retired Mesa police officer Rob Scantlebury, was eliminated after attracting 1,428 votes (25 percent).
The council’s controversial decision to approve a subsidized Arizona State University campus downtown loomed over the election.
Council member Jeremy Whittaker targeted Luna and Heredia for defeat after they sided with Mayor John Giles and outgoing council member Christopher Glover in approving the proposal.
Whittaker accused Luna and Heredia of being beholden to developers who contributed to their campaigns, even though many of the same developers contributed to Whittaker’s own campaign in 2016.
Luna and Heredia both said they were offended by Whittaker’s allegations that they were unethical, while Whittaker said his fellow council members were symbols of a broken system corrupted by pay-to-play politics.
But Luna said he believes the ASU vote had a limited impact on his re-election campaign.
“The ASU vote didn’t resonate in District 5. It’s like its own community,’’ Luna said, adding that only one person mentioned the ASU agreement. “There is a disconnect between this district and downtown.’’
Luna said residents of his district would love to see downtown reinvigorated, but they appear most interested in having more restaurants and nightlife, such as in downtown Gilbert. He is hoping that more such attractions will be a byproduct of the ASU campus.
“People are more or less happy with the quality of life in this area,’’ Luna said.
Yarbrough and Bown both spoke out against the ASU campus during a series of council meetings.
The general election ballot also will feature several important local questions for Mesa residents – five in all. Among the most pressing is a small sales increase to fund public safety pay increases, and whether voters will approve the Mesa Plays soccer complex near Red Mountain Park in northeast Mesa.
Meanwhile, with East Valley legislative races set for the fall campaign, the Clean Elections Commission has issued its schedule of debates.
A commission spokeswoman said it is unclear if all legislative candidates will be attending the debates. In LD 18, which covers parts of Mesa, Tempe and Chandler, incumbent Republican Rep. Jill Norgaard declined to attend and the other two Republicans, House hopeful Greg Patterson and Senate candidate Frank Schmuck, did not indicate at press time whether they would be at the debate, which was to be held last Friday.
Other East Valley legislative debates and their locations include:
• LD 12, 6 p.m. Sept. 18,
Hyatt Place, 3275 S. Market St.,
• LD 16, 6 p.m. Oct. 12,
6850 Williams Field Road, Mesa;
• LD 17, 6 p.m. Oct. 9,
Chandler Downtown Library,
22. S. Delaware St.
• LD 25, 6 p.m. Oct. 3,
Mesa Country Club,
660 W. Fairway Drive, Mesa;
• LD 26, 6 p.m. Sept. 14,
Embassy Suites by Hilton Phoenix
Tempe, 4400 S. Rural Road, Tempe.