It’s safe to say Tempe restaurateur Michael Monti knows what it’s like when the kitchen gets hot.
Well, the kitchen – in this case, the race for Tempe’s mayoral seat against longtime councilman Mark Mitchell – is officially hot.
With all precincts reporting and more than 18,000 ballots counted, Monti collected 8,112 votes compared to 8,109 for Mitchell in Tuesday’s primary election. That's difference of just three votes put the candidates in a virtual deadlock with 43.9 percent a piece.
The results will not be official until Friday afternoon, but its certain that Monti, a political newcomer, and Mitchell, a councilman since 2000, will advance to face each other in a two-person runoff during the May 15 general election.
Neither was able to secure the greater than 50 percent needed during the primary to win the seat outright and avoid the general election.
Linda Spears, who served on the Tempe council from 1994 to 1998, received 2,090 votes.
The city council race was nearly as tight, with two of the three open seats apparently filled Tuesday night.
As the top two vote-getters, the two incumbents – Corey Woods and Joel Navarro – appeared to both win reelection. Woods led all candidates with 11,786 votes, good for 63.8 percent, while Navarro appeared to top the necessary 50 percent threshold with 9,560 votes, good for 51.8 percent. The same rules apply to the council race: any candidate with greater than 50 percent of the vote earns a seat and is exempt from the general.
For the third seat, the battle between Southwest Gas executive Dick Foreman, attorney Kolby Granville and retired business owner Angie Taylor Thornton mimicked that of the mayoral bid. The candidates nearly finished within a percentage point of each other. Granville and foreman each topped 8,000 votes, with Foreman leading by just 42 votes, and Thornton came in fewer than 200 behind that. Foreman and Granville will advance to general election, with presumably just the lone one seat available.
More than 86,000 voters were eligible to cast ballots during Tuesday’s primary, signaling a voter turnout above 20 percent for the mayoral race.