Political newcomer Jenn Daniels dominated the general election for two open seats on the Gilbert Town Council Tuesday night, but the race for the second spot was too close to call with incumbent Joan Krueger lagging just behind the man she endorsed for the second spot.
Unofficial results with all precincts reporting put Daniels clearly at the front of the pack with 8,139 votes. But her three opponents were in a near-dead heat just behind her, each claiming 23 to 24 percent of the vote to Daniels’ 28 percent.
John Sentz, a member of the town’s Planning Commission, had 6,953 votes. Krueger had 6,782 votes, or 171 fewer than Sentz. Erin Scroggins had 6,675 votes.
Town Clerk Cathy Templeton said Tuesday night she was researching state law regarding automatic recounts, and she was unsure if one would need to take place.
Tuesday’s totals do not include provisional ballots, those cast by those who didn’t have the proper identification at the polls. Also not included are early ballots that were dropped Tuesday. Final totals will be released Friday.
“I hope it was my message, my commitment and my willingness to serve Gilbert,” Daniels said of her victory.
Sentz said he felt it was his “longtime community involvement, military and business leadership” which accounted for his strong showing in the general election.
Krueger pronounced herself “anxious” with just 76 percent of the votes in and the night beginning to look grim. She endorsed Sentz to serve on the council with her.
“I guess something I said had some potency,” she said.
Since the March 19 primary, where none of the seven candidates got enough votes to win a seat outright, the slate tended to break down into a battle between older, more moderate candidates versus young conservatives.
Krueger is a one-term incumbent who came from behind in the 2005 primary to defeat Councilman Dave Petersen, who ran for mayor in this year’s primary election. A business executive who found herself downsized in the current recession, Krueger, 51, based her campaign on economic development and her prior experience on the council.
Sentz, 64, is a consultant and retired Motorola business executive. He ran his campaign on leadership experience in the business world and the military, and recently came out in favor of a public safety sales tax increase currently being considered by the council as a way to close a $12 million budget shortfall.
Krueger has not definitively come out in favor of a tax hike but has indicated in public meetings she is open to the idea.
On the other side of the divide is Daniels, 29, a stay-at-home mom of three young boys with a business background who advocates for limited spending and partnerships with the private sector and schools. She finished second in the primary, behind Krueger and ahead of Sentz.
Scroggins, 36, has been an outspoken critic of any tax increase proposal, town spending and regulations on local businesses. He is a textbook salesman and was a high school teacher. He has five children, and both he and Daniels positioned themselves as representative of the young families prevalent in Gilbert neighborhoods.
Janelle Douglas voted Tuesday at a church on Greenfield Road north of Warner Road while her husband waited in the car with the kids. She said she voted for Krueger “because she’s a friendly face. I liked her the couple of times I met her, and I kind of like her views.”
She said she cast her second council vote for Sentz on the advice of her sister, who is more involved in local politics than she is.
At the Freestone Recreation Center at Guadalupe and Lindsay roads, Julie Humel said Scroggins was her pick for the council after she was impressed by what he had to say at a gathering.
“I thought he would be good for council and the town. He’s for lower taxes and less government,” she said.
Ralph Easy, voting at the Gilbert Historical Museum at Gilbert and Elliot roads, hadn’t had a chance to see any of the candidates in person, so he voted for Daniels because of his general disdain for incumbents.
“You don’t want to make a career out of that, one term is enough. There’s enough of that going on in the big house,” he said.