Mesa Vice Mayor Claudia Walters endorsed former opponent Scott Smith in the race for the mayor's seat on Tuesday, touting his assertive style and understanding of East Valley issues.
The announcement has been coming since Walters was edged out of the March 11 primary, and Smith and former Councilman Rex Griswold were sent to a general election runoff May 20.
Although Walters came in third, more than 12,000 people voted for her. She said she owed it to the people who voted for her to state her choice for mayor.
"It probably would have been easier to stay out of it," Walters said. "But it's not fair to the people who supported me."
Smith said he looks forward to having Walters' involvement for a long time.
"To me, it's a good confirmation that she believes I can provide the leadership to go forward," he said.
In most elections, endorsements usually mean more to the politicians than the voters, but in Mesa it could be different, said Stan Barnes, a Mesa resident and lobbyist with Copper State Consulting Group.
"Mesa is still yet a small town when it comes to voting for mayor," Barnes said. "There will be some impact positively for Scott Smith as a result of this endorsement."
The endorsement wasn't a slam-dunk, Walters said.
At first, she wasn't sure she wanted to endorse anyone.
"I had to get past my own sense of feeling like it wasn't the way I had planned it," she said. "I needed to get past that."
Walters then sat down with Smith and asked him for a plan, which he provided.
And she was looking for someone who knew how to play with others in the region, which Smith has done by serving on the Superstition Vistas Steering Committee, which is focused on developing the far East Valley.
"It was his concern about regionalism, and that was an area Rex didn't get involved in when he was at the council," Walters said.
Griswold, who served for five years representing District 5, said his campaign will not change, but continue to be committed to reforming city government.
"I am not endorsed by the current administration or the old boy network," he said. "I want to reform and change the status quo by making Mesa better."
Griswold also said he would be ready to step into the job on day one.
"I don't know if we have a six-month learning curve for someone to step in and learn," he said.
Walters said anyone stepping into the mayor's office will have a learning curve, but will be bolstered by the return of former Vice Mayor Dennis Kavanaugh and the presence of current council members Kyle Jones and Scott Somers.
Smith and Griswold will be fighting hard for Walters' voters, especially since Walters said she would not be out campaigning for Smith.
According to election results, Walters won in District 3, followed closely by Smith.
Walters also came out ahead of Griswold in districts 1 and 4.
Smith won in districts 1, 2, 4 and 6, while Griswold won nearly half the vote in his District 5.
That likely will bode well for Griswold, as voters in District 5 will also be choosing a new council member. Dina Higgins and Phil Austin will face off for District 5.
Early voting for the May 20 election begins April 17, giving the candidates less than a month to sway the voters.
In the meantime, both mayoral candidates have promised to present detailed plans for the city.