Handshakes carry Higgins to Mesa council spot - East Valley Tribune: News

Handshakes carry Higgins to Mesa council spot

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Posted: Tuesday, May 20, 2008 10:03 pm | Updated: 12:06 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Dina Higgins, who ran a grassroots campaign for Mesa City Council, outdistanced opponent Phil Austin by a wide margin Tuesday night to win the District 5 council race. Higgins, an engineer and past chair of the city’s Board of Adjustment, prevailed with 58 percent of the vote, according to unofficial election results.

GRAPHIC: See a map of Mesa's District 5

Dina Higgins, who ran a grassroots campaign for Mesa City Council, outdistanced opponent Phil Austin by a wide margin Tuesday night to win the District 5 council race. Higgins, an engineer and past chair of the city’s Board of Adjustment, prevailed with 58 percent of the vote, according to unofficial election results.

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“I think it’s the door-to-door campaign, asking friends to talk to their friends — all that really helped,” Higgins said.

Click to view a map of Mesa's District 5

Her campaign manager, John Perkinson, also a key member of mayor-elect Scott Smith’s campaign, said Higgins would be a great addition to the council.

“She’s got the passion to make Mesa better,” Perkinson said.

Austin’s response to the election returns: clear disappointment.

“People prefer to think she’s better for Mesa,” he said. “We’ll have to live with it.”

Higgins said getting to know her fellow council members would be a priority in the near future.

First up for her prior to the new council’s first meeting on June 2?

“We’ll be cramming on budget stuff,” Higgins said. “That’s all I’ll be doing.”

Austin, a former state prosecutor and civil rights lawyer, had a long list of endorsements and nearly 10 times the money Higgins raised through the course of the campaign.

Higgins had been the top vote getter in the March primary. She has said being able to meet thousands of people personally helped her beat an opponent with more money and political support.

Austin’s endorsements came from the Mesa Police Association, former Mesa Mayor Don Strauch, outgoing Mesa Councilman Mike Whalen and Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley, among others.

Austin had campaigned on prioritizing public safety, his past experience in balancing the budget as a government administrator and his public outreach approach. Austin had plans to hold regular meetings with District 5 residents by bringing city hall officials closer to them.

Higgins has said she will focus on economic development to attract high-paying jobs to Mesa.

She will replace Darrell Truitt, who was appointed to the District 5 position after mayoral candidate Rex Griswold vacated the seat to run for mayor. The term lasts until January 2011.

Higgins joins councilmen-elect Alex Finter, Dennis Kavanaugh and Dave Richins — all of whom won in the March election. Current District 6 Councilman Scott Somers and District 4 Councilman Kyle Jones round out the six council members. Scott Smith will take over as mayor after he beat Griswold in Tuesday’s runoff.

Higgins is the only female face on the council.

Higgins said being a woman did not stand out in her mind throughout her campaign.

“It’s never been on my platform throughout my campaign, but I’d still be honored and proud to represent 50 percent of my constituents on this council,” Higgins said.

Tribune writer Mark Flatten contributed to this report.

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