Verl Farnsworth, John Giles, Jeremy Whitaker

Election 2020 is getting into high gear in Mesa.

Although Democrats already are casting early ballots for the March 17 Presidential Preference Primary, the battles for legislative, county and city positions will begin shaping up now.

Whether you are looking forward to it – or dreading it – the 2020 campaign season for county and state offices officially began yesterday, March 7, while the races for Mesa mayor and two other City Council seats begin Monday.

Those are the dates when candidates can start filing their petitions for a spot on the Aug. 4 Primary Election ballot.

Although candidates have until April 6 to file, Republican and Democratic party faithful and political junkies can get some idea of what awaits this summer from statements of interest that candidates are now required by law to file before they can get a single petition signature.

Those statements of interest are filed with the Maricopa County Recorder for local races and with the Arizona Secretary of State for legislative and statewide contests.

At the county level, Mesa voters in both parties may have some primary election decisions to make, at least according to statements of interest that have been filed so far.

Six Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination for county assessor. Five Democrats have filed statements of interest in the County Attorney primary. 

Two from each party have filed statements for county school superintendent while two Republicans threaten to duke it out for the County Recorder nomination. 

As many as five Republicans could be vying for the Republican nomination for sheriff.

In Mesa, statements of interest indicate that voters in the nonpartisan primary will have some choices.

Citywide, everyone gets to vote in the mayor’s race, where incumbent John Giles faces potential challenges from Councilman Jeremy Whitaker, 2014 mayoral candidate Clifford “Danny” Ray and north Mesa resident Verl Farnsworth.

Both Whitaker and Ray also have filed statements for the council races in Districts 2 and 1, respectively – though City Clerk DeeAnn Mickelson said they will have to make up their mind what office they want to run for when they submit their petitions.

If Whitaker decides to just seek a second term in Council, he could be challenged by Mesa mom and longtime school district volunteer Julie Spillsbury.

If Ray opts for Council, statements of interest filed thus far indicate incumbent Mark Freeman would be facing a challenge in his bid for a second term.

District 3 incumbent Francisco Heredia could face challenges from Jacob Martinez and Christopher Bown. Bown narrowly lost in 2018 to Heredia and Mary Yarbrough to fill the remaining term of ousted Ryan Winkle. 

In the race for Legislature, all four districts covering pieces of Mesa could produce some primary races for either Republicans or Democrats, depending where they live.

In the Senate races, District 16 shows three Republicans – including Rep. Kelly Townsend – may be gearing up for a fight to succeed retiring Sen. David Farnsworth. Besides Townsend, Benjamin Charmichael and Jason Riggs have filed statements of interest while only one Democrat, Michael Bishop, has filed one.

Although the Maricopa County Democratic Committee several weeks ago promised a fight to take LD16, only one Democrat, Helen Hunter,  has filed a statement of interest in seeking one of its two House seats.

Incumbent John Fillmore and six other Republicans have filed – including Paul D’Agostino, Lisa Gozich, Robert “Bob” Gomez, Jason Graff Forest Moriarty and Jacqueline Parker.

In LD25, certificates of interest have been filed by two Democrats and two Republicans for the Senate seat. Republicans who have filed include incumbent Sen. Tyler Pace.

Pace could be challenged by Daniel Pero Sr. while Democrats Robert McDonald Jr. and Paul Weigel have indicated an interest in running.

In the LD25 House race, no Democrats have filed and only Libertarian Jared Arthur has indicated he might want to challenge the two Republican incumbents, House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Rep. Michelle Udall.

The LD26 Senate race also could produce some primary fireworks for both parties. Incumbent Democrat Sen. Juan Mendez is potentially facing a challenge from incumbent Rep. Isela Blanc as well as Gamer “Bruh” Gate IV and Jana Lyon Granillo.

On the GOP side, Jae Chin and Patrick Tucker could be vying for their party’s nomination.

For the two LD 26 House seats, only Republicans Bill Loughrige and Seth “Marcus” Sifuentes have filed statements of interest while those forms have been filed by three Democrats, including incumbent Athena Salman and Patrick Morales and Debbie Nez-Manuel.

In LD18, which covers a sliver of Mesa, incumbent Democratic Sen. Sean Bowie of Ahwatukee could face a challenge from Michael Bishop, who filed a statement of interest. House Democratic, Reps. Mitzi Epstein and Jennifer Jermaine appear likely to have no challengers within their party.

If Bowie prevails in the primary – if he even has an opponent then – he will face Realtor Suzanne Sharer of Ahwatukee , the lone Republican to file a statement of interest.

The Republican primary for the House races in LD 18includes an attempted return to the Legislature by Bob Robson, a former Chandler resident who moved to Ahwatukee after he lost a bid for his seventh term in the House.

Besides Robson, other Republicans who have filed statements of interest in the LD18 primary are Tracy DuCharme, Mark Kleppin, Alyssa Sheahan and Tim Taylor.

In another local race of interest to north Mesa residents, Republican incumbent Justice of the Peace and former Mesa Councilman Kyle Jones could face a primary challenge from Ed Malles.

School board candidates don’t have a primary and can’t file petitions for the Nov. 3 General Election until June 6. Those candidates have until July 6 to qualify for the ballot.

But so far, nine people have filed statements of interest in the three seats that will be open on the Mesa Public Schools Governing Board.

So far, only incumbent Kiana Sears has filed a statement of interest. Neither board President Elaine Miner nor member Stephen Peterson have filed, but they still have plenty of time.

Those who have filed statements include George Couch, Richard Crandall, Lara Salmon Ellingston, Cecilia Johnson, Vikki Johnson, Nicholas McClain Cara Lee Schnepf Steiner and Joseph O’Reilly.

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