A ‘dirty’ small-town election campaign shows how partisan politics seeps into Arizona communities

Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio spent $160,000 cash in an effort to take the top spot.

By Sam Kmack | The Arizona Republic

Candidates and local officials said they’ve never seen anything like this year’s “vitriolic” election in Fountain Hills, a small town of 25,000 people in the Phoenix area’s northeast Valley where races are typically low profile and amicable.

The mayor’s seat and three council positions were on the Aug. 2 ballot, with former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio spending massive amounts of cash in an effort to take the top spot from incumbent Mayor Ginny Dickey, and four candidates — three conservatives and one liberal — vying for the council seats. 

It got ugly when some right-wingers sought to establish a conservative majority, painting their left-wing opponents as “communists,” “leftists” or extremists despite the election being for positions that require the winners to mostly oversee non-ideological issues such as zoning and road repair.

The race got so heated that an entire angry audience was removed during a candidate forum earlier this year, when GOP council candidate and former Illinois state Rep. Allen Skillicorn called his opponent, Cindy Couture, a liar before implying that she and other “liberals” were “ignorant.”

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