Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego speaking with attendees at an event titled “Elevate: Conservation and Water Management” at The Yard at Farmer Arts District in Tempe, Arizona.|| Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego’s attempt to remake the city council in her own centrist image ended in victory last night, when one of her endorsed candidates ousted an incumbent and another defeated an incumbent’s hand-picked successor.
In District 6, covering the Arcadia, Ahwatukee, and north-central Phoenix neighborhoods, the Gallego-endorsed former cop Kevin Robinson easily won his runoff race over Sam Stone, a longtime conservative operative who worked for and was endorsed by outgoing city council member Sal Diciccio.
In a major coup for Gallego, Robinson’s landslide victory swaps the council’s most conservative voice with a loyal ally.
As a bonus, the District 6 race was yet another blow to Kari Lake, who had employed Stone in her failed gubernatorial campaign and adopted him as her proxy for the city council. Unlike his former boss, Stone was quick to concede defeat last night.
Meanwhile in District 8, which covers south Phoenix and parts of downtown, the Gallego-backed Kesha Hodge Washington easily dispatched Carlos Garcia, the council’s most progressive member, by a 12-percentage-point margin. Gallego had slammed Garcia as an obstructionist who had little interest in governing and backed Hodge Washington, an attorney who presented herself as a practical public servant.
While her support for literally anyone over Stone was a political no-brainer, Gallego ran a significant risk in backing a challenger to Garcia. Had she failed to defeat him, it would have certainly burned what little working relationship the two had.
The gamble ultimately paid off, and Team Gallego painted last night’s victory as a referendum on the mayor’s leadership. But even in victory, she lost a lot of goodwill from progressives.
Now, Gallego has a centrist governing majority as she continues to build her political profile for a seemingly inevitable eventual run for higher office. But the council faces big challenges, including housing affordability and homelessness, dwindling water resources and rapid growth amid a shaky economy, crime and the U.S. Department of Justice investigation into its police force, to name a few.
This is Gallego’s council, and whether it rises or fails to meet those challenges will reflect directly on her.
And it’s worth noting that Garcia’s departure increases the chances that other progressives on the council decide to call it quits. Two of them, Yassamin Ansari and Laura Pastor, were already considering a run for U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego’s seat in Congress as he attempts to run for the U.S. Senate. Without Garcia’s vote on the city council, the remaining progressives are in the minority without a viable path to forming a governing coalition.