RUTH JONES MEDIA

Listening, Caring, and Working For Chandler

A political unknown has pulled paperwork to challenge Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke for the city’s top spot in this year’s election.

Ruth Jones, a relative newcomer to Chandler, filed a statement of interest with the city, one of the first steps to run for public office. She has been walking neighborhoods and meeting with voters and said she was pushed to run to address what she describes as a lack of vision for the city.

The City Council outlined a plan decades back to create a high-tech corridor along Price Road and prioritize attracting high-wage jobs. But in the last 10 to 15 years, there hasn’t been a clear plan for growth citywide, she said.

While Price Corridor is booming, she said other areas of the city have been forgotten.

Jones said her past work in finances and experience with development can help create “a clear vision that will keep moving Chandler forward.”  

Her candidacy could set up a roadblock for Hartke, who ran unopposed in 2018. The city of some 275,000 residents southeast of Phoenix hasn’t seen a competitive mayoral race since 2006 when Boyd Dunn and Phill Westbrooks faced off for the city’s top seat.

Hartke said he’s up for the challenge and is proud of his city and the direction it’s going in. He wished Jones good luck in her effort.

Half of Chandler council seats also on ballot

Half the City Council seats are up for election this year. With two incumbents term-limited, the city is gearing up for a competitive race that will bring at least two new people to public office. Two-term Councilmembers Terry Roe and René Lopez can’t run again.

Nine candidates, so far, have pulled paperwork to run. The deadline to turn in signatures to qualify for the ballot is April 4.

The election is Aug. 2, with a runoff election on Nov. 8, if needed.

Hartke wants to build on city success

Hartke is making a run for a second term as mayor.

The St. Louis native, who has lived in Chandler since 1985 and was the longtime lead pastor at Trinity Christian Fellowship, joined the council in 2008 and served two full terms before being elected mayor in 2018.

Hartke has spent much of his time in office guiding the city through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kevin Hartke

 

He said the council showed strong leadership during the health crisis, balancing concerns for public health with impacts on businesses. Efforts the city made to alleviate business impacts like waiving liquor license renewal fees, allowing businesses to expand patio spaces and providing financial assistance to small businesses have helped the local economy bounce back, he said.

Though dealing with the uncertainty of the pandemic was a challenge, the council rose to the occasion, he said.

“It was a year, year-and-a-half of uncertainty that I think we walked through very well but it was tough,” he said. “There were a lot of hard decisions that were made but we’re coming out on the other side of it.”

Beyond the city’s COVID-19 response, Hartke said companies have continued to relocate and expand in Chandler under his leadership. The city has maintained service costs and tax rates low and passed balanced budgets, he said.

He’s focused on building connections with residents through initiatives like CIVIC, a program that provides residents with a behind-the-scenes look at city services and how departments operate. He hosts roundtable discussions to educate members of homeowners associations on best practices and hear from residents about any challenges they face within their HOA.

Voters in November passed the first bond request in 14 years that will pay for improvements to city infrastructure over the next decade, which he said speaks to the trust residents have placed in elected leaders and the city.

Going forward, Hartke said his priorities lie in continuing to be a jobs attractor and promoting economic development. Residents want to see the city address housing challenges, responsible growth as the city approaches buildout and transportation, he said.

Chandler is one of the safest in the region, but the city needs to continue supporting the Police Department to keep crime at bay, he said.

He also will strengthen relationships with the Chandler Chamber of Commerce and the Chandler Unified School District, two of the city’s top partners, to serve the community.  

Hartke hauled in just under $208,361, more than half of which was transferred from his previous campaign, and he had about $206,483 going into the first-quarter reporting period, according to campaign finance reports filed mid-January.

Jones eyes improvements

Ruth Jones is campaigning for mayor of Chandler.

 

Jones previously lived in the Valley but left for 12 years as she and her family sought care for her son Joshua who died of cancer five years ago at the age of 17. His death pushed her to get involved in local politics.

“When my son passed, I looked at the difference he made in his 17 years and I looked at what I should be doing with my life,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in politics and decided to get more involved.”

Prior to moving to Chandler two years ago, she lived in Clearfield, Utah, north of Salt Lake City, for seven years. She served on the city’s planning commission where she helped craft a plan that promotes development around public transportation corridors and helped write the city’s form-based code that identifies design guidelines to create a cohesive look in areas of the city.

Through that position, she worked collaboratively with city and state officials, business groups and developers, she said.

Jones ran for a seat on the Clearfield City Council in 2019 and came just behind the three incumbents.

She couldn’t keep away from local government when she relocated to Chandler. She started attending Chandler Council meetings and having conversations with residents and was concerned with what she saw, she said.

“As I’ve been speaking to people in the community, there is a great deal of people who are frustrated because they don’t know what’s happening and they feel they don’t have a voice,” she said. “I wanted to change that.”

She considered running for council but felt the race was too crowded and thought she could have a bigger impact as mayor.

One of her top priorities includes addressing police officer shortages and supporting officers, who she described as overworked and tired. The department last year pushed to hire more officers, saying that the number of officers was no higher than it was more than a decade ago despite growth in the city and changes in the type of crimes officers handle.

Jones said another issue she would tackle is homelessness, a topic close to her heart as her sister, who has mental health issues, lived on the street for many years, she said.

From 2019 to 2020, the last available regional point-in-time count that provides a snapshot of people experiencing homelessness, the number of people experiencing homelessness in Chandler grew at a faster rate when compared to the region, she said.

The city should look to programs that don’t just offer one-time assistance, but help people become self-sufficient through workforce development, mental health assistance and substance abuse counseling and help navigating the system, she said. 

She would prioritize adopting a non-discrimination ordinance that shows Chandler’s diverse residents that the city is inclusive and values people of different backgrounds. Many Phoenix-area cities have adopted ordinances to extend protections to the LGBTQ community, but the Chandler City Council last year pumped the brakes on passing an ordinance. The council opted to study the issue further despite support from business groups and residents.

Jones brought in about $457 in the last few weeks of 2021, including $200 she contributed to her campaign, and had $142 available.

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A lot of interest in council seats

The August election would be the most competitive election in more than a decade if all nine people gathering signatures qualify for the ballot.

A tenth council hopeful, Indira Jeffrey, ended her campaign in December citing personal reasons.

The nine hopefuls are:

Alex Chuang, who pulled paperwork in 2018 to run in this year’s election but it doesn’t appear he has been actively campaigning. He reported bringing in $3,545 early in the campaign but didn’t pull in any contributions last year and had $66 going into the first-quarter reporting period.

Joseph Curbelo, a real estate broker, who had campaigned for a council seat in 2020 before ending his run to dedicate more time to work and family in the pandemic, has again filed a statement of interest. He did not report raising any money last year.

Angel Encinas is a second-generation Chandler resident who was raised downtown where he still lives. He is a small business owner who manages an immigration consulting firm and real estate business.

His priorities are creating affordable housing, supporting small businesses through policies that eliminate burdensome regulations and quality of life issues. He wants to grow partnerships with the private sector to support local schools and workforce development and is a proponent of passing a nondiscrimination ordinance.

Encinas has brought in about $11,260 since launching his campaign and had $4,420 after expenses.

Darla Gonzales is the grassroots director for the Arizona Free Enterprise Club. She supports crafting a fiscally conservative budget that maintains taxes and wants to foster a business-friendly environment. She wants to increase support for law enforcement and improve resources for residents struggling with mental health issues.

Gonzales reported raising $3,075, including $2,000 she contributed to the campaign, and she had $3,034 on hand.

Craig Mears pulled paperwork to run but has not filed a campaign finance report.

Cody Newcomb is a disability rights advocate and student at the University of Arizona, where he attends online. He is a Democratic precinct committeeperson in Legislative District 17, but this is his first time running for local office.

Newcomb, who has a neuromuscular disease, said he wants to use his experience as someone who uses a wheelchair to raise awareness of the disability community’s needs, give underrepresented communities a voice on the council and create a more inclusive city. His campaign brought in $4,050, though it appears to be mostly self-funded, and he had just under $155 going into the next reporting period.

Incumbent Matt Orlando was elected to a fifth term on the City Council in 2018 after previously serving from 1990 to 1998 and from 2004 to 2013. A Chandler resident since 1983, he retired from Honeywell in 2016 and is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force.

During his time on the council, he has championed improving and preserving neighborhoods through enhancement programs like neighborhood cleanups and the creation of a historic preservation ordinance. His priorities include supporting public safety, economic development and jobs growth and balanced development.

Orlando reported bringing in $23,178, including $12,077 he transferred from his previous campaign, and had $23,062 available.

Jane Poston is a longtime Chandler resident and small business owner who runs J2Media with her husband. She is a former city employee and is involved in city committees and community groups.

She wants to help grow small businesses, address public safety and officer shortages, tackle responsible growth and find ways to keep attracting top employers. She brought in $4,920, including $3,000 she loaned her campaign, and had just under $4,825.

Farhana Shifa, chair of the Arizona Republican Party’s Asian American Coalition, is a small business owner who operates an art academy. Her priorities include encouraging economic development among small businesses and large employers and supporting public safety, and she describes herself as a fiscal watchdog.

She’s raised $12,665 to date and had $11,856 available.

How to get on the ballot

Mayor and City Councilmembers are elected at-large, meaning they represent the entire city rather than a district. Elected leaders can serve up to two consecutive four-year terms.

The mayor’s current annual salary is $56,758 and councilmembers earn about $33,237.

People must be 18 or older, a qualified and registered voter of Chandler and must have lived in the city for at least two years to run.

Council hopefuls must collect at least 1,000 signatures from registered Chandler voters to qualify for the ballot.

Hopefuls can file nomination packets with the city clerk as early as March 7 and no later than 5 p.m. on April 4 to qualify for the August primary ballot.

Voters can sign one nomination petition for mayor and up to three candidate petitions. Petitions can be signed in person or online on the Arizona Secretary of State’s E-QUAL Portal, which allows candidates to collect signatures electronically. To sign a petition online, votes need their driver’s license or voter ID to validate the signature.

For more information on running for office or for questions about the election, contact the Chandler Clerk’s Office at 480-782-2182, email Clerk Dana DeLong at dana.delong@chandleraz.gov or visit the city’s election website at chandleraz.gov/government/elections-and-voting.

Reach reporter Paulina Pineda at paulina.pineda@azcentral.com or 480-389-9637. Follow her on Twitter @paulinapineda22.

https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/chandler/2022/02/07/chandler-voters-could-see-competitive-mayoral-council-election/6609807001/

Ruth Jones

To bring Chandler into the future with a clear plan that will provide for all citizens.