Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego was not on the ballot for Phoenix’s November 2022 elections, nor on the ballots for the March 2023 run-offs. Yet she managed to perhaps be the biggest winner of those elections. Why is this? While the races for council districts 2 and 4 were uneventful, the races in districts 6 and 8 have completely upended the dynamics of the council.
District 6’s seat had been occupied by Sal DiCiccio, longtime conservative firebrand and frequent thorn in the side of both Mayor Gallego and all of the Democrats on the council. He chose not to run again, leaving the door open for a newcomer. District 8 had been occupied by Carlos Garcia, a diehard progressive far to the left of Democrat Gallego, frequently being an opposing voice against Gallego’s more moderate initiatives.
In the November elections, longtime police officer Kevin Robinson and former DiCiccio Chief of Staff Sam Stone were the top two in an eight-person race in District 6. Garcia placed first in the initial District 8 election, followed very closely by former Assistant Attorney General Kesha Hodge Washington. In the run-offs, Robinson kept his lead to win, while Hodge Washington closed the narrow gap and beat out Garcia.
Mayor Gallego was a strong supporter of both Robinson and Hodge Washington. Both of her candidates won, and just like that, usurpers on both ideological sides of her were replaced with moderate allies, and the council goes from a majority Democrat (yet with widely disparate views) to half of the council being close Gallego allies and her vote being the tie-breaker.
So what is at stake? Plenty. For starters, a beleaguered police force that had been under fire from Garcia now has one of their own in the council and a Mayor that has no interest in defunding them or going soft-on-crime. Her ideas for affordable housing will come to the forefront, which should mean a green light for additional development. A more direct approach to homelessness is likely to occur, thus probably preventing the city from spiraling towards the fates of many western cities beset by inaction. And her fingerprint will be on any sustainability issues to ensure Phoenix’s future.
This is now the Kate Gallego Council. The next two years (if not longer) will be a direct reflection of her initiatives, her views and her power. While Phoenix is technically a “weak mayor” system, that is now a misnomer. There is nothing weak about her position now, and Phoenix will rise or fall on her back.