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Candidates for Phoenix mayor discuss why they are best for job

PHOENIX — The runoff election for Phoenix mayor is fast approaching, and many residents may be still wondering who to vote for.

Democrats Daniel Valenzuela and Kate Gallego are on the ballot for the March 12 election in a bid to lead the biggest city in Arizona.

But if you are thinking to yourself, “Hey, didn’t I already vote for this last November?” you are correct.

The November special election was called because Greg Stanton resigned to make a successful run for the U.S. House of Representatives. Vice Mayor Thelda Williams has been serving as interim mayor since last summer.

The runoff was triggered when no candidate reached the 50 percent threshold needed to win the election. Gallego won 44 percent of the total vote, with Valenzuela following behind at about 26 percent.

The candidate who is elected will remain in the seat until Stanton’s term expires in 2021.

Voters can head to their nearest polling location from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to cast their vote for either Valenzuela or Gallego, both former Phoenix City Council members.

In-person early voting will continue on the 15th floor of City Hall until Friday, then the city will then open 28 voting centers Saturday, Monday and Tuesday.

People with mail-in ballots can also drop them off at City Hall or submit them to any voting center by 7 p.m. on Election Day.

But before you vote, you need to know who you are voting for.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ali Vetnar sat down with the two candidates to determine why they would be the best fit for the job.

Describe yourself in three words.

Valenzuela: “Integrity, humility and work ethic.”

Gallego: “Mom, prepared, excited.”

Why do you believe you’re the best fit to be the mayor of Phoenix?

Gallego: “I have a background in economic development, bringing good jobs to the city of Phoenix. I’m passionate about planning for the long-term future. I’m raising my son in this city and I want to build a city so great that he’ll never want to leave, one where he can get a great education, have a career when he’s ready, and spend time with his family at wonderful parks, libraries, in a safe community.”

Valenzuela: “The mayor of our city must be a coalition builder and a problem solver. I’m a lifelong public servant. I’m a firefighter, and as a first responder, I don’t pick and choose who I serve, I serve everyone. I’ve taken that mentality to the Phoenix City Council, and I will continue to help people become safer, diversify our economy and create educational opportunities for our children.”

What do you believe is the biggest issue Phoenix faces? What is your top priority? What are you going to address first when you get into office?

Valenzuela: “The most critical issue is our public safety issue. We have 500 fewer cops today, in Phoenix, than 10 years ago. When I first took office as a council member in 2012, I led the effort to lift the hiring freeze, to add more first responders. But we have to continue down that path, unapologetically, to actually follow through and hire more first responders. It all starts with keeping people safe, making people safe, and all things will be added to the city from there.”

Gallego: “I want to make sure we have safe communities. That means we need to be hiring public safety officers, we need to be empowering neighborhoods with neighborhood block watch grants so that people in our community can go out and solve their problems, as well as investing in better technology to keep our community safe.”

What do you want to be remembered as? What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind for the people who elected you into office?

Gallego: “I hope to move the city of Phoenix towards a more knowledge-based community, with jobs in industries like financial services and health care. Jobs that are going to exist in 20 years. I worry that some of the jobs of today, like driving taxis and long-haul trucks, may not be the same type of jobs in 20 years with autonomous vehicles, so I want to move our economy to be more sustainable.”

Valenzuela: “I’m a lifelong public servant, with or without public office. I’ve dedicated my life to keeping people safe as a firefighter and a policymaker. I will be the mayor who makes people feel safe. We have hundreds of police and fire positions that need to be filled. We will fill those positions, we will make this a safe city, we will create an economy and a community that leaves no one behind.”

What’s your final message to voters before they head to the polls?

Valenzuela: “I was born and raised in Phoenix. We had it rough, 10 to 13 public schools. It was the people and the programs of this city that made me who I am today: A husband, a parent, a lifelong public servant, a firefighter and even a former council member. When I become your mayor, you will have someone at City Hall that is constantly giving back to this city all that it’s given to me my entire life: Hope and opportunity and the belief that together we are going to achieve greatness.”

Gallego: “While I served on the City Council, my district was always one of the leaders in job creation, infrastructure investment, getting safety dollars into our neighborhoods. I want to take that record of success to the mayor’s office. Our campaign has been recognized for being one of the most independent and having a strong vision for the future. I have a record of results and I’m looking forward to getting to work. I’m also proud to be a mom raising my son in this community, and I want to create a great resource, a great, safe city, and a future for all of our families. I’m asking for your vote on March 12.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ali Vetnar and Matt Bertram contributed to this report. 

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