Unlike the contentious campaign to-date, the Phoenix District 8 candidates’ forum, at St. Luke’s Medical Center on July 2, was a civil affair. Reverend Warren Stewart, Lawrence Robinson, Kate Gallego, and Luis Rodriguez, who reflected the diversity of the District they want to represent, spent over an hour describing their visions for the City.
“Meet the Candidates Forum” was hosted by the Greater Phoenix Black Chamber of Commerce and the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. It was accurately referred to as a “networking” forum, as it was hard for the emcee—12 News’ Brahm Resnik—to quiet down the huge, buzzing crowd of entrepreneurs, community leaders and academics, who were greeting and hugging each other, in order to start the forum.
Darnell Sells expressed a curiosity shared by many people attending: “I want to leave here knowing that we can elect someone who has character, someone who really cares about the people.”
Robinson drew laughs from the crowd when he was asked what qualities are needed to run for Council, and answered “A thick skin!” During the heated run for this District, Robinson has been the target of some very personal attacks. The law professor and school board member, clearly outlined his emphasis on education and advocating 100% funding for vital residential services, like public pools, day care, community centers, and public transportation.
Stewart, the best known of the candidates, has been a visible and vocal community leader and pastor for First Institutional Baptist Church for 36 years. He was confident in describing his priorities of job creation in the healthcare, airport, and public transportation areas, and his promise not to allow District 8 residents to be ignored.
Gallego displayed the most City government experience, by describing many years serving on planning boards and commissions that have encouraged economic development in Phoenix. Her three-point plan involves creating jobs, investing in infrastructure, and fighting crime.
Taking the opposite approach, Rodriguez touted his non-political background. The conservative Army veteran stressed the need for accessibility to and accountability from government. He came across as an “everyman,” who wants to “take care of the troops [District 8 Residents]” and solve their problems.
“We now have a clear view of the strengths and differences among the candidates,” said Diana Gregory, a non-profit executive, after the forum.
With four intelligent and committed candidates, the future of District 8 seems bright.