Kate Gallego handily wins mayor’s race, council seats headed for runoffs

Kate Gallego was elected Phoenix mayor Tuesday. Gallego, a single mom, held her two-year-old son, Michael, at a campaign event. Gallego’s dad, Jim Widland, is pictured on the right. Photo by Laura Gómez | Arizona Mirror

Kate Gallego will be Phoenix’s next mayor and the second woman elected to the city’s top post, having defeated opponent Daniel Valenzuela by a large margin.

At a gathering Tuesday night in downtown Phoenix, Gallego gave a victory speech while her team and supporters stood behind her.

“We’ve listened to Phoenix voters talk about their aspirations, their dreams for Phoenix, and we worked to solve problems together,” Gallego said. Her two-year-old son Michael walked to the podium where she spoke and held a campaign sign to his mom as she said, “We’ve stood up for everyone from our retirees to our youngest and cutest residents.”

Valenzuela congratulated Gallego on Twitter and thanked all who supported his campaign.

In her speech, Gallego also thanked Valenzuela.

“I will be a stronger mayor because of this campaign,” she said.

Gallego will serve the remainder of former Mayor Greg Stanton’s term, which expires on April of 2021. Stanton resigned last spring to run for Congress.

A celebration with an emphasis on family

Tuesday night, Gallego emphasized her family. Her dad, Jim Widland, spoke before she took the stage. As he spoke of Gallego running the campaign while also being a “full-time mom,” her boy rearranged the campaign signs behind him. He wore a white oversized T-shirt and was upbeat.

Gallego said her parents were her shining star.

“As a mayoral candidate, you still need a hug from mom and dad,” she quipped. Gallego said her son is her inspiration.

“We’re going to build a city so cool that he’ll be proud to call home, and we are always going to be thinking long-term, what type of city we want for our children,” she said.

Gallego said as mayor she’ll work on partnerships with business, nonprofit and faith communities to achieve her vision.

Gallego was first elected to the city council in 2013, and Valenzuela became a councilmember in 2012.

During the campaign, Gallego and Valenzuela rarely differed on issues. Gallego highlighted her work and accomplishments, while Valenzuela tended to lean on his personal story growing up.  

The two disagreed over the issue of city-funded professional sports venues.

The race saw an increase in negative ads and dark money spending as Election Day approached, including an incendiary flyer showing Valenzuela’s face on a blood-stained $100 bill.

Council seats likely headed to May runoff election

Voters in District 5, in west Phoenix, and District 8, which covers parts of central Phoenix and the city’s south side, also voted for their representatives on the City Council.

Election night results show no candidate in the contested races reached enough votes to win outright. The top two vote-getters in each race will face each other in a runoff May 21.

In District 5, Betty Guardado, a union organizer, led the four-candidate race in early results. Vania Guevara, who was appointed to the seat last August, placed second, but Audrey Bell-Jenkins was a close third. Bell-Jenkins works in workforce development for UMOM, which runs a shelter and other services for homeless people.

In District 8, a seven-candidate race, immigrant rights organizer Carlos Garcia was the leading vote-getter. Former councilman Michael Johnson was second, followed by Lawrence Robinson, a school administrator.

Laura Gómez
Reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez covers state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror. She worked for The Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona for four years, covering city government, economic development, immigration, politics and trade. In 2017, Laura traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border for “The Wall,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning project produced by The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network. She was named Best Investigative Reporter by Phoenix Magazine in its 2018 newspaper category and has been honored by the Arizona Press Club for Spanish-language news and feature reporting. She is a native of Bogotá, Colombia and lived in Puerto Rico and Boston before moving to Phoenix in 2014. Catch her researching travel deals, feasting on mariscos or playing soccer.

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