Ted Simons: Here to help us figure out if any of the mayoral candidates are separating themselves from the field is Arizona Public Reporter Lyhn Bui.
Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us.
Lyhn Bul: Thank you for having me.
Ted Simons: We had a big debate last night, kind of big. A couple of candidates did not participate?
Lyhn Bui: There were four candidates out of the six participating in the debate. Peggy Neely, Wes Gullett, Claude Mattox, and Greg Stanton. Jennifer Wright and Anna Brennan were not included because they did not meet the chamber’s requirements. The chamber asks that to participants raise about $50,000 in outside campaign contributions.
Ted Simons: And they did not meet the requirements?
Lyhn Bui: They did not meet the requirement.
Ted Simons: Describe the atmosphere. Was it raucous, friendly, subdued?
Lyhn Bui: There was a tame energy. I say that because we didn't see any explosions or fireworks, but there weren't any giant flubs from the candidates, either. There were some Jennifer Wright supporters outside protesting her exclusion from the debate. Anna Brennan provided some energy out there as well. She had a campaign bus with her face on it and a radio station airing an Anna Brennan marathon.
Ted Simons: Really?
Lyhn Bui: Yeah.
Ted Simons: Interesting.
Lyhn Bui: Yes.
Ted Simons: The way you describe the inside, a tame energy, it almost describes the race, doesn't it? We're still kind of waiting for something to happen here, aren't we?
Lyhn Bui: People are waiting for someone to kind of rise above the rest of the pack. We see that sense of them just trying to kind of get out and distinguish themselves from each other.
Ted Simons: Last night in the campaign as a whole, I kind of use last night as a base point, but in the overall campaign, correct me if I'm wrong, Stanton and Mattox, a little bit of the status quo. Neely and Gullett against the status quo. Is that a generalization of how it works?
Lyhn Bui: I think Neely and Gullett have come out hardest in terms of the need for reform at city hall. When you talk about Mattox and Stanton, the city is fundamentally well run, well managed, it's not perfect. Phoenix is working on things it needs to improve.
Ted Simons: When you are on the campaign trail like a debate last night or the public appearances, when they say Phoenix is working, when they say things are going pretty well, do they get a lot of push-back from folks, or are they saying, yeah, it is working pretty well?
Lyhn Bui: Like the field of candidates, the electorate is split. You have the group that mistrusts government still and that resonates with the Tea Party group and Jennifer Wright's message. Then you have the traditional city voters who think that Phoenix is well run.
Ted Simons: Now, is it safe to say that Neely and Gullett are a little more conservative than the other two of the big four?
Lyhn Bui: I think that's a fair assessment.
Ted Simons: And trying to position themselves in that area, as well.
Lyhn Bui: Yes.
Ted Simons: Did anyone say anything surprising last night?
Lyhn Bui: I think all the candidates generally stuck with their campaign, following all these debates. This debate didn't sound too different from the other debates. They might have been a little more energetic and a little more polish for the camera but no one really strayed too much from their general platform.
Ted Simons: Any attacks last night?
Lyhn Bui: The attacks were subtle. I think you have to be following the campaign or really follow city politics to get those little jabs. You know, Greg Stanton came out and said; well I was the only one who didn't vote for city North. He didn't call out other people by name; you have to know that Peggy Neely and Clawed Mattox did vote for that. A lot of the jabs were directed with not all the context there.
Ted Simons: There's been a little controversy regarding some outside money coming into this race. Talk to us about that. What's going on?
Lyhn Bui: For the first time in city history we're seeing independent expenditure organizations play a role. There are newspaper ads and mailers. And we are seeing this in a post united citizen’s world - The landmark Supreme Court case that kind of opened the way for corporations and nonprofits and unions to give freely, using money from their general treasuries to influence elections. We're just seeing it now at the local level.
Ted Simons: Are we seeing it going to one candidate in particular?
Lyhn Bui: Wes Gullett is getting a lot of support from a group called Arizona Citizens United, off that supreme court case. And Residents for a Better Arizona are attacking the candidates in the City Council race who have been union endorsed. Mattox, Jeffreys, Danny Valenzuela. The concerns with tehse organizations is that you cant have coordination with any of the candidates that are independent and some folks were worried about them and say, we don't know who their donors are, we don’t know who's funding these ads and mailers.
Ted Simons: Is that the kind of thing where if you are not getting that kind of money, you will look at a candidate who is getting that money? You can go in and attack there? You are going to attack them for getting the money. Is that possible?
Lyhn Bui: That's possible but I think with the independent expenditure organizations that the crux of why they are so controversial is what the Supreme Court struggled with, that kind of disclosure versus our First Amendment right as a business or a nonprofit to use money on a political speech.
Ted Simons: Back to the first question, I said the race was trying to heat up. You were talking about tame energy, and it seems like the public has yet to find fascination with this race. How come? Why no fire here yet?
Lyhn Bui: I think no fire yet because a lot of the candidates do sound similar. If we look at Phoenix, there haven’t been any giant scandals that we can point to as the enemy that, collective enemy that campaigned so much like to have. So they are all trying to pick enemies and they are all different enemies. We see it a little bit with the unions being the bad guys in this campaign. But there's kind of no rallying point.
Ted Simons: So basically, if you think -- they have two weeks left before this primary, this election. Is all you no what going break loose in the last week?
Lyhn Bui: It could. Speaking with the city clerk today, he said about 60,000 ballots have already been submitted by mail. It's widely expected that kind of that next drop will come right in the last days before August 30th. You know candidates will be out there knocking on doors and doing the phone banking and we'll see what they have in store for us next.
Ted Simons: In late August they will be out there just pressing the concrete, huh?
Lyhn Bui: Yeah.
Ted Simons: That'll be fun.
Ted Simons: Great work, good to have you here, thanks for joining us.
Lyhn Bui: Thank you.