Last fall while voting in the midterms for everyone from governor to dog catcher, Phoenix residents also got to pick a new mayor.  With the City of Phoenix having more than a million and a half residents, the mayoral race is bigger than any two congressional districts combined. Once the City trying to tax local MMJ patients, our office was flooded w requests to add the PHX Mayoral race to our voters’ guide. In the end, two former city council members, Kate Gallego and Daniel Valenzuela turned out to be the top 2 vote getters and advanced to a run-off election that ends March 12th. The mail-in portion of the voting began last month and, with less than two weeks left, AZ-NORML is posting an edited version of our earlier guide.

We approached both candidates to see if they wanted to update any information. Neither got back to us, so here are their answers from October. It is important to keep in mind that neither former city council member, Gallego or Valenzuela, was on the board when Mayor Thelda Williams introduced the ill-fated tax.

Scoring Their campaign websites are linked to the first use of their name in each entry. The candidate’s scores are based on their track record as a public official or their public statements on cannabis. High scores are not endorsements. There are so many other policy positions that should be considered when picking an elected official.

Kate Gallego-Democrat: Said to be the odds-on favorite in a tight race, Gallego has an impressive record as a power politician in her own right, never mind, her congressman husband. A member of the Democratic National Committee and a PHX city council member since 2013, Kate has been a powerful force in party and city politics much of this century. Unlike Rep. Gallego, Council woman Gallego has not made many public statements on cannabis but has expressed she supports his work. Her campaign press secretary provided these answers to our survey. SCORE: A

  1. What is your position on cannabis? I have seen the benefits that medical marijuana provides to patients who could not find relief elsewhere. I want patients to be able to access treatment in Phoenix. Cities should provide rules about where dispensaries’ grow, and [other] facilities are located, just as cities do for drugstores.  I believe in sentencing reform — possessing a small amount of marijuana should not put someone in jail for longer than many domestic violence crimes.
  2. What is your position regarding the proposed Phoenix cannabis tax? The Phoenix City Council’s action to not advance an unfair tax or fee structure on cannabis businesses and patients was the right decision. As Mayor of Phoenix, I will work with business owners and patient advocates to address this issue in an open process.  If the voters choose to legalize adult use, the city needs to be at the table as revenues are discussed.

Daniel Valenzuela-Democrat: No candidate, in any race was harder to survey than Daniel Valenzuela. And nobody has worked harder at avoiding going on record as to their position on cannabis in general, or on whether or not they supported a 17% tax on PHX-area MMJ patients. Repeated calls, texts, emails to him and to his campaign. A face to face in public at a big deal political event. Each of those queries got great reassurances that an answer was on the way. No answers ever came. This became even more concerning when we shared the Sanchez rumor with his campaign that Valenzuela (rumored to be Gallego’s closest challenger and a fireman’s union member himself) was being accused of being behind the cannabis tax. Still no replies. With only two questions to answer and no answers given, the only score possible is— Zero

DISCLOSURE Kate Gallego and her husband, Congressman Ruben Gallego, were early mentors for my wife and I when we were candidates. We were delegates together at the 2012 DNC. All that said, Congressman Gallego is not Councilwoman Gallego and we have tried to rate her solely on her own record and public statements on the issue.