Moses Sanchez has a magic number in mind in his quest to become the first Ahwatukee resident elected mayor of Phoenix.
Speaking at a Friday gathering organized by Ahwatukee Realtor Christie Ellis, Sanchez said he figures he needs 90,000 votes to become the mayor of a city with a population of more than 1.6 million – and the first in more than three decades who didn’t get to that office via City Council.
He noted that Ahwatukee is in a city council district that consistently sees the biggest voter turnout. Last year about 60,000 voters cast their ballots in the race between Councilman Sal DiCiccio and challenger Kevin Patterson.
That total alone dwarfs the less than 8,000 votes that either of the two Democratic front-runners in the race – council members Kate Gallego and Daniel Valenzuela – received in total in their most recent reelection. Gallego and Valenzuela have indicated they intend to run.
In all, seven people have declared their candidacy for mayor – and now each faces the task of getting about 1,500 signatures by early August to qualify for the Nov. 6 ballot.
“I hope to wrap that up in three weeks,” the buoyant Sanchez said.
A longtime Ahwatukee resident who owns a social media marketing company with his daughter, Sanchez stressed the three major planks of his campaign, promising to roll out detailed position papers over the 20-week campaign.
“Public safety is No. 1, then infrastructure, then quality of life,” he said, noting that the city has fewer uniformed officers now than it did when the economy collapsed in 2008.
Sanchez, a Republican, suggested a formula guides his calculations of what it will take to defeat Democrats Valenzuela and Gallego – or at least get out the Ahwatukee vote.
He said Ahwatukee receives only 2 percent of the money Phoenix spends on services, is home to 4 percent of the city’s registered voters and routinely records an election turnout of 15 percent of all votes cast in citywide elections.
But beyond Ahwatukee’s paltry amount of the $2.8 billion the city spends on operating expenses, Sanchez reiterated his campaign theme of putting people and neighborhoods first.
“We’re the fifth largest city in the country and what are we in the top 10 for? People getting killed crossing the street?” he said, noting that outside of weather, Phoenix has failed to distinguish itself on the national scene.
And part of the reason that’s so, he said, is because City Hall has largely become a closed-door club whose “members” rarely listen to residents, let alone effectively addresses basic neighborhood needs.
Indeed, his campaign website declares bluntly:
“We deserve better than the status quo. For too long, political insiders have gamed the system at City Hall. All too often success is determined by who you know and the size of your checkbook – and hardworking Phoenicians are left without a champion.”
Moreover, he said, those city leaders spend too much time talking about national issues that they can’t do much about instead of focusing on the problems in their backyard that they can impact.
Sanchez also took a shot at Valenzuela, who has been quoted as saying he intends to continue his 52-hour-a-week job as a firefighter.
Sanchez said he already has entrusted his day-to-day affairs in his business, Nonnahs – the backward spelling of his partner-daughter Shannon – to his daughter.
And while he reupped for three more years as a Navy reservist to get in his 25 years in the service, Sanchez said “there’s a zero to none” chance he’ll be called up for active duty, as he was in 2011 when he was sent to one of Afghanistan’s fiercest combat zones.
Unless World War III or something close to that occurs, he said, his primary responsibility to the Navy will be a weekend a month of reserve duty.
“I am going to be a full-time mayor,” he said.
A former member of the Tempe Union High School Governing Board who holds an MBA from ASU and teaches at South Mountain Community College, Sanchez fielded an array of questions about his candidacy – and provided answers to some that he encounters in at least some of the more than a dozen gatherings he attends across the city every week since he unofficially launched his campaign in January.
“Yes, I am a naturalized citizen,” said Sanchez, who came to America with his parents from Panama when he was 5 years old.
Asked where he stood on the issued of sanctuary cities, he replied, “I believe in the rule of law” and that city police must work together with state and federal authorities when it comes to illegal immigration.
Sanchez said he’s prepared for a grueling campaign.
To win the November election, a candidate will need at least 51 percent of the vote or else the top two vote getters will have to duke it out for four more months until a runoff election in March.
“I intend to get 4 percent over that,” he said.