Two Kyrene Corridor residents –
incumbent Councilman Leonard Copple and
challenger Onnie Shekerjian – are vying
for the last open seat on the Tempe City
Council, with the Arizona Republican
Party taking an active role in the May
16 general election.
In Chandler, meanwhile, three survivors
of the March primary election are
competing for the final two City Council
Trinity Donovan, Becky Jackson and Jeff
Weninger finished in that order behind
Bob Caccamo, who won outright in the
primary. A fourth candidate to qualify
for Tuesday’s general election, Chris
Stage, withdrew from the race after
finishing well behind Donovan, Jackson
and Weninger in March.
In addition to its role in Tempe, the
Arizona Republican Party backed Chandler
Mayor Boyd Dunn's successful reelection
bid in March but has not been active in
the May general election.
Veteran political watchers in both
cities say the 2006 city elections mark
the first big push by a political party
to influence city elections. Municipal
elections are strictly nonpartisan.
Tempe’s City Charter Section 13-2 says:
“All elections for mayor and city
councilmen shall be nonpartisan and
nothing on the ballot in any primary or
general election shall be indicative of
the source of the candidacy or of the
support of the candidate.”
That rule is reflected in the City Code
and follows state law on municipal
And while there is, indeed, no party
affiliation noted on the official
ballot, a group called Tempe Deserves
Better, sponsored by the Arizona
Republican Party, has sent mailers and
made telephone calls to Tempe
Republicans urging them to support
“Elect Onnie Sherkejian, Your REPUBLICAN
Candidate for Tempe City Council,” the
Tempe Deserves Better flier states,
presumably unaware that the candidate's
name, correctly spelled S-h-e-k-e-r-j-i-a-n,
Shekerjian says she has no control over
the Tempe Deserves Better mailers, and
is uncomfortable with the partisan
campaigning. “I wish they would have
spelled my last name correctly,” she
“I feel like I’ve been caught in the
middle,” Shekerjian told Wrangler
News. “I would much prefer to be
able to control my own message.”
“This isn’t something
that I was looking to have happen,” she
said. “I’d much rather be spending my
time talking about ways to improve Tempe
than whether partisanship has raised its
voting takes over
In another twist on the historical
approach to city elections, most of the
ballots will be cast before Election
Day, city clerks in both Tempe and
There were two ways to vote early:
Qualified voters could mail in their
ballots through May 5 or cast ballots in
person through May 12.
Tempe City Clerk Kathy Matz predicts
that up to 80 percent of the General
Election ballots will be cast early.
Chandler Clerk Marla Paddock estimated
70 percent early voting.
Paddock said any Chandler voter who
requested an early voting ballot in the
March primary election was automatically
mailed one for the May 16 general
election. Of the more than 13,000 early
ballots mailed in Chandler, more than
7,000 had been returned with 11 days
remaining before Election Day, she said.
Partisanship also reared its head in
Chandler’s primary election, Paddock
Incumbent Mayor Boyd Dunn was supported
by an independent expenditure committee
called Republicans for Dunn, she said.
Dunn easily defeated challenger Vice
Mayor Phill Westbrooks in the primary
Paddock, a long-time Chandler employee,
said she “probably could not pull out an
example” of partisan support for a
candidate in previous city elections.
“I’ve been with the city for about 20
years and this is probably one of the
first times we had a committee like that
register,” she said.
Bill Lopiano, a former Tempe mayor and
longtime political watcher, received the
Tempe Deserves Better mailers at his
“I don’t know specifically where it came
from, but I assume it was under the
auspices of the Republican Party,” said
Lopiano, who spent 14 years on the Tempe
City Council and was mayor for two terms
in the 1970s.
Lopiano also was on the Board of
Freeholders that drafted Tempe’s charter
in 1964, and he said the committee
specifically intended that city
elections be nonpartisan.
“We’re a home-rule city – the charter
prohibits it,” he said of partisanship.
Republican Party effort
Tempe Deserves Better is certainly not
hiding its political affiliation. The
pro-Shekerjian mailer states that is was
“paid for by Tempe Deserves Better with
major funding by the Arizona Republican
On expenditure reports filed with the
city, the group lists its address and
telephone number as those of the Arizona
Republican Party in Phoenix.
Tempe Deserves Better has reported total
contributions of $6,257.68, with the
entire amount coming from the Arizona
Republican Party. The full amount was
spent to oppose Copple, according to the
group’s post-primary election report.
Christopher Dahm is listed on the
expenditure reports as the Tempe
Deserves Better treasurer. Documents on
file at the Arizona Corporation
Commission list Dahm as vice president
of Coleman, Dahm & Associates, Inc.,
formerly called Coleman Dahm Moyer,
Inc., a Phoenix-based public affairs
consulting firm created in May 2003.
Dahm could not be reached for comment.
Shekerjian said she does not know Dahm,
although he is listed as a contributor
to her campaign.
“I have run my race in a nonpartisan
way,” she said, noting there is no party
affiliation listed on her website or
“I don’t ask people their party
affiliation when they offer their
support,” she added.
Nor does she know how Tempe Deserves
Better acquired pictures of her that
were used on the mailer, she said.
“They didn’t get them from me,” she
said, adding that she suspects the
photographs were copied electronically
from her own campaign materials.
Matz confirmed early this week that a
complaint has been filed with the city
over the Tempe Deserves Better mailer.
The city has hired former city attorney
Dave Merkel to investigate, she said.
Matz said she did not know yet who had
filed the complaint, which was not filed
with her office.
Garrick Taylor, a spokesman for the
Arizona Republican Party, said the Tempe
Deserves Better mailer and the earlier
support of Mayor Dunn’s re-election in
Chandler are “not an effort to inject
overt partisanship into municipal
elections but rather an effort to get
good candidates elected.”
“The use of the committees is just a way
for like-minded folks in Tempe and
Chandler to help get what we believe are
good candidates elected,” Taylor said.