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West Kyrene constable race draws a big slate:2

By Doug Snover

Nov 4, 2006

It sounds like a bad joke, the kind you might hear from political pundits at this time of year, but it could have a ring of sad truth for the two candidates for constable in the West Kyrene Justice Court: What if you held an election and nobody voted?

Ken Misner, the incumbent constable, and Jon Levenson, the youthful challenger, are campaigning at the low end of the political pyramid, so far below the contentious races for Congress and governor that virtually no one notices them.

There are no television advertisements here. No campaign committees. Just two men seeking a job, really.

The job of constable arguably is the lowest-ranked elected position in the hierarchy of political offices. Most constable elections are one-horse affairs, with a single name on ballot and no one particularly concerned about the outcome.

But there is a bona fide constable race in the West Kyrene precinct, which covers the portion of Tempe west of Rural Road and stretches north into Scottsdale all the way to Camelback Road. It’s an awkwardly shaped precinct to be made even more so next year when the Kyrene Justice Court is moved from south Tempe to south Chandler.

Today, however, the court is … do you know where? For the record, it’s at 8240 S. Kyrene Road, in one of those industrial/office complexes near the railroad tracks.

Few people understand the job of constable. For example, the constable does not report to the Justice of the Peace as you might expect. Instead, the constable, being elected, is under the jurisdiction of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

It is, you might say, a hands-off kind of supervision; constables more or less do their own thing.

Officially, according to the county’s web site, the constable’s job is to:

Execute writs of possession or restitution (legalese for evictions)

Serve orders of protection and orders prohibiting harassment

Summon jurors

Serve criminal and civil summons and subpoenas

Maintain judicial security

Levy and return writs of execution (seize property to satisfy judgments), and

Conduct constable sales of property levied on to satisfy judgments

The constable’s position is a four-year term. The newly elected constable of the Kyrene Justice Court will be paid $60,000 a year when he takes office in January.

Misner, 53 and a retired FBI special agent, was appointed Kyrene constable in March, when then-Constable Don Calender was named Justice of the Peace. Misner spent more than 25 years in the FBI, retiring in 2004.

Misner is a serious man who treats the job of constable as a law-enforcement position, not a political one. He and some of the other constables in Arizona say they are trying to “increase the professionalism” of the position, which doesn’t require much of its candidates other than being at least 18 years old.

“It’s an interesting job, a good public service job,” Misner said. “It’s not a job for somebody to waltz in and take lightly.”

“It’s one of those below-the-radar, below-the-horizon jobs that’s a pretty important public service.”

His opponent in the Nov. 7 election is Jon Levenson. Levenson just turned 25 and is currently working as a volunteer for the Arizona Democratic Party answering telephones and manning the front desk in its downtown Phoenix office.

Levenson acknowledges that he does not have a law-enforcement background. He studied elementary education at Mesa Community College, focusing on special education, but has not yet gotten a degree.

Levenson believes his background in education  -- “working with troubled kids, some were making horrible choices” – would serve him in the position of constable.

He also has a background in physical sports, including a brief stint as a professional cage fighter, and works part-time as a high school wrestling coach.

“Being involved in the community is probably the most important part of this office,” Levenson said.

His goal, he said, would be to provide more information and even some advocacy to the people upon whom the constable serves his writs and summons.

“Part of what I want to do is try to help people who are being evicted … help people get back on their feet.”

Neither man seems very comfortable campaigning for the job.

Levenson said he has collected some campaign contributions and printed up some flyers. He has a campaign website – -- and has added about 30 of his signs to the tangle of campaign boards at many local street corners. He’s also taken every opportunity to address groups like some of the local Rotary Clubs.

“When you’re running for an office this low profile, you have to make your opportunities. People don’t just come to you,” he said.

“You’ve got to meet the voters. You’ve got to go door-to-door, pound the pavement.”

Misner said he is not soliciting campaign contributions.

“Personally, I have a problem with that,” he said.

Instead, he is funding his campaign out of his own pocket. He has printed several thousand campaign flyers, but does not operate a campaign website and has not purchased signs to put on street corners.

“I’m not a politician, I’m a cop,” Misner said.

His last experiences as a politician were as president of the senior class in high school and president of his college fraternity, he noted.

Still, Misner offers that his FBI experience makes him “the best-qualified candidate for constable” in the entire state.

How low-profile is the race for Kyrene constable? Here’s a clue. Misner and Levenson say they’ve never met. No opportunity, they say.

Both men agree the constable position probably should be appointed, not elected. Misner points out that the constable’s duties are to serve the court’s writs and summons, not to make policy decisions.

Levenson said that although he currently works for the Democratic Party, he also volunteers for Republican causes. The constable job should not be a partisan position, he said.

But there definitely should be a choice on the ballot, Levenson said. That’s one of the things that drew him into the race, he said.

“We’re electing people who are running unopposed, and I asked why no one ran against them,” he said. Why shouldn’t someone from the community who’s been here for years step up? At least to give people a choice.”



Photos by David Stone


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