Teresa Brice-Heames, a Hispanic woman known for her activism and strong community ties in Mesa, filed paperwork Monday challenging incumbent Keno Hawker for mayor.
Backers said Brice-Heames' background makes her
a credible challenger who would bring change to Mesa's historically conservative mayor's office.A former lawyer and a Mesa native, Brice-Heames
is especially active in the Hispanic community, which makes up roughly 25 percent of Mesa's population.
"I think I have to say in talking with a lot of different types of people, not everyone is represented by our current leadership," Brice-Heames
, 48, said she
will push for affordable housing, higher education for Mesa residents, and opportunities for minorities and residents of older neighborhoods to participate in city government.She
will also push for a city property tax, which Hawker has opposed. Mesa, the 40th-largest city in the country, is one of a handful of Arizona municipalities without a property tax.The city relies instead on state shared revenue, a sales tax and utility fees to pay for city services.City leaders had to freeze more than 200 positions and cut some city programs to balance the city's current budget.
"I'm real concerned about Mesa's financial future," Brice-Heames
said."I think it's time we talk about a property tax.I know it's a dirty word, but somebody has to say it."Brice-Heames is vice president of the Mesa Association of Hispanic Citizens and vice president of Housing for Mesa, an agency that helps low-income people buy homes.Previously, she was a lawyer with community legal services in Phoenix and Mesa.She
resigned from the state bar last year, and she
will take a six-month leave of absence from Housing
for Mesa beginning Oct. 1 to campaign.
Hawker, 56, is a business owner who espouses Libertarian views and generally votes along conservative lines.He is a registered Republican who has served 10 years as a council member and is finishing his first four-year term as mayor.
Hawker said Monday he
characterized the race as a classic matchup between Republican and Democrat.But Brice-Heames, who is a registered Independent, said she wouldn't frame it as a race that adheres to party lines.She
said many people who support her
hold some conservative views.
Last week, Brice-Heames
called for the formation of a citizens review committee for the police department, which Hawker also opposes.The move came in light of the Aug. 25 fatal shooting of a 15-year-old Hispanic boy by Mesa police.The shooting remains under investigation.Brice-Heames
said Hawker's opposition to the citizens review committee was one of the factors that motivated her
to run.The chairman of Brice-Heames' political committee is former Vice Mayor Jim Davidson, who said Brice-Heames will bring up issues that haven't been raised in Mesa mayoral elections.
Davidson said Brice-Heames
made a last-minute decision Friday, and there wasn't time to tell the mayor.
Last week, Hawker, Davidson and Brice-Heames
attended a two-day low-income housing conference in San Jose, Calif.
No one mentioned that Brice-Heames
was considering running for mayor, Hawker said.
Phil Austin, a lawyer and chairman of the Mesa Association of Hispanic Citizens
, said he
is backing Brice-Heames
is committed to serving the community.
has one of the sharpest minds and altruistic and community-minded spirits I've ever experienced," said Austin, who heads the law firm Phillip A. Austin.
Salmon said hadn't heard of Brice-Heames