All Maricopa County supervisor jobs on the ballot as office faces scrutiny over virus response

Jen Fifield
Arizona Republic
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors conducts a hearing on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019.

Corrections & Clarifications: An earlier version of this article should have included Suzanne Story as being on the ballot running against Clint Hickman in District 4.

All five of Maricopa County's elected supervisors are vying to keep their seats this November at a crucial time for the office as it helps lead the county's response to the COVID-19 public health crisis.

Most county voters will have choices on their ballots as:

  • Incumbent Jack Sellers faces Jevin Hodge in District 1.
  • Incumbent Steve Chucri faces Deedra Abboud in District 2.
  • Incumbent Bill Gates faces Whitney Walkerin District 3.
  • Incumbent Clint Hickman faces Suzanne Story in District 4.

Steve Gallardo in District 5 is running unopposed. 

Voters can look up their Board of Supervisors district using a search tool on the county recorder's website.

The supervisors set the county's budget and make decisions on issues such as the environment, land use, public health and transportation. Maricopa County is the fourth-largest and fastest-growing county in the nation.

The new coronavirus pandemic has put the office in the spotlight in recent months, since Gov. Doug Ducey left some of the coronavirus response in Arizona in the hands of local officials.

The supervisors chose to require masks in public and made decisions on how to spend $400 million dollars in federal relief funding, including how much of that to use to increase coronavirus testing and contact tracing.

Their decisions have highlighted the importance of their role for the county, and have also brought criticism from both sides. Some say the supervisors didn't act fast or strong enough to curb the spread of the virus in the county, which was a hot spot this summer, but others say the supervisors went too far when imposing the mask mandate.

Their response is now top of mind for voters, and the supervisors' challengers, as voting begins.  

In-person and voting-by-mail begins Wednesday. Election Day is Nov. 3.

District 1: Sellers faces Hodge

District 1 includes the southeastern region of the county, including parts of Ahwatukee Foothills, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Queen Creek and Tempe. 

Jack Sellers

Jack Sellers

Sellers, a Republican, was appointed to the Board of Supervisors in February 2019 after the resignation of former Supervisor Denny Barney. 

Sellers has lived in the county for more than 30 years.

He served two terms on the Chandler City Council. He also is the former chair of the Arizona State Transportation Board and has been involved in transportation infrastructure planning in the region.

He first got involved in politics and transportation planning through his work as facilities manager for the General Motors Desert Proving Ground.

Sellers said he wants to stay in his seat because he feels he can do the best job, in part because of the goodwill he has established through his district and the entire state. 

He said he will focus on how the county can maintain and improve its quality of life through better planning, recruitment of high-paying jobs and investment in infrastructure. 

He said he considers his role to be nonpartisan in nature, and he hopes the board can continue to work well with all county offices.

In Chandler, he said, he was known for his ability to think big about the region and economic development. Success will come from building relationships with chambers and assisting small business owners, he said.

Sellers said that, when it comes to coronavirus response, the current board has been listening to the county's public health experts to make decisions, including the mask mandate.

Visit electjacksellers.com for more.

Jevin Hodge

Jevin Hodge

Hodge, a Democrat who was born and raised in Tempe, said he is running to give back to "the community who raised me," and he considers the supervisors' role as a great way to make a difference.

Hodge said he has been involved in Democratic politics for years.

At 23, he was the youngest African American elected official within the Democratic Party organization nationwide and the first African-American millennial to hold the position of vice chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party.

Hodge, now 26, is the national engagement director for LINK Strategic Partners, a communications, stakeholder engagement and social impact consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. 

Hodge is the chair of the Booker T. Washington Child Development Center and former president of the Tempe Union High Schools Education Foundation. 

Hodge said that the district "doesn't need someone who is going to be a partisan hack."

"This district needs a leader who is going to bring people together," he said.

Top of mind for Hodge is investing in local businesses and education.

Hodge said the supervisors should have done more to spend the coronavirus relief money the county received from the federal government, should have provided masks to residents, and should have done more to expand testing and contact tracing.

"Arizona would not have been the world's hot spot if Maricopa County had taken a proactive approach in March," he said.

Visit jevinhodge.com for more.

District 2: Chucri faces Abboud

District 2 includes the northeastern part of the county, including parts of Apache Junction, Carefree, Cave Creek, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation Reservation, Fountain Hills, Gilbert, Mesa, Paradise Valley, Phoenix, Scottsdale and Salt River Reservation.

Write-in candidate Tory Smock also is running for the seat.

Steve Chucri

Steve Chucri

Chucri, a Republican, was first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2012.

He was born and raised in Mesa.

He is the president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association and serves on the boards of many organizations, including the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.

Chucri said a few of the board's accomplishments during his service have been better budgeting to avoid unneeded surpluses and not raising the property tax rate in the last four years. 

He said he helped push for a change at the state level that now allows the county to hire and fire at will, and the county also has started doing arraignments of inmates through teleconferencing which saves resources.

"I've brought that nimble, business-minded approach to the county," he said.

He is proud of how much more amicable the board is with the county's other elected officials, too.

His priorities will be making sure the county has a "forward vision" as it continues to grow.

Chucri said that while his competitor criticizes the board for its response to COVID-19, the supervisors took the best measured approach to addressing the pandemic.

"We did the best we could with the data we had at the time," Chucri said.

Visit www.chucriaz.com for more.

Deedra Abboud

Deedra Abboud

Abboud, a Democrat, has served as a civil rights and social justice advocate, attorney and small-business owner since she moved to Arizona in 1998.

She said she decided to run for the supervisor spot because local issues are close to her heart.

A few of the main issues she wants to address, she said, are improving the county's infrastructure, addressing conflicts of interest on the current Board of Supervisors, and improving residents' accessibility to the board.

She mentioned how Maricopa Association of Governments estimates a $7 billion gap in infrastructure funding in the county by 2049 if freeway maintenance remains at current funding levels.

"That is really poor planning," she said.

She said that Chucri's job as the CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association leads to conflicts. One example, she said, is the association's advocacy earlier this year for a state bill that would have banned cities and counties from requiring fire sprinklers in large venues. The bill did not pass.

In response, Chucri said he abstains from votes where there could be potential conflicts. Regarding the example, he said he is not a lobbyist for the organization and controlling installation of fire sprinklers is not a function of county government.

Abboud criticized the supervisors' response to COVID-19, saying that the county failed at contact tracing and should have better enforced its mask mandate.

"What good is the mask mandate?" she said. "You passed it, but it had no enforcement."

Visit deedra4bos.com for more.

District 3: Gates faces Walker

District 3 covers the northcentral part of the county, including parts of Anthem, Desert Hills, New River, Phoenix and Paradise Valley.

Bill Gates

Bill Gates

Gates, a Republican, has served as a supervisor since 2017.

Prior to that, he served on the Phoenix City Council from 2009 to 2016.

He has lived in the county for 28 years and works as associate general counsel and director of distribution for PING Golf, a Phoenix-based golf equipment manufacturer.

Gates said it has been the "privilege of his life" to serve his community and he wants to continue to serve.

The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized for him the importance of his role.

"I recognize the awesome responsibility, and it's something that I have taken extremely seriously," he said, "understanding that truly every day we are working on life or death situations."

Gates said he is proud of his work improving neighborhoods in north Phoenix, bringing savings to the county's budget, and increasing the use of technology to make the government more efficient.

He said his priorities will be economic development as the county comes out of COVID-19 and smart growth.

He said he believes the supervisors did well addressing COVID-19 with the mask mandate and the money it put to housing and small business assistance.

He said he is the best person for the job because of his "deep roots in the community," and because he has guided governments through hard times before and therefore is the best person to help the county get through the pandemic.

Visit billgatesaz.com for more.

Whitney Walker

Whitney Walker

Walker, a Democrat, said she is running because her life and work experience have taught her how much she could make a difference in the office, whether that's by ensuring people have rental assistance, proper infrastructure and clean air and water, or by assisting in the county's strategic planning.

Walker has lived in the county for 8½ years and it's her first time running for political office.

She is the former director of public policy and communications for Protecting Arizona’s Family Coalition, an advocacy group for vulnerable Arizonans and has worked in public policy, domestic and sexual violence prevention and health and human services.

She is a board member of Ebony House Inc. and Booker T. Washington Child Development Center. She also serves on Phoenix's Human Relations Commission.

The issues she plans to focus on are education, stabilizing the county's economy, supporting small businesses and expanding access to health care.

For education, she said she wants to invest in the county's early childhood system, support county departments to ensure they can support school districts with resources and programs, and expand vocational and training options through community colleges.

Her first task, she said, would be to address the economic instability in the county by offering more support to small businesses, community resources and families.

She said that seeing that people can afford to stay in their homes is key to stabilizing the economy.

"I am going to work extremely hard to make sure that people stay in their homes," she said.

Visit whitneywalkeraz.com for more.

District 4: Hickman faces Story

District 4 covers the northwestern part of the county, including parts of Avondale, Buckeye, El Mirage, Glendale, Goodyear, Litchfield Park, Peoria, Sun City, Sun City West, Surprise, Wickenburg and Youngtown.

Hickman, a Republican, faces challenger Suzanne Story, a Democrat.

Hickman has served on the Board of Supervisors since 2013.

Hickman also is vice president of sales and marketing at Hickman’s Family Farms, a massive chicken farm in the West Valley operated by his family since 1944. 

He is an honorary commander of the 69th Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base and a member of the Hunger Project, the Arizona and Maricopa County Farm Bureau, the Arizona Food Marketing Association and the Arizona Meth Project.

Story is a 20-year high school English teacher.

She is dedicated to equity, transparency, responsible stewardship of resources and honest communication, according to her campaign website. She stands "firmly against conflicts of interest by public office holders."

Story's priorities include health care, the environment, education and animal rights, according to her website.

One of Story's main concerns is with egg farming and Hickman's business.

"The only way to truly address the problems being caused by Hickman's Family Farms is to get Clint Hickman (vice president of sales) off the Board of Supervisors and to replace him with someone dedicated to solving these problems," her website says.

District 5: Steve Gallardo

District 5 covers the southwestern part of the county, including parts of Avondale, Buckeye, Gila Bend, Gila River Reservation, Glendale, Goodyear, Guadalupe, Phoenix and Tolleson.

Gallardo is running unopposed. 

He is the only Democrat on the Board of Supervisors, where he has served since 2014.

Gallardo spent 10 years in the state Legislature and 14 years as a campaign finance administrator in the Maricopa County Elections Department. 

According to the county website, Gallardo's priorities include affordable housing, youth leadership development and economic development in the western portion of the county. 

Republic reporter Jessica Boehm contributed to this article.

Reach the reporter at jen.fifield@azcentral.com or at 602-444-8763. Follow her on Twitter @JenAFifield

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