The balance between the Chandler City Council’s political factions may have reversed Tuesday, as voters elected Trinity Donovan and Jeff Weninger to two open seats.
Now, “nobody’s going to be arrogant with a four-vote majority like we’ve seen in the last couple of years,” said Councilman Bob Caccamo, referring to one of the council’s dueling voting blocs.
The political rift among council members, along with the recent ouster of former City Manager Mark Pentz, dominated the campaign. All three candidates in Tuesday’s runoff had criticized the current council’s infighting and said they did not agree with how Pentz’s departure was handled.
Caccamo endorsed Donovan and Weninger’s campaigns after the April 10 ouster of Pentz. Pentz resigned as part of an agreement when it appeared four council members were ready to fire him.
In fact, while Donovan claimed endorsements from all seven current council members, the race between Becky Jackson and Weninger seemed defined by who was backing each candidate.
Weninger has been a vocal supporter of Mayor Boyd Dunn and councilmen Caccamo and Huggins and received their endorsements. The three are generally considered one of the council’s two voting blocs.
Jackson had the backing of Vice Mayor Phill Westbrooks and council members Donna Wallace, Matt Orlando and Martin Sepulveda, who are often considered the council’s other faction.
Weninger, a local restaurant owner, spoke out against Pentz’s council critics and vowed during the campaign to push to rehire him if elected.
“I take it as a mandate to rehire the city manager,” Weninger said Tuesday about his win.
Caccamo and Huggins have stated they would support Pentz’s return if he was willing to come back.
Jackson, who heads the Chandler Chamber of Commerce, agreed Tuesday that Pentz’s departure was a major issue. Like her two opponents, Jackson said she did not agree with how the council handled the city manager’s nine-hour job review.
But she was also criticized by some, such as Weninger, for not taking a stance on Pentz's firing. “I feel good about my comments,” Jackson said Tuesday. “I did not have all the information, and I don’t see how you can make a judgmental call like that.”
Donovan, an executive with the Valley of the Sun United Way, said she didn’t know whether voters were sending a mandate to bring Pentz back. “I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about that yet,” she said.