Nov 2, 2022 - Politics

Mayor of America's most conservative city is campaigning for Democrats

A man speaking at a podium in front of a brightly colored mural.

Mesa Mayor John Giles, a Republican, has endorsed Sen. Mark Kelly and gubernatorial hopeful Katie Hobbs. Photo: Courtesy of city of Mesa

Republican John Giles is the mayor of Mesa ā€” once named the most conservative city in the country. But you've likely seen him on your TV campaigning for Democrats, most notably Sen. Mark Kelly and gubernatorial hopeful Katie Hobbs.

Why it matters: Giles is part of a small but vocal group of Republican leaders bucking their party to support Democrats over Trump-backed candidates who claim, without evidence, that the 2020 election was stolen.

  • Giles has said that while he doesn't agree with Democrats on every policy, he can't support far-right candidates who threaten the rule of law.

State of play: He will be the lone Republican speaking Wednesday at a rally with former President Obama in support of Kelly, Hobbs and other Democrats.

What he's saying: "Not to be dramatic, but this election is too compelling. Silence is not an option. Silence is acquiescence," Giles told Axios Phoenix this week.

Flashback: In 2017, Giles was caught on a hot mic appearing to call Trump an "idiot," which led some people to call him a traitor and others to wish him a slow death by testicular cancer, The Arizona Republic reported.

  • He said the vitriol and lack of civility in politics has just gotten worse since then.
  • "I always thought it was like a pendulum and we'd swing back to the middle at some point, but there's no sign that that's happening."

The intrigue: Giles, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is being attacked by far-right groups for "exploiting the church for political gain" on campaign signs around Mesa.

  • Former U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, who also belongs to the church and has criticized Trump and his followers, appears on the sign, funded by Turning Point PAC.
  • In a text-message advertisement, the same group said supporting "radical democrats" is not something former church leaders should do.

The other side: Neither Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake nor Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters responded to our requests for comment.

What's next: Giles has two years left as the Mesa mayor. He's not ruling out running for another office but said he had no current plans.

  • He told us he knew his criticism of Trump and his supporters likely would make him unelectable in a GOP primary.
  • Yes, but: He said he still belongs to the Republican party of late Sen. John McCain.

What we're watching: Giles said he would push for a 2024 ballot initiative to revamp the state's primary system.

  • He said the current system, which has separate ballots for Republicans and Democrats, leads to the nomination of the most extreme candidates on both sides.
  • He said he'd like to see something closer to an open primary, which would make it easier for independent voters to participate.
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