By Gary nelson GSN Contributor

Election 2018 officially began last week – and it will be doozy for Gilbert voters.

Just as the field of candidates for statewide office in the Aug. 28 primary election poses an array of choices for both Democrats and Republicans, the municipal and State House primary ballots also offer contests for Gilbert voters to resolve. May 30 was the deadline for candidates to file for the August ballot.

The only elections where Gilbert voters won’t get to weigh in on until November involve a few state Senate races. Two Republicans are facing off in District 12, which covers most of the town. In LD 17, which covers a slice of Gilbert, only one Democrat and one Republican have filed.

For Gilbert Town Council, seven candidates – including three incumbents – are vying for four seats. To win outright in August, a candidate would have to exceed a certain percentage of the total vote.

Gilbert Town Council members are elected at large and serve four-year terms with no term limits. Seats held by Eddie Cook, Victor Petersen, Brigitte Peterson and Jordan Ray are up for election this year.

The candidates:

James Candland, who served seven months on the Town Council after being appointed to a vacant seat in 2016. Small-business owner, endorsed by numerous conservative political figures.  Website:

Eddie Cook, first elected to council 2011. Active in Republican politics, has focused on long-range planning as council member. Has worked for numerous high-tech corporations. Website:

Jason Cvancara, former vice chairman of the Gilbert Human Relations Commission with a law-enforcement background. Website stresses public safety, low taxes and “family and faith” as key campaign issues. Website:

Barbara Guy, who presents a long resume of involvement in community and professional groups. Website:

Brigette Peterson, incumbent seeking second term. She served on the Gilbert Planning Commission for more than 14 years before joining the Town Council and has served in numerous other community organizations. Website:

Jordan Ray, incumbent, first elected 2011. Owner of CREWLegal, a litigation technology company based in Gilbert. Volunteer activities include teaching English to Spanish-speaking residents. Website:

Aimee Rigler. Her website stresses strong belief in free enterprise, private property rights and “rational regulations.” Website:

At the legislative level, Arizona is about to find out whether the red sea that flooded the state Capitol this spring will erode Republican domination of the Legislature.

The RedforEd movement, in which striking teachers shut down schools across the state for six days, did succeed in wringing a 19 percent teacher pay raise from the Republican-dominated Legislature.

But many teacher demands, such as raises for support staff, smaller class sizes and hiring more school counselors, remain unfulfilled, suggesting that education will be back on the front burner when the new Legislature begins work in January.

Of course, it’s the rare candidate who doesn’t profess support for education. They generally also like Mom and apple pie.

But teachers and parents of kids in public schools showed this spring they’re serious about lifting Arizona from the bottom of the national pile when it comes to education funding. And since it’s Republicans who for years have ruled the Legislature, they could bear the brunt of that ire.

That teacher strikes have moved the needle in “red” states such as Arizona was borne out by an April 12 article in the New York Times, which reported that backlash against Republican budget cuts in Kansas and Oklahoma “spurred Republican-dominated legislatures to enact taxes that would have been unimaginable a few years ago.”

While most Arizona legislative candidate websites have avoided direct comment on RedforEd, some have addressed it.

For example, Nick Myers, a Queen Creek Republican seeking a House seat from District 12, strongly criticized the movement, to the point of calling it illegal. He proposed a deeper look at why education in Arizona is struggling.

District 12 Democratic candidate Joe Bisaccia did not mention RedforEd directly.

But said on his website, “I stand with public schools in Gilbert and Queen Creek, with giving teachers well-deserved raises, and against voucher expansion. … Our representatives have eviscerated our public education system. It’s time to fix this once and for all.”

Regardless of how education plays in the campaign, the East Valley stands to lose some legislative clout as two powerful lawmakers bow out because of term limits.

Sen. Steve Yarbrough and J.D. Mesnard, both of whom are Chandler Republicans, have served as Senate president and House speaker, respectively. They have represented District 17, which covers most of Chandler and a small slice of northwest Gilbert.

Yarbrough is leaving the Legislature after 16 years – four terms in each the House and Senate. Mesnard is a candidate to replace Yarbrough as District 17 senator.

Here is a look at the primary election candidates for the two districts covering Gilbert who filed campaign papers before the May 30 deadline.

Quotations are taken from candidate websites, information provided by the Arizona Secretary of State’s office and published media reports.

There are two House seats and one Senate seat up for election.


Elizabeth Brown, Gilbert Democrat.  “I am running for the state Senate because being ranked 48th in K-12 education, 49th in pupil-teacher ratio and 50th in teacher pay is a travesty, an embarrassment and is unacceptable for the people of this state.” Website:

Eddie Farnsworth, Gilbert Republican. Current member of Arizona House. Website lays out conservative platform on government finances, school choice, border security, property rights and guns.  Website:

Jimmy Lindblom, Gilbert Republican. Current member, Maricopa County Planning and Zoning Commission.

“Pro-life Republican with a record of fighting to protect families, the unborn and the vulnerable. … strong supporter of the Second Amendment and a fiscal conservative.” Website:


Joe Bisaccia, Gilbert Democrat. “Fighting to restore public education funding, pay our teachers a living wage, increase access to quality healthcare for every Arizonan, and to protect your rights to vote and for citizen initiative. He will also fight to restore the rights of cities and towns to pass their own laws.” Website:

Travis Grantham,  Gilbert Republican incumbent. Vice president, International Air Response Inc., based at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. Website stresses “unique background relating to aviation, world events, and sound conservative business policy.” Website:

Nick Myers, Queen Creek Republican. Background in information technology; advocates limited government with transparency and stricter term limits. “Strong believer of family values and educational choice.”    Website:

Warren Petersen, Gilbert Republican, currently serving in Senate. “I have protected the rights of parents to choose the best education options for their children.  Since I have been elected, the Legislature has increased education funding by hundreds of millions of dollars.” Website:

Lynsey Robinson, Queen Creek Democrat. “Lynsey fully understands that public schools are underfunded and teachers are underpaid. … She believes charter schools have a place in our communities, but transparency and accountability are essential to protect our children and the community.” Website:

D.J. Rothans, Gilbert Democrat. Previously ran for House in 2014; was unopposed in Democratic primary. Website focuses on education funding, environmental quality and equal rights. Website:

Blake Sacha, Gilbert Republican. Degrees in chemical engineering, education; industrial background. “With proper reinvestment in public education and keeping Arizona economically competitive we can create an economy that works for everyone.” Website:


Nora Ellen, Chandler Republican. Chandler City Council member since 2013. “The sanctity of life, protecting the unborn and strong family values are important for our future. I also believe it is vital that we safeguard the freedoms laid out in the Constitution.” Website:

Jennifer Pawlik, Chandler Democrat. Served as co-chair of the successful Yes for Chandler Students! override committee in Chandler and has been active in numerous other pro-education political campaigns and organizations.  Website:

Jeff Weninger, Chandler Republican incumbent. “Jeff has demonstrated his ability to lead on critical issues, including regulatory reform, the creation of a business-friendly economy, access to capital for small businesses, and investment in our education system.” Website:

Julie Willoughby, Chandler Republican. “Julie believes families should have the right to choose which school their child attends. Choice creates an environment of healthy competition and raises the educational bar.” Website:


J.D. Mesnard, Chandler Republican. After an eight-year stint in the House he now seeks the seat being vacated by Yarbrough. Background includes founding Voices of the World, a non-profit Christian charity whose mission includes providing humanitarian aid to the poor and destitute of the world. Website:

Steve Weichert, Chandler Democrat.  “Politicians on both sides of the aisle have become so faithful to party, they’ve become blind to working together for the good of their constituents. We need more bipartisanship … if we’re going to solve the very real challenges we face.” Website: