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Republican mayor of Mesa Arizona says he’s standing for democracy with his endorsements

‘That is why today I am joining former President Barack Obama in taking the stage to stand for democracy in Arizona, a state which remains one of the most crucial swing states in the nation’

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Mesa, Arizona, Mayor John Giles.

John Giles is mayor of Mesa, Arizona.

John Giles

American politics would be funny if it wasn’t so sad and dangerous. 

We have been through a disorienting time as a country. There is a deep sense of anxiety and hopelessness fueled and flamed by divisive partisan actors. Many voters have mistakenly put their hopes in candidates who are anxious to fight unseen enemies and ideas they perceive as threats.

That is why today I am joining former President Barack Obama in taking the stage to stand for democracy in Arizona, a state which remains one of the most crucial swing states in the nation. 

Arizona has serious challenges concerning water, education, immigration, housing and transportation infrastructure. We need leaders of substance and integrity to address these challenges. 

We are not alone — Arizona is a microcosm of what is happening nationally. Our collective time and energy is being hijacked by conspiracy theories, lies about stolen elections, and efforts to make voting as difficult as possible. Many candidates, while gifted at inciting fear and anger, offer no workable solutions to our problems. 

Since 2014, I have had the honor of being mayor of Mesa, Arizona, the nation’s 36th-largest city which has the distinction of being one of the most conservative large cities in America. I am also a Republican in the spirit of Ronald Reagan. However, this election cycle, I have endorsed several Democrats or independents because I believe they are the best options we have for our state. 

This doesn’t mean I agree with all their policies and political views. I am supporting candidates who do not pose a threat to democracy and have substantive plans to address the issues our state faces, regardless of the letter by their names.  

As a result, party leaders have censured me and told me I am no longer welcome. Trying to run people out of the party is not a winning strategy. Conservative-leaning people, who aren’t extremists, no longer have a home. And there are a lot of us.

I have appeared in political ads endorsing a candidate from another party. The response, both positive and negative, was overwhelming. My email and social media quickly filled with angry, sometimes ugly, reactions from people who were deeply offended. But, in real life, strangers stopped me and insisted on thanking me for giving voice to the seemingly forgotten concept that party loyalty is less important than protecting our democracy.

I have decided to speak up because Republicans like me have been silent for too long. This corrosive trend in politics cannot continue. I believe people are yearning for reconciliation. 

I ran for a nonpartisan office intentionally because, as we have witnessed, partisan politics is dominated by division and dangerous litmus tests. Cities get work done because we focus on outcomes rather than party labels. The candidates I have endorsed this cycle have helped Mesa revitalize our downtown, bolster our regional airport and strengthen our infrastructure. I cannot endorse election deniers whose values I do not embrace simply out of party loyalty. 

The only thing I fear more than my Republican Party losing in this election is the prospect of this current slate of MAGA candidates winning and enacting lasting damage on the party and nation that I love. They are abandoning Reagan’s vision of a shining city on a hill “teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace.”

By finding a place for problem-solving pragmatists again in both parties, we can restore faith in our government and democracy. Open primaries that involve all voters, including the independent political middle, will avoid elections that force us to choose between two extremes. 

Mistrust and genuine dislike of those with different political views have led to a fractured country. We must do a better job of trying to understand each other and looking for common ground. It’s time to solve problems rather than continue to allow them to be used to divide us. We are, after all, the UNITED States of America. 

John Giles, a Republican, is mayor of Mesa, Ariz.