By Brigham Tomco for Deseret News
As one of only five Republican mayors in America running a major city of over half a million residents, Giles has forged his own trail, walking a line between fiscal responsibility and ambitious public investment, all while navigating the needs of a diversifying and politically polarized population.
Giles has faced recent criticism for his willingness to cross party lines
in support of local Democratic candidates as well as COVID-19 stimulus bills and an ordinance balancing LGBTQ rights and religious freedom protections. But Giles believes he’s disrupting traditional partisan strictures in pursuit of a pragmatism and pluralism that’s defined Mesa since its founding.
“I think it’s important to remind people that we need to prioritize the good of our state and our nation over partisan politics,” Giles says.
Leading up to the 2022 midterm elections, Giles believes that’s what he did, publicly endorsing Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly and the Democratic nominee for Arizona governor, Katie Hobbs, over their Republican challengers.
As a result, Giles was censured by the Maricopa Republican Party, joining fellow Latter-day Saint Rusty Bowers, former speaker of the Arizona state House, who also represented Mesa. Bowers was censured by the Arizona GOP in July after testifying before the U.S. House Jan. 6 committee about his refusal to interfere with Arizona’s certification of the 2020 presidential election results.
In a statement announcing Giles’ censure, the chairwoman of the Maricopa County Republican Committee, Mickie Niland, said, “We do not see how Mayor Giles can support both Sen. Mark Kelly and our Republican principles. His endorsement makes it clear where he stands.”
But while some believe his actions suggest he’s leaving the Republican Party; others say he’s leading it.
Leaving or leading?
Identifying as “a Republican in the spirit of Ronald Reagan,” Giles says the Republican Party has left him — not the other way around — and that he feels compelled to vote for the best candidate, the one most willing to tackle tough problems and make needed compromises, regardless of the “D” or “R” standing by their name.
Despite the discord and disagreement that are part and parcel of local government, Giles is thankful to serve the desert city he has always called home, and he hopes to continue contributing to Mesa’s legacy as a place of flourishing industry and pluralism. A place where a Republican and Democrat can disagree and still be neighbors, working toward common aims.
To kick off his final two years in office, the mayor will be the concluding speaker at the Jan. 5 inauguration of Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs. His remarks will be entitled “An Arizona for Everyone.”