KINGMAN - The deadline for registration in next spring's City Council elections has come and gone, and according to City Clerk Debbie Francis, each announced candidate has managed to turn in enough signatures to qualify for a spot on the ballot.
Voters in March will be selecting three Councilmembers from a field of five: incumbents Janet Watson and Ray Lyons and newcomers Erin Cochran, Allen Mossberg and Richard Anderson. Voters will also select one of three candidates for mayor: incumbent John Salem, Army veteran Art Jones, and a last-minute addition to the roster, local musician Jason Marino, whose band "The Asphalt" was featured in the Nov. 23 edition of the Miner.
Marino, who filed his election paperwork just one day before the deadline, managed to get 268 signatures on his election petition in just 24 hours, easily meeting the 216-signature requirement to qualify. While he has lamented in the past that his band isn't more well-known locally, Marino said he was still able to draw upon a base of more than 700 local fans, contacting them via the Internet, and getting many of them to register to vote, specifically so they could sign his petition.
While many of his fans are younger people within the 18 to 35 demographic, Marino said he was confident that he had enough qualified signatures to avoid a possible challenge from Salem, should he choose to do so. Petition signatories must be registered voters living within the city limits, and no duplicate signatures are allowed between the three mayoral candidates.
"You could have a situation where someone wasn't being truthful, but that's something I wouldn't expect or even be concerned about at this point," Marino said.
"It's a lot of young people and a lot of professionals from the hospital here. A large majority came from KRMC."
Asked why he chose to run, Marino said his primary goal was to provide residents with a voice on Council. "The candidates always say what they want to do, but it's not about what I want, it's about what the people here want," he said. "Let's ask Mrs. Jones out in the audience what she wants me to do. I mean, I'm only one person."
That said, Marino does have several policy positions of his own he'd like to see happen, namely the transformation of Kingman's downtown business district into a vibrant collection of small, independently owned restaurants, stores and art shops, which he believes could be the change necessary to bring new residents to town. He mentioned Mill Avenue in Tempe as a model for what he'd like to see happen downtown.
"It's an old street, and it used to have an old flour mill there, and they turned it into this wonderful street with coffee shops and art shops, small town markets, places that people flock to," Marino said. "I want to attract out-of-town businesses that want to come here and help really breathe some life into this community."
At age 34, Marino added that it was important to him to give people in his age group a reason to feel proud of the community, which in turn would give them a reason to stay here and help make things even better. "People in my demographic, 18 to 35 years old, they don't tend to have pride in the community when you talk to them," he said. "They have a hard time saying 'Yeah, I love that I live in Kingman,' and I want them to be proud of this community and to get into it. We need culture, we need arts, we need excitement."
Despite his neophyte political status, Marino said he feels confident he can win the election "hands down" by drawing on his social networks and getting the city's youth out to the ballot box. He added that he may clash with some of the older members on Council, but that's fine with him, since he said he's not running for mayor to make friends.
"I'm doing it to make a difference, I'm not doing it so we can all be chummy and have the same opinion and get along," he said. "I want to see the things this town wants, and I want to see them through. I'm not a pushover, I'm a very tough individual."
Marino added that he and others his age feel the city is essentially stuck in a holding pattern right now, and they're ready to see something happen here.
"A lot of people in my demographic are just like 'whatever,' and that's because nothing's really happening, nothing's changing. It's stagnant, and that's hard for people in my demographic to get excited about," Marino said. "People lack vision. And the people that are running this town lack vision. I'm the future, people in my demographic are the future here, and these are the people who should be the visionaries and the ones deciding where this town's going to go."
For his part, Salem said he was excited about getting back into campaign mode. He had nothing but good words for next year's five Council candidates, adding that both the incumbents and the three newcomers were well-versed in the issues.
"I've had the opportunity to work with Janet and Ray and we have a very good relationship," Salem said. "The other candidates are all very conscientious of what's going on in the city, and they all appear to be very informed with regards to city issues."
As for his two mayoral opponents, Salem said the choice for voters was fairly clear: "If the people of Kingman want a professional, hard-working and diligent mayor, then vote for me," he said. "If you want an alternative, well, you have two others."
Asked whether he would consider challenging either of his opponents' petitions, Salem said he hadn't yet made up his mind. Any member of the public has between now and Dec. 23 to submit a challenge to a given candidate's petition, however, the process requires an appeal to Superior Court, with a clear explanation of why the challenger believes the given candidate's signatures are invalid.
According to the city clerk, the last successful challenge to a candidate's petition came in 1998, which resulted in Council candidate Darren K. Morrison's removal from the ballot.
Candidates must obtain between 216 and 433 qualified signatures to qualify for the ballot. The total number of signatures received from each mayoral candidate are as follows: John Salem, 258; Art Jones, 368; Jason Marino, 268. Council candidate signatures were: Janet Watson, 303; Ray Lyons, 259; Richard Anderson, 314; Erin Cochran, 308; Allen Mossberg, 244.