Currently, only one incumbent running for re-election to the Phoenix City Council faces opposition in the Aug. 29 election.
City Council candidate Kevin Patterson has accused incumbent Councilman Sal DiCiccio of trying to bully and intimidate him in the increasingly contentious race for the east Phoenix council seat.
Patterson alleges DiCiccio’s campaign called and emailed Banner Health, where Patterson works as executive development director, to suggest the healthcare provider’s non-profit status could be in jeopardy if Patterson receives special accommodations during the campaign.
Patterson described the episode, which he alleges took place in June, in a Friday news release. He accused DiCiccio of “attempted threats and intimidation.”
“My family, including my two young daughters, are put at risk when my livelihood is threatened in the name of political gamesmanship,” Patterson wrote. “Intimidation in politics is a cowardly manipulation.”
DiCiccio’s campaign on Friday denied any such incident took place.
“Sal has never contacted Banner regarding his City Council campaign,” Campaign Coordinator Nathan Brown said in a news release. “It is disturbing that Kevin Patterson is now trying to draw Banner into a political controversy. But that’s to be expected with an inexperienced candidate like Kevin Patterson…”
Patterson said his employer has always made it clear he must work full-time and that his “political aspirations are to be separate.”
His campaign manager declined to name the person or personsDiCiccio’s campaign allegedlycontacted at Banner Health.
The Arizona Republic requested comment Friday afternoon from Banner Health, but the organization did not immediately respond.
DiCiccio and Patterson are locked in a bitter campaign for the District 6 council seat. The district, which encompasses Ahwatukee Foothills, Arcadia, Biltmore and other parts of east Phoenix, is home to about 180,000 residents.
The contest is shaping up to be a highly partisan fight. DiCiccio, who has served for more than 13 years on the council, is a conservative firebrand. Patterson is a progressive Democrat.
Patterson said the alleged incident with his employer is part of DiCiccio’s “history” of seeking to intimidate others. He cited a recent incident in which Mayor Greg Stanton accused DiCiccio of trying to intimidate city employees from talking to state investigators.
“When I decided to run for City Council, I was warned by others in the community to expect this kind of bullying from my opponent, and yet I did not expect this,” Patterson said in his statement.
In May, Stanton publicly accused DiCiccio of trying to discourage city employees from talking to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office regarding an investigation of Councilman Michael Nowakowski, a close ally of DiCiccio’s.
DiCiccio had demanded the city release the names and disciplinary records of city employees who, according to the city, were interviewed as part of the attorney general’s investigation. In a tweet, which was later deleted, DiCiccio referred to the employees as being “under investigation.”
Phoenix spokeswoman Julie Watters said the three employees are not under investigation and “were interviewed as witnesses to the investigation.”
“It’s a blatantly obvious attempt to intimidate witnesses, make them fearful that their names will be dragged through the mud if they participate in this investigation,” Stanton said of DiCiccio at the time.
DiCiccio fired back, saying the mayor is ”upset because his former chief of staff has been disciplined in the past and is one of the three individuals named by the city manager. That’s why he’s making these types of outlandish claims.”
Four council seats are up for election in Phoenix this summer, but DiCiccio’s race is the only competitive contest. Early voting starts Aug. 2; the election is on Aug. 29.
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