Murphy Issues Challenge To White

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Mayoral candidates Ken Murphy and Jim White can't wait to get back at it, while town council foes Kenny Knapp and Robert Henley would rather face anybody besides one another.

With the final 77 disputed or questionable ballots now counted, the final primary election tally confirmed that only Judy Buettner and Dick Reese escaped the run-off election scheduled for May 21 by winning outright majorities. Buettner led all candidates by garnering 1,958 votes, while Reese was just 18 votes behind with 1,940.

Council candidates Andy Kaiser (1,445 votes) and John Wilson (1,074 votes) were eliminated.

A total of 3673 ballots were cast in the election, representing a turnout of 41.5 percent of the registered voters. That means 1837 votes were required to avoid a run-off.

For White and Murphy, it's back to work. Both candidates are vowing to stick to the issues.

"I'm a little disappointed with the turnout," said White, who got a total 1,660 votes, 46.6 percent of the total cast. "After 1,200 voted early, I thought we'd have a higher turnout. I look forward to talking about the issues only, and what I can do for Payson as mayor. I've just learned that we may have deeper problems with state revenue sharing than we previously thought, so it's going to take somebody with a lot of experience to help the town get through this."

Murphy, whose final tally was 1,318 votes for a 37-percent share, also vowed to stick to the issues and he leveled a challenge at his opponent:

"I challenge Mr. White to debate me at any time and any place to discuss the issues," he said. "It's the issues that are important to the voters."

But White's comments about firing the town manager, police chief, town attorney and other town officials if elected are fair game, according to Murphy.

"Statements he made during the campaign are issues," he said. "This isn't mudslinging and this isn't about his personal life; these are statements he made during the campaign that relate to the town."

White denies making the statements to Gila County District 1 Supervisor Ron Christensen and others.

Meanwhile, the two town council candidates facing a run-off would rather it not be against one another. Kenny Knapp and Robert Henley were both supported by the Citizens Awareness Committee and say they agree on a majority of the issues.

Knapp, who finished with 1,808 votes just 29 short of the majority he needed to avoid a run-off, attributed what many considered a surprisingly strong showing to a door-to-door grassroots effort to speak personally to as many voters as possible.

"For 12 straight days, four to five hours a day, my wife and I went door to door," Knapp said. "We did the whole west side of the Beeline, and others did other areas for me."

Knapp, who is taking a couple of weeks off, said a run-off against Henley will be tough.

"He's the last guy I want to face. He believes so much like I do."

Henley also wants to take some time off.

"I told Kenny I'm taking my signs down, and I'm not even thinking about cranking this thing back up for a while.

He thinks he and Knapp will agree on some joint appearances that will give voters a chance to compare them side by side.

"We'll find some ways to do some public things together radio shows, debates, things like that," he said.

Top vote getter

Buettner said she was surprised to end up the top vote getter, and talked about the need for a council that works together.

"I really hope the council will be cohesive," she said. "I don't mean we have to vote in one direction. But we need to be balanced, and even if we have differences we need to have a dialogue. We have to be a team."

Reese talked of the need to erase the negative image the public has of politicians.

"People who depend on us have reason to be suspicious of politicians," he said. "I understand that; I've been one of them. Now it's time for me to help convert that to a feeling, ever stronger, that you really can trust politicians. That will take communication and consistent expressions of the truth."

The late ballots narrowed the margin of defeat of the bond issue for street improvements from 32 votes to 29 votes. Proposition 300, commonly referred to as home rule, passed easily with 74 percent of the vote. Proposition 301, which would have required fire sprinklers in certain structures, was defeated by a solid two to one margin.

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