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Firefighter deaths factor into Ariz. mayoral race

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 24, 2013 at 1:05 pm •  Published: August 24, 2013
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"Regardless of whether they said they can do it or not, they could have been more friendly," said Prescott resident Nick Chisum, who will be voting for Bell in the mayor's race. "At least looked at the situation. How can you put a price on life? You really can't."

Kuykendall maintains that the fight by the widow of fallen firefighter Andrew Ashcraft to extend full-time benefits for her family is about money. The criticism of him is not all based in truth, he said, adding it can be "very difficult to turn your cheek to a point when it's really vicious and untrue." Juliann Ashcraft has been the most vocal critic of the city on the issue, giving the debate greater prominence with her national TV interviews and news conferences.

Renee Schultz doesn't blame the mayor for stating that not all the firefighters' families would receive the same benefits. But, she says, "I know our town. I think they are going to turn on the mayor because of his attacks on the widows."

Jean Wilcox, an attorney who is running for a council seat, said the council should be more creative in assessing how it can provide regular benefits for firefighters in the future. At the very least, the council should have told family members that "we're very sorry, and we're trying," she said.

"If it means deferring some road maintenance for a year or two, I don't think people would have a problem with that," she said. "It just depends on whose ox gets gored."

Along with Wilcox, the other candidates in the council race are incumbents Steve Blair and Len Scamardo, and Alan Dubiel, Ellie Laumark and Gregory Lazzell.

Prescott resident Tom Cox would like to see the incumbents retain their seats, saying "they're doing a good job. These people have promoted tourism. It's a well-run town."

Kuykendall, a 79-year-old retiree whose preferred work attire is cowboy boots, jeans and button-up shirt, is a familiar face in Prescott, having lived here for more than 50 years. He has garnered more than 50 percent of the vote in his past two mayoral races. Scamardo, who was appointed to fill a vacancy on the council and is seeking a full term, said he doubts any of the incumbents will run away with the race. He'd rather people vote based on the council's accomplishments in being a cohesive unit that has staved off mass layoffs, maintained basic services and made major strides in securing water.

Scamardo noted that emails from the public are calling city leaders "a bunch of bastards," but he said they wrongly state the city is denying widows basic benefits.

"I think it's going to be very close and certainly it's going to affect the incumbents," he said.