Prescott picking mayor amid dispute over fallen firefighters' benefitsPosted: Updated:
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) -- An Arizona mayor who angered families of 19 firefighters by saying not all are entitled to full survivors' benefits will learn Tuesday whether that position will cost him his job.
Prescott Mayor Marlin Kuykendall's re-election to a third consecutive term had appeared to be a safe bet. That is until the city said it cannot legally extend full benefits to the families of 13 seasonal Granite Mountain Hotshots who died June 30.
One of the firefighters' widows made emotional public pleas to give the men's families the same benefits as those of the six full-time workers, including health insurance.
Kuykendall faces former Prescott City Councilwoman Lindsay Bell in the primary election that also features three open City Council seats. The mayoral race is expected to be decided Tuesday soon after the ballots are due, but the full makeup of the council might not be known until the November general election.
More than 26,000 people are registered to vote in the election that the candidates themselves say will be close because of the controversy over the benefits.
Kuykendall largely has put off campaigning since the firefighters were killed battling the Yarnell Hill Fire.
"I've been telling people if they're happy with the last four years, they'll be happy with the next two years," Kuykendall said. "Because we still have the same problems, we have the same projects we've been working on, and nothing happens in one term."
Bell said she is optimistic and thinks "it could go either way."
Len Scamardo and Steve Blair are the incumbents on the City Council. They are being joined in the council race by Jean Wilcox, Alan Dubiel, Ellie Laumark and Gregory Lazzell.
About 11,500 ballots, or 44 percent, had been cast as of Tuesday morning. The city's primary election in 2011, in which Kuykendall garnered more than 50 percent of the vote, had a 48 percent turnout.
Residents of Tucson and Phoenix are also voting Tuesday for some City Council seats.
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