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Arizona city that employed fallen fire crew choosing mayor

PRESCOTT, Ariz. -- Residents of the Arizona city that employed 19 firefighters killed in the line of duty are choosing their next mayor, and the benefits given to the men's families have been a factor in the race.

Former Prescott city Councilwoman Lindsay Bell is challenging Marlin Kuykendall, who is seeking a third, consecutive term in office.

Voters should know the winner of the mayoral race soon after Tuesday's deadline to turn in ballots in the mail-in primary. The election also features three open city council seats that might not be settled before November's general election.

The deaths of the Granite Mountain Hotshots on June 30 added to the list of campaign issues that include water, the economy and open space. Kuykendall's response to providing equal benefits to the families of the 13 seasonal workers and the six full-time workers has been both criticized and commended.

The city said it is illegal to extend health benefits and the men's salaries to the seasonal employees' families -- a stance that has outraged some of the firefighters' widows. The women have said all of the men's families deserve full benefits because each put their lives at risk in the same manner.

More than 26,000 people are registered to vote in the election that the candidates themselves say will be close because of the benefits controversy.

"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 Monday evening. The city's primary election in 2011, in which Kuykendall garnered more than 50 percent of the vote, had a 48 percent turnout.

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