Losing a city council election, as David Smith did in November, did not infringe on his admirable service to Scottsdale. Ironically, it only reinforced it. Running for office takes guts and displays a passion for community unmatched by few.
Smith has served the community he has called home for decades as City Treasurer and as a Councilman, having won a seat in 2014. His wife Diana only adds to the household’s hall of fame status, having served as the long-time Publisher of the Scottsdale Airpark News and was once a candidate for office herself, running unsuccessfully for Mayor in 1996.
But if losing didn’t impugn Smith’s Scottsdale legacy, what he did Friday sure might. He filed a pedantic campaign finance complaint against anti-Desert Discovery Center leader Jason Alexander. It reads more silly than serious and little more than revenge for the person Smith likely believes is to blame for his council loss. You see, Smith was all over the place on the Desert Discovery Center issue that dominated Scottsdale politics in 2017 and 2018. But he ended up alienating a giant grassroots majority that led to landslide victories for Councilwomen Littlefield and Whitehead. And unlike Councilwoman Milhaven who impressively stood her ground in support of the unpopular project, Smith’s approach was too cute by half.
We understand losing is no fun. But to file a specious complaint six months after the loss is kind of sad. We expect more of Smith. He has always been a class act. It is out of character for him to try and damage someone’s future political run, as seems his obvious intent with Alexander. Unbelievably, the Smith complaint raises questions about Alexander expenses, some of which Smith himself undertook during his two council campaigns. This all begs the question if Smith is really paying the attorney who filed the complaint, or is someone else? If that’s the case Smith would be far more guilty of transparency transgressions than the allegations against Alexander. The hypocrisy would be pronounced too for someone like Smith who railed against “dark money” at the local level.
Smith’s complaint bizarrely and unfairly threw a couple of other people into his complaint. Community commentator and 2019 bond campaign co-chairman Mike Norton is among them. But Norton seemingly had as much to do with the details of the Smith complaint as George Zraket, Bill Crawford or Linda Milhaven. Besides, Smith enthusiastically supports passage of the November bond package, like Norton.
This only reinforces the notion that Smith and/or his hidden benefactors are only doing this to harm Alexander’s potential council candidacy in 2020 because Alexander too admirably and well helped erupt a grassroots movement that Smith failed to navigate. He needs a scapegoat to feel better about his performance. And he doesn’t want Alexander to ever occupy a seat on the dais that David once did.
It should be noted Alexander already has paid the City of Scottsdale a fine for a previous complaint about a political action committee he and others used to fight the Desert Discovery Center. He acknowledged the mistakes, understandably chalking them up to challenges anyone political start-up might have navigating Arizona’s byzantine campaign finance laws. The Smith complaint largely rehashes many of these same issues. We’ll leave it to the lawyers and city officials to hash out whether this is double jeopardy, an old fashioned hit or somewhere in between.
But it is all disappointing. Not because we don’t believe in fastidious adherence to election laws, but because the Smith complaint seems not to be guided by such, but other nefarious purposes. Smith’s timing is poor too. Just when the community was coming together to pass a bond package for the first time in two decades, including a unanimous Scottsdale City Council and those on both sides of the Desert Discovery Center matter, Smith seemingly wants to open up a new wound on an old issue.
We all make mistakes. Alexander has already admitted to some. Smith now should admit to his, in part or in whole. He is bigger and better than this.