Scottsdale city government isn’t the only thing being paralyzed by a pandemic. So are political campaigns. Traditional ways of electioneering and fundraising have been upended. Precise messaging is going to matter more than ever, especially with the contest to be Scottsdale’s next Mayor taking shape. We’ll know on Monday who is in and who is out. That’s when candidate petitions are due.
As a reminder Mayor Jim Lane is ineligible to run again after winning in 2008, 2012 and 2016 due to the city’s term limits provision. Eligible candidates will face off August 4th with the top two vote getters carrying on to the run-off election in November.
For now, we will focus on the three most credible candidates: Virginia Korte, Suzanne Klapp and Bob Littlefield. Rumors abound (and we reserve the right to be wrong) that Lisa Borowsky will not qualify for the ballot. We don’t need rumors to ignore another likely candidate (for now), David Ortega. He is the weirdest and worst aspirant, ever, for Scottsdale’s top slot. Indeed, he got smoked by Mary Manross when he ran before for Mayor in 2004. His record then was bad and has receded since, if that’s possible. With scant support there is little reason to waste copy on the lobbyist for Scottsdale’s worst landlord.
That brings us back to Virginia Korte. All of the top 3 candidates have their strengths. Councilwoman Klapp has a solid record on the City Council and is backed by Mayor Lane. Littlefield is Scottsdale’s Le Pen. He has a constituency but it’s not enough to be Mayor, especially in the upended pandemic political environment. Additionally, he has major political liabilities. According to polling, voters are literally repulsed by the notion of two Littlefields serving on the council at the same time. Bob’s wife Kathy is currently Vice Mayor, where she is doing a commendable job. Additionally, Bob has authenticity problems. When first elected to the City Council way back when he ran as a pro-business candidate to oust the anti-growth George Zraket. Then Bob adopted Zraket-like positions. Bob voted for the towers at the Scottsdale Waterfront before he decided he didn’t like height. And he was infamously for the Desert Discovery Center before seeing the citizens railing against it and joined the bandwagon.
Cue Korte. She has the best resume to ever seek the job of Mayor. Yet, her head-scratching embrace of the appropriately defunct Desert Discovery Center throughout the last political cycle was dumb and defeating. But she has something no one else can claim. And if accentuated properly it could be a game changer.
The greatest thing Scottsdale has ever done was the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Being an early idealist was not politically convenient. The price tag was staggering. How would property rights be handled? How would it all be managed? What might increased sales taxes do to local business? Voter approval was not a foregone conclusion. Indeed, the authorizing vote was a vigorously contested affair with significant opposition. But there was Korte, alongside the Raus, Carlas, Drinkwaters, Decabooters and many others to forge the vision.
We don’t know if her likely opponents voted in that election, or how they did if so. What we do know is despite a major misstep on the Desert Discovery Center, being a preserve pioneer may help Korte regain her political footing and provide a Trump card no one else can play.
Think of it this way. Golf courses are still open in Scottsdale. Voters may give Korte a mulligan for her political bogey because if it weren’t for people like her no one would have been able to play the sport in the first place.