Political Observations in Scottsdale: If Signs Could Vote

By Ronald Sampson

As a political nerd, I love to read the tea leaves of an election by strolling through the area. You can learn a lot about the dynamics of a race by simply driving around and seeing the street signs in the area. Granted, signs don’t vote, and sometimes an overabundance of street signs is more of an indicator of poorly used campaign funds, but it at least gives you some insight as to who is a player and who may not be.

I’m not a resident of Scottsdale but spent the last few days there for work and leisure and made my way all around the south and middle of the city, and like any good political nerd observed quite a bit.

For instance, in the race for mayor, one would think that it is only a one person race. Dave Ortega, who ran on a shoestring budget in 2020 and was out-signed by most of the other competitors in that race, was the only candidate with visible signs in my travels, and quite a few of them. Clearly he is better funded now than before, and unless his competitors (Lisa Borowsky and Linda Milhaven) are focusing their efforts in the north, with a more friendly audience, one would assume that Ortega is running unopposed.

How about what is likely to be the most expensive race in the area, the Democratic primary in Congressional District 1? If signs voted, Conor O’Callaghan would win with about 80% of the vote. His signs are absolutely everywhere, and I must have seen hundreds of them in my travels (and at north of $20 per, not including rebar and installation, that’s not a small expenditure). One sign for Andrei Cherny was seen, as well several small ones for Andrew Horne, and zero for Amish Shah and Marlene Woods, two of O’Callaghan’s main competitors. Quite surprising. That said, Shah is well known for knocking on doors and talking to voters himself, which is infinitely more effective than a street sign.

An interesting Republican primary for the County Board of Supervisors is underway, with Michelle Ugenti-Rita taking on Thomas Galvin. I did not see any Galvin signs but did see quite a few for Ugenti-Rita, all with a very unusual short and wide orientation. Naturally, hers have a picture of her on there, wise for a politician who does not have a face for radio, so to speak.

For Scottsdale city council, signs were abundant, but not in the ways I would have thought. Frontrunner Tammy Caputi’s signs were everywhere, with the smart message to “Keep Caputi on Council”, reminding voters that she’s an incumbent. Adam Kwasman had a few, as did Jan Dubauskas; those three represent the only strong fundraisers so far. Dubauskas also used portraits, again a wise move for someone who is fetching.

But there are also many signs for “also-rans”, those who haven’t fundraised well at all. I saw numerous signs for Tom Durham, Bob Lettieri, Mason Gates, and Maryann McAllen, none of which had more than a few thousand dollars cash on hand as per the Q1 financial reports. One would hope that they are not devoting a large portion of their funds to signs.

What will it mean in the end? Probably very little. Again, signs don’t vote. But it does give a little insight as to political pressure, campaign dynamics, and priorities. And it’s fun to observe, so there’s that too.