Sparks Fly in Recent Scottsdale Mayoral Debate

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As you almost certainly know, Scottsdale voters will decide on July 30th whether or not to give David Ortega a second term. Former councilmembers Lisa Borowsky and Linda Milhaven are taking him on and attempting to make it to a run-off election in November, and a recent forum demonstrated both that the knives have officially come out, and what specific approaches they both will take in making their case to replace him.

First is Ortega’s approach and demeanor. He has developed the reputation of sometimes being curmudgeonly, of sometimes being combative in communications with other elected officials in the public sphere, and occasionally cutting people off in the council dais when he deems that they are not sticking to the topic at hand.

While his supporters will view it as him fighting for the city, his opponents are using it as an example as to how he doesn’t play well with others. Borowsky used the term “lash out” and Milhaven stressed “collaboration”, both clear digs at Ortega’s sometimes combative style. Ortega would state that his only obligation is to the city of Scottsdale and its people, not to other politicians.

Additionally, the conflagration between Ortega and the Coyotes is clearly an angle that his opponents will attempt to use against him. His opponents charge him with having a contentious relationship with Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo, while Ortega would say that Meruelo’s last-second attempt to move the team to the Scottsdale/Phoenix border was poorly thought out and would be a net negative for residents.

Both candidates, especially Borowsky, are leaning into a slow-growth talking point, much like Ortega did with his 2020 campaign, capitalizing on a lack of a desire for large apartment complexes and the traffic they can bring. While Ortega has somewhat loosened his standards in the last couple years compared to the first couple years and voted in favor of a few large projects, his approach has been significantly slower-growth than his predecessor. Besides, both of his opponents have a track record of having voted in favor of large apartment complexes in the past, so this criticism seems to be more grasping at straws rather than a legitimate gripe and point of differentiation.

While Ortega has earned legitimate criticism as to how effectively he can work with people he disagrees with, is that enough to change course after a four year term which has largely been positive? Voters will ultimately dictate that, but ultimately, the main question about this upcoming election isn’t whether Ortega will be in first place, but instead if he will be able to avoid a run-off election and instead win outright on July 30th.