Edit: Tammy Caputi changed her voter registration to Independent in 2018, and this post has been edited to reflect that.
As any politico knows, the election season never really ends: it simply goes on vacation for a few weeks every two years in November. Next year we will be having an election for Mayor of Scottsdale, one that is certain to be a referendum of sorts for Mayor David Ortega. And while we are still far out, at this point it is purely women who are taking on the challenge. So who are they and what are their chances?
First, we should take a moment to assess Mayor Ortega’s performance. Obviously, it will depend on who you ask. Many of the development-hesitant citizens in the area truly appreciate that he has kept his word about strict building standards; many resent that same feature. While his handling of COVID walked a fine line and was well done, that is already in our rear view mirrors. While he had a significant win with the Scottsdale General Plan 2035, to balance that was his miss regarding pushing for a district system. In short, his performance has been mixed.
The opposition comes from two separate buckets: two challengers are growth-supportive members (or recent members) of the city council, and the other a rematch from a long-removed member of the council and who had turned into a political recluse until recently.
In that first bucket sits Linda Milhaven and Tammy Caputi, and their similarities are what potentially hurt their chances. Both have been strong supporters of development in the city, putting them at odds with Mayor Ortega frequently and making them darlings of the development community. While that proclivity to support the development community will almost certainly lead to robust fundraising, the citizenry seems to have moved more towards a growth-hesitant stance. In that growth bucket, Caputi appeals to a younger and more liberal crowd and has a frequent presence around the city. Milhaven may be more behind-the-scenes, but she also does not have the Democrat label tied to her. Also, Democrats in the city could split votes between Ortega and Caputi, as both are former Democrats.
And this leaves us with Lisa Borowsky, the former political outsider who worked her way in with a surprise 2nd place showing in the 2020 Mayoral election. Her campaign had all the hallmarks of one which was going to go down in flames: between a family member recently best known for scandal in the city to a highly unconventional and sometimes gimmicky campaign, it did not appear to be a very serious campaign. But it was, and it came extremely close to being a victorious one. Anyone who has worked in politics will tell you that a candidate’s second campaign is usually better than their first, as they have learned from the lessons of failure. It would be hard to believe that that wouldn’t be the case here. Especially considering how close she came to winning, she may have a strong case to make as to why she has the best chance to win against Ortega.
All in all, this looks a bit like it is lining up like the ‘20 election, where the pro-growth current members of the city council underperformed and the growth-hesitant outsiders took the top two. The main difference is that one of those pro-growth current members is better known to local Democrats and stands to steal some votes from Mayor Ortega. Will that be enough to counter the power of incumbency? That is to be determined, but it would not be hard to envision another run-off between Ortega and Borowsky.