Most candidates in the Scottsdale Council and mayoral elections plan to stay in the race despite unprecedented challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Direction from local, state and federal health officials to practice “social distancing” and avoid unnecessary interactions with groups of people are making it difficult for candidates to host fundraising events and collect the signatures required to make it onto the Aug. 4 primary ballot.
Candidates need at least 1,000 valid signatures by April 6 to be included in the primary.
While candidates in statewide and legislative elections can collect signatures online at apps.azsos.gov/equal, those vying for the city council and mayor’s post must collect signatures in person.
Despite calls for an extension of the deadline, City Clerk Carolyn Jagger said it is unlikely.
“Unfortunately, the deadline is statutory, and the City has no authority to change it,” Jagger wrote candidates last week.
“Further, the election timetable is tight and subsequent actions (candidate challenges, ballot preparation, etc.) is dependent on the City meeting each deadline. Unless the legislature extends it (unlikely) or a court orders it, the deadline is firm,” Jagger added.
The five candidates who officially announced campaigns for mayor told the Progress they have no plans to drop out.
Former Councilman David Ortega, turned in his signatures on March 9.
“Our 22 volunteers gathered signatures for the first-round submittal,” Ortega said.
Councilwoman Suzanne Klapp wrapped up signature collection as well, “so her campaign hasn’t been impacted by the recent events,” said campaign spokesman Kyle Moyer.
Councilwoman Virginia Korte and former council members Bob Littlefield and Lisa Borowsky are confident they will collect signatures.
Korte said the “handshake business” of politics will undoubtedly be changed by social distancing practices.
“As of right now, I am still working toward gathering the necessary petitions,” Korte said. “Although I remain confident we will reach our goal, this no doubt makes it more difficult to do so.”
Korte reached out to supporters via Twitter and an email newsletter on March 20, stating "Because of the COVID-19 crises I am struggling to obtain enough petition signatures to qualify for the ballot to run for mayor of Scottsdale" and asking them to sign petitions and return them through the mail.
Littlefield said the new situation was difficult, stating, “The COVID-19 pandemic is making it harder to collect signatures, but I will adjust and will be fine, certainly not reconsidering my campaign.”
Borowsky said she is “doing well with signature counts.”
“I have enlisted the help of many close friends and associates to gather signatures of those close to them,” Borowsky said. “As a native and lifelong resident, I have a broad network of friends and associates which I am very grateful for during this challenging time.”
Resident Tim Horn, who had filed a statement of interest in the race, told the Progress he is no longer planning to run, though he said the pandemic did not factor into this decision.
Both Korte and Borowsky said their campaigns are taking precautions to ensure proper hygiene.
Borowsky said it includes sending petitions via email to supporters – who can then collect signatures – and encouraging signers to bring their own pens.
There is similar optimism in the council race in which nine candidates are vying for three open seats.
Seven of the nine candidates told the Progress they plan to stay in the race, including Michael Auerbach, Betty Janik, Tom Durham, Bill Crawford, Kevin Maxwell, Tammy Caputi, and John Little.
Councilman Guy Phillips and resident Becca Linnig declined comment.
A handful of those candidates said they had turned in signatures or have enough to qualify.
“As my son said, ‘don’t wait until the last minute to do your homework,’” Janik said. “My signatures are in; I have over 1,500.”
Added Little, a former city manager: “We have completed signature gathering. We have over 1,000 in hand today.”
Durham was still gathering signatures as of March 15.
“I am over the threshold but continue to collect for a safety margin,” Durham said. “Signers are very happy I carry hand sanitizer – at my wife’s suggestion.”
Caputi also said she was confident she had enough signatures and is more focused on the community-wide issues posed by the pandemic.
“I’m grateful for our strong support and fundraising,” Caputi said.
Auerbach said his campaign is following updates from the President and governor and won’t hold any events until more is known.
“Our campaign has been working diligently for months and will submit the petitions required to be on the August 2020 ballot,” Auerbach said.
Maxwell likewise said his campaign had been hard at work collecting signatures prior to the outbreak.
“My campaign was fortunate in we started early, had great community support,” Maxwell said. “Along with a group of unpaid volunteers we have had wonderful conversations with the community. I will be able to submit the required number of signatures on or before the deadline.”
Downtown business owner Crawford said he is close to qualifying.
Even if candidates qualify for the ballot, they will have to contend with how the virus impacts fundraising.
Despite the widespread adoption of online fundraising, many candidates still rely on meet-and-greets to solicit financial support.
Klapp had a big head start on her opponents, according to financial statements filed in January showing her campaign raised over $106,000 by the end of 2019.
Korte started the election cycle with $43,926 and brought in $28,600, according to her campaign’s fourth-quarter financial statement.
The other candidates organized their campaigns after the January filing deadline, so their financials will not be known until April.
Klapp does not have any events planned in the near future.
“She doesn’t have any events on the calendar for the coming two weeks so no changes in scheduling have been made at this point, but of course, the campaign will evaluate as they get closer,” said Moyer.
Korte acknowledged fundraising made it more difficult due to the current climate and she will shift her focus to gathering online donations.
“Fortunately, with the use of technology, we can adjust what would have been in-person meetings to online meetings and through regular communication via social media, we can still stay connected to our community,” Korte said.
Borowsky likewise said the virus has forced a shift in strategy.
“Telephone calls and email campaigning will be key,” Borowsky said. “In-person fundraisers are most certainly on hold.”
Ortega was confident in his campaign’s ability to persist.
“As to the campaign, which I call a ‘cactus roots’ campaign, we have a durable, heat-resistant, solid-core citywide effort, and will be able to go to volunteers (and) donors directly to Elect Dave Ortega Mayor,” he said.
Most council candidates said they had no events scheduled and were confident they would be able to raise funds through online resources and existing supporters.
Janik, however, said she could resort to self-funding, saying four upcoming campaign events were canceled. She said there may be more opportunities to host events as things settle down, but the virus’ effect on the economy could hinder fundraising.
“I feel like I’m in good shape,” Janik said. “I knew I might have to self-finance (and) I’m prepared to do so.”