The long campaign to fill three City Council seats, two school district seats and a slew of state positions is headed for a climax Tuesday.
While Scottsdale’s council race is non-partisan, the political affiliations of the candidates are no hidden secret, and that race and others will likely be influenced by Scottsdale’s political makeup, which heavily favors Republican candidates.
There are 70,528 Republican voters, 40,799 Democrats and 55,442 independent voters in Scottsdale, according to active voter totals from the county Recorder.
Despite talk of a “blue wave” propelling Democrats to victories across the country, Phoenix-based pollster Mike Noble, who has not done any specific research on Scottsdale’s electorate, said that all indications show voter turnout for this election will largely mirror historical norms statewide.
“People are drinking the national Kool Aid, but here in Arizona, we are not seeing a blue wave,” Noble said.
Noble also pointed out that teachers running for statewide office have lost momentum as immigration has leap frogged education as the number one issue with voters and the Red for Ed movement loses steam.
That is not good news for candidates like Democrat Eric Kurland, a Scottsdale teacher with support from Red for Ed running for the state House of Representatives against Republican incumbents.
In a recent poll from Noble’s OH Predictive Insights, immigration was the top concern for 37 percent of respondents, compared to 25 percent who selected education.
Noble said this change in priorities is likely associated with headlines related to President Donald Trump’s decision to send the military to the border in reaction to a caravan of refugees, mostly from Honduras, who are heading towards the U.S. and fleeing violence and political instability in their home countries.
The City Council race has become inextricably intertwined with the debate over Proposition 420, and only time will tell if one race affects the other.
Incumbents David Smith and Linda Milhaven are both against Proposition 420.
Incumbent Kathy Littlefield and challengers Solange Whitehead and Bill Crawford all support voting yes on Prop 420.
Despite its prevalence on street corners and social media, Prop 420 is far from the only issue candidates have had to address this election season.
Littlefield began her first term on the council in 2015 and supports conservative fiscal policy, public safety and protecting neighborhoods from harmful development. She said the city should follow the General Plan and only approve modifications or up-zoning if there is a clear benefit to residents.
Milhaven, who had a 30-year career in banking and began serving on the City Council in 2011, is endorsed by Mayor Jim Lane.
She has the support of the development and business communities and believes in keeping property taxes low and supporting the local economy in order to boost tax revenues. She also believes the city needs new general obligation bonds to fund its infrastructure needs.
All candidates have stated that investing in infrastructure repairs needs to be a top priority for the city moving forward.
Smith has worked in financial management, including time spent as chief financial officer with Tennessee Valley Authority, AMTRAK and City of Scottsdale.
He supports conservative fiscal policy and believes the city needs a new General Plan that reflects citizens’ vision for the future. He also said all new development proposals should improve the livability of Scottsdale for current residents and the city’s attractiveness as a tourist destination.
Whitehead is endorsed by the Coalition of Greater Scottsdale and has served on the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commission. She has made preventing development on the McDowell Sonoran Preserve a key issue in her campaign.
She said the city needs to respect its zoning code and that the city needs to ensure that fees paid by developers cover the cost of new infrastructure that is needed to support their developments.
Bill Crawford, a downtown Scottsdale business owner who also has Lane’s endorsement, has a long history of volunteering within Scottsdale and the county. Crawford is a public safety advocate who promotes keeping taxes low. He said the city must find ways to fund its infrastructure needs while maintaining the high quality of life residents enjoy.
SUSD Governing Board
In addition to City Council, Scottsdale voters will also decide who will fill two vacancies on the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board.
With incumbents Pam Kirby and Kim Hartmann both choosing not to run for re-election, the ballot guarantees new blood will sit on the board in 2019.
At first glance, voters do not have much of a choice as two candidates, Patty Beckman and Jann-Michael Greenburg, appear on the ballot. However, former SUSD board member Christine Schild filed late to run as an official write-in candidate.
Beckman is the chief financial officer for a manufacturing company and a former corporate financial consultant. She is also the PTO co-president at Mohave Middle School.
In Q&A with the Progress, Beckman said the two biggest issues facing the district are providing competitive, world-class programs and retaining qualified teachers, staff and administrators.
She also wrote that the board and district need to follow best practices and state law when it comes to procurement and said the board needs to be more transparent and communicative with parents.
Greenburg, 24, is director of legal services for his family’s Scottsdale-based multimedia licensing company, Tresóna Multimedia. He also volunteers with a math club at Yavapai Elementary School.
The Arcadia High School graduate pointed to board accountability and the need to provide diverse, high-quality education as the district’s biggest impending challenges.
Greenburg has been outspoken about the need to restore transparency to the school board.
At a recent board meeting concerning the district’s pending bond projects and the future of Navajo Elementary School, he told the current board that parents “just don’t trust you,” and encouraged board members to share their thoughts and opinions on critical topics with the community before a final vote occurs so that the merits of each idea can be debated in the open.
Schild has painted herself as the only candidate who can hit the ground running, citing her previous experience on the board.
She wrote that the two biggest issues facing the district are the current bond projects and district-wide declining enrollment.
She said the district needs to provide a K-12 program that is attractive to parents and strive for a 100 percent graduation rate.
LD 23 SENATE
Voters in District 23 will also be choosing between a current Republican legislator and two challengers, one democrat and one independent, to fill an open senate seat.
Michelle Ugenti-Rita is a Scottsdale Republican and current member of the Arizona House of Representatives, who has held office since 2011. Her platform includes increased border security, a focus on states’ rights and conservative fiscal policy.
Challenger Daria Lohman, Scottsdale Democrat, is an Army combat veteran with 33 years of experience working in software and cybersecurity engineering.
She served on the Scottsdale Human Rights Commission and her platform includes providing adequate funding for quality public education and affordable healthcare for Arizonans.
If elected, Lohman would be Arizona’s first openly-transgender legislator.
Independent Chris Leone has touted his party outsider status as a key attribute that will help him work with members from both sides of the aisle and said he will find bipartisan solutions to Arizona’s issues. His platform includes securing long term, stable K-12 funding.
LD 23 HOUSE
Fountain Hills Republican John Kavanagh, currently a state senator, is seeking to swap seats with Ugenti-Rita. He was a police officer on the east coast for 20 years and has served as either a representative or senator at the legislature since 2007.
Incumbent Jay Lawrence, a Scottsdale Republican, has been a member of Arizona House of Representatives since 2015. He is an Air Force veteran and a former radio talk show host. His platform includes limited government, secure borders and protecting gun owner rights.
Challenger Eric Kurland, Scottsdale Democrat, is a teacher and former president of Scottsdale’s teachers union. He is one of many educators propelled to the ballot by the Red for Ed movement. Increased funding for public education is a primary platform of his campaign.
LD 24 SENATE
Voters in LD 24 will select a replacement for Katie Hobbs, who is on the statewide ballot as the Democratic candidate for Secretary of State.
Phoenix Democrat Lela Alston is currently serving her fourth term as a representative at the Arizona legislature. She previously served in the Arizona Senate from 1977 to 1995. She was also a teacher in Phoenix for 34 years and has promoted public and higher education throughout her time in the legislature.
Vicki Alger, Scottsdale Republican, supports limited government, fiscal responsibility and school choice. She is the owner of an education research and services company and a research fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif.
LD 24 HOUSE
In the House, LD 24 voters will select replacements for Alston and Ken Clark, who lost out in the Democratic primary.
David Alger is a Scottsdale Republican and military veteran. He supports limited government, fiscal responsibility and school choice.
Democrat Jennifer Longdon is a survivor of a drive-by shooting and an advocate to improve the lives of those with disabilities. She also has worked to combat gun violence. She has served on the Phoenix Mayor’s Commission on Disability Issues, the Phoenix Mayor’s Neighborhood Advisory Council, the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation’s Public Impact Panel and the Arizona Statewide Independent Living Council.
Fellow Democrat Amish ShahHe is an emergency medicine and sports medicine physician. His platform includes universal healthcare and providing permanent appropriate funding for public education.