A few months ago, I raised the question of whether the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce should continue to endorse in city council elections, or find another way to be involved in campaigns.
This week, my bosses, the chamber’s Board of Directors, answered the question: we will not endorse. Instead, we’ll devote our time and energy to talking about issues and sponsoring forums in which voters can see and compare the candidates side by side.
This is a break in tradition for the chamber, which has historically endorsed candidates. It also sets us apart from the Arizona, Phoenix, Mesa, Chandler and Tempe chambers of commerce, which all endorsed candidates in 2014.
It was a relatively easy decision. Our Public Policy Advisory Committee and Executive Committee unanimously recommended that we discontinue endorsing candidates. The full Board of Directors unanimously adopted the new policy on Tuesday. That doesn’t mean we won’t endorse candidates in the future, we’ll just look at it year to year.
They were following the wishes of our members, who in a recent survey overwhelmingly said they would prefer the chamber not take sides in candidate elections.
Why the change?
Essentially, it’s how our members and board answered another question: what’s the best way for the Chamber to be involved in this city election? We’ve decided it’s to talk about the issues that are most important to us and to voters. It’s to discuss the issues vital to this city’s future.
In our view, that means promoting quality development and redevelopment, as well as business-friendly city policies. We will always champion high-capacity transportation and economic and job growth. We strongly support education and the Desert Discovery Center. We advocate community improvements and enhancement to Scottsdale’s high quality of life.
You can expect those issues to be front and center at the forums we’ll host this summer, in partnership with the Scottsdale Independent. We’ll schedule them once we know who is on the ballot. And, please share with me other issues or questions you think we should explore at our forums.
The deadline for turning in signatures is June 1. If everyone who is circulating petitions turns them in, there would be a three-way race for mayor between the incumbent, Jim Lane, and challengers Bob Littlefield and Bill Crawford. Five candidates would run for three council seats: incumbents Virginia Korte, Suzanne Klapp and Guy Phillips, and challengers Dan Schweiker and Tom Giller.
The candidates are also collecting donations to run their campaigns. The chamber will not contribute to any candidates. But board members and staff may — not as representatives of the chamber, but as private individuals. No one gives up their First Amendment rights when they participate with this organization.
The primary is Aug. 30 with any necessary runoff elections on Nov. 8.
It’s going to be an exciting election with passionate debate about Scottsdale’s future. The chamber looks forward to taking part in the conversation and in giving voters information they can use. But this year, that information won’t include an endorsement.
Editor's Note: Mark Hiegel is president and CEO of the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce.