Scottsdale Councilman Jim Lane will challenge Mayor Mary Manross to hold the city’s highest-elected office, a race both candidates say will offer voters a distinct choice in selecting the city’s next mayor.
Lane announced his candidacy Monday at City Hall in front of more than 50 friends and family, political consultants, City Council candidates, city activists and other observers.
It’s a race that pits a recognizable face in Manross, who has been on the council since 1992, against a relative newcomer in Lane, who is finishing up his first term.
Lane is talking about what he sees as Manross’ shortcomings, such as losing the Phoenix Coyotes and failing to secure a long-term agreement with Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction. He also characterizes the city government as secretive and unresponsive to the public.
Manross is running a campaign that focuses on what she sees are her accomplishments and the overall attitude that the city is on the right track on all fronts. Manross is undefeated in city elections and her political career spans nearly 16 years. The two-term mayor also served two terms on the City Council.
“While Mayor Manross has worked hard and means well, Scottsdale has not moved forward as much as we could have during the mayor’s watch,” Lane told the crowd. “Other Valley cities have made significant progress at our expense.”
But Manross, whose slogan for the 2008 race is “It’s a Bright New Day in Scottsdale,” said things are well in the city.
“He’s got to be quite out of touch if he’s saying we’re not moving forward in Scottsdale,” said Manross, who declared her candidacy late last year. “That’s not factual at all and he obviously hasn’t been paying attention.”
Jason Rose, a Scottsdale-based political consultant, said that while Scottsdale is a fairly conservative electorate, it wants a progressive mayor willing to spend money on mountains and the arts.
“Is Mary Manross vulnerable? The answer to that question is ‘yes,’” Rose said. “Is Jim Lane the person to defeat her? The answer to that question is unknown.”
For the first time, the non-partisan race will be held in September — the same day as the Republican and Democratic primaries.
Political observers say the Sept. 2 election date is a dynamic that cannot be ignored.
Manross is a registered Democrat, while Lane is a registered Republican in a city with a heavy Republican registration advantage. “This is the first time where partisan politics may rear its head in non-partisan races,” Scottsdale-Area Chamber of Commerce president Rick Kidder said. “That changes the dynamic of the election and it will necessitate a working of one’s base that will be different than what we have seen in the past.”
Both Manross and Lane have been supportive of the new downtown development. Both supported further restrictions on the city’s strip clubs, which was overturned by voters. Both say they want to complete the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and both voted to join Valley Metro Rail to further study light rail extensions on north-south corridors.
But there have been differences. Manross supported the roughly $80 million agreement with the Arizona State University — closer to $120 million with interest — to construct SkySong on the former Los Arcos Mall site. She also supported a five-year, $1.5 million marketing subsidy for the Motor Mile auto dealerships. Lane opposed both.
Over the past year, Manross was able to secure a council majority to approve the city budget — which included up to 11 percent raises for all employees — and prevent a written job performance evaluation from being produced for the four top city officials. Lane opposed the budget and supported the written evaluation.
Lane said during his candidacy speech that his priorities would be making city government more open and responsive, empowering residents and businesses to have greater input on critical issues, bringing forward traffic solutions and ensuring budget and tax issues are understandable and better disclosed to the public.
During his speech, he praised the Scottsdale Cultural Council and Scottsdale Charros, which run Scottsdale’s art venues and Scottsdale Stadium, respectively.
Lane’s campaign chairman is Paul Messinger, president of Messinger’s Mortuary and a former councilman and state legislator.
Lane, an accountant and small businessman, was first elected to the City Council in 2004. Manross, a former marriage-preparation instructor, served two terms on the council before being elected mayor in 2000.