Oh, come on, now. As reported Thursday by the Tribune’s Ryan Gabrielson, the three incumbents seeking re-election to the Scottsdale City Council would have voters believe one of two unlikely scenarios:
--That their campaign workers decided to challenge the nominating petition signatures of first-time council candidate Nan Nesvig without telling their bosses, the incumbents themselves. This prompted the candidates to meet Wednesday to agree to pay the costs of the challenge once they — surprise! — learned of their underlings’ doings, or
--That these same campaigners began the challenge — setting up a front man, Karl Kulich, as the name on it — with their respective candidates’ prior approval.
This would call into question last week's denials by incumbents Wayne Ecton, Bob Littlefield and Kevin Osterman to Gabrielson — who asked them point-blank whether they were involved in the Nesvig challenge or knew who was — that they knew any details about it.
So which is it, councilmen?
If it’s the first scenario, then the incumbents certainly have no serious control over their campaigns, who felt free to embark on something as significant — although not untoward — as challenging Nesvig’s signatures on their own, and let their bosses read about it in the Tribune. If it’s the second, then the incumbents are trying to blow smoke over what would have been their earlier involvement by offering to pay the challenge’s costs now.
What perplexes us almost as much about this situation is that there’s nothing wrong, morally, legally, even politically, with a forthright, identified challenge to an opponent’s signatures. Heck, if it’s considered above board to question, in the heat of a campaign, an opponent’s right to even hold office, it stands to reason that questioning whether he or she is legally qualified to be on the ballot is fairly small potatoes.
Yes, challenging an opponent’s signatures could seem to some voters to be a bit squirrely. But a candidate who feels secure about his or her own signature total has every right to run only against opponents who have themselves secured enough required signatures. To otherwise appear on a ballot could possibly elevate into public office someone who was not ever properly nominated to run.
Since there's nothing untoward about this kind of challenge, we are stupefied at why the incumbents played either hide-the-ball or hands-off-the-reins. Either could undermine voters' confidence in them on Election Day.