A compelling -- and long overdue -- mayoral race is shaping up in Scottsdale. Bob Littlefield is finally challenging incumbent Mayor Jim Lane.
The one-time allies diverged over the past eight years, mostly over development issues. Littlefield toyed with challenging Lane four years ago, but a poll he paid for told him it was better to remain a member of the council for two more years than make an early, if principled, exit.
From as philosophical, bystander role, that was too bad. Scottsdale is a Republican stronghold, but that doesn't mean it isn't divided. Half of the city looks to the future; the other half wants to hold on to the past. Each side has succeeded in getting its views represented on the council.
That was in at-large races, where the three top vote getters are elected. There's never been a true head-to-head race between two strong candidates from each camp. Lane vs. Littlefield delivers that.
Both men are conservatives on financial matters, but they differ vehemently over development. Lane is a property-rights libertarian who trusts market forces; Littlefield believes city government should heed neighbors' preferences for what happens on a piece of land. This election is the fork in the road for what Scottsdale will look like in the future.
Lane is the pre-campaign favorite. He has a healthy campaign account. He can run on his accomplishments, including a more diverse economy, completion of a western art museum and a permanent expo center at WestWorld, and, most significantly, virtual completion of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
But don't count Littlefield out. Sure, he's polarizing. But he has advantages. He's articulate, quick with the succinct one-liner. Lane is not. Littefield evokes passion and commitment among the activisits, in the north and south, who share his views. Lane does not.
That's the horse race talk. The more important element of this election will be the debate, the clashing of political philosophies. Scottsdale voters needs this campaign, the ultimate decision of what they want their city to be.