Pamela Powers Hannley, a progressive voice for Arizona
Saturday, January 26, was a day of surprises– a bad day for incumbent Democratic Party officers but a good day for activists and young Democrats. It was the culmination of the Arizona Democratic Party’s (ADP) statewide reorganization, which began with the election of new precinct committee (PC) persons in August.
These last two years have been somewhat tumultuous for the ADP, after the stormy election and eventual resignation of Andrei Cherny (of No Labels fame) as party chair. Both the county and state parties came under fire from candidates and activists for playing favorites, endorsing candidates before the primary election, and, sometimes, and actively working for or against certain Democratic candidates. As a result, many unhappy campers grumbled on Facebook, on the blogs, and in person, and some even protested the headquarters in Phoenix. Multiple groups— including progressives— used the past few months to gain power in the local party structure– with an eye on Saturday’s state committee meeting.
On Saturday, 400+ elected precinct committee people elected the chair, eight vice chairs (four of each gender from different counties), a secretary, a treasurer, a DNC representative, an education coordinator, and an affirmative action moderator.
The first upset victory of the day was for first vice chair. Former Carmona campaign manager and long-time activist Alexis Tameron beat three-term vice chair Harriet Young handily.
Even though he couldn’t attend the meeting due to open heart surgery, Tucsonan Bill Roe ran uncontested as chair of the party, a post he assumed in March 2012 after Cherny’s resignation to run for Congress. Other uncontested races (which also resulted in election by acclamation) were: Jim Walsh (Pinal County), senior vice chair; Rick McGuire (Maricopa County), treasurer; Janie Hydrick (Maricopa County), educational chair; and C.J. Carenza (Maricopa County), affirmation action moderator.
The vice chair positions were hotly contested– with 10 people vying for six positions– and the fields included many new faces. Recruitment and grassroots activism were common themes that ran through all of the speeches given by winning candidates. Tameron and Emily Verdugo of Pinal County– both young Latinas– want to reach out to young Democrats and Latinos to bring new blood into the party. Barbara Tellman, long-time Pima County volunteer, said she was “infuriated by the Arizona Legislature” and wants to court disenchanted Republicans and people who identify with no party.
Both Verdugo and Lauren Kuby of Maricopa County emphasized thinking and reaching outside the box. As she walked up and down aisles to deliver her speech, Verdugo said she doesn’t follow the rules and talked about better marketing and outreach to multiple groups. Kuby emphasized her role in making Tempe blue and offered several specific, creative recruitment and fundraising ideas that she employed locally as examples of what could be done statewide.
PDA Tucson coordinator and former state legislator Phil Lopes; tireless Pima County organizer and former legislative district chair Matt Kopec; and union supporter and radio personality Roman Ulman of Maricopa won the three vice chairmen posts. Long-time party officer Jim Woodbrey, who has a political resume dating back to the Kennedy administration, won the least number of votes, while twenty-something Kopec won the most votes.
“We must stop being timid and risk averse,” Lopes told the PCs in his speech. “We must back candidates that reflect Democratic values”– like clean elections and stopping the influence of money on politics. Urging the party and the PCs to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, Lopes said Democrats must separate our party from the other party because too many people think the parties are the same, and they’re not. By reflecting our values in our actions and in the candidates we back, people will see that we are different.
The office of secretary was another upset, with incumbent secretary and long-time party official Sharon Thomas losing to Jane McNamara. Although both women were well-qualified and had the English and editing skills to do the job. Saturday was a day for outsiders and local activists– worker bees like McNamara– to win.
The only race that got nasty was for the Arizona representative to the Democratic National Committee (DNC). This is the person who gets to schmooze on the national level on behalf of our state. Former ADP executive director Luis Heredia, who resigned recently, squared off with former vice chair Chris Campas.
As was the case for all other speeches that day, Heredia’s talk focused on his accomplishments and his pride in having served the party as executive director and role in the multiple victories in 2012.
In a move that surprised everyone for its vitriol, Campas trounced Heredia in his speech and tried to tie multiple complaints about the party to Heridia. The extreme negativity was so shocking to the PCs that at one point it sounded like the English Parliament with multiple groaning, booing, and asking him to stop. The negativity didn’t go over well, and Heredia won by a significant majority. Personally, I think that although Heredia should own some of the complaints— so should Cherny and the other members of the ADP board– many of whom are no longer officers because they didn’t run or they lost on Saturday (Young, Woodbrey, Thomas, and Campas).
It’s a whole new ball game, folks. Stay tuned for what happens next.