Reorganization of state and county political parties is one of the more arcane processes of our political system.
Every two years, new and incumbent precinct committee (PCs) people are elected in August, during the primary. New and incumbent politicians are elected in November. Between the November election and February 1, legislative districts (LDs), then the county political parties, and lastly the state political parties reorganize and elect new officers. (Both the Democrats and Republicans do this.)
Many of the same people volunteer to be PCs, officers, and State Committee representatives. Sometimes there is a bit of drama – like when the Three Sonorans tried to get me to run for county part chair against Jeff Rogers or when the state party bent the rules to elect Andrei Cherny– but generally, there are few real surprises– until now.
On Monday, while the eyes of Tucson were on the TUSD desegregation public forum, a coup took place on the west side. As a representative of Congressman Raul Grijalva read the Congressman's statement in favor of the restoration of Mexican American Studies, anti-Grijalva forces took the chair of LD3 and key positions on the county Executive Committee. Details after the jump.
The new LD3 chair is Luis Gonzales. Gonzales beat the current acting LD chair Caitlin Jensen 27-22. The two new Pima County Democratic Party Executive Committee members from LD3 are Rudy Garcia (who ran unsuccessfully for US senate two years ago) and Cecilia Cruz-Baldenegro (wife of Sal Baldenegro, Sr., who regularly transmits e-mail lengthy blasts railing against the Democratic Party, and the mother-in-law of former Congressional candidate Wenona Benally Baldenegro.) The Gonzales faction also gained a few seats on the Arizona Democratic Party State Committee, which meets quarterly and sets party policies.
Gonzales' name may sound familiar because he served four terms in the Arizona Legislature and ran the city council campaign for "Payday" Joe Flores against Councilwoman Regina Romero (a Grijalva protege) and ran the Congressional campaign for Amanda Aguirre's primary challenge to Grijalva in 2012. (You'll remember that the Pima Dems took a lot of heat for endorsing Romero in the primary and for running a smear campaign against "Payday" Joe for his ties to the payday loan industry. The state party tried to block Grijalva's primary challengers from using party data which would have facilitated walking and calling. Background here.)
You might say that Gonzales, Grijalva, the Baldenegros, and the Pima Dems "have a history" and not necessarily in a good way. (You can read about it here, here, and here.) Flores, Aguirre, and Benally Baldenegro all complained that the Democratic Party either didn't help them enough or actively stood in their way during their primary challlenges against "party darlings". [Just reporting, here, not judging.]
Since it now includes bits of former surrounding LDs, LD3, in the heart of Grijalva's Congressional district, is larger (with 78 PCs), and the district make-up is somewhat different from what it was before redistricting. Several sources report that Gonzales recruited new people– primarily Latinos and Native Americans– to run for PC this year, and this new crop of PCs showed up on Monday night to elect their guy LD chair.
Other LD3 elected officers are: Sami Hamed (former legislative candidate) who moved up from 2nd Vice Chair to 1st Vice Chair; Fernando Felix as 2nd Vice Chair; and Andrew Gardener and Barbara Wright who ran unopposed and retained their old positions as secretary and treasurer, respectively. The LD3 State Committee representatives are: Keith Bagwell, Sal Baldenegro, Donna Branch-Gilby, Pat Burns, Andres Cano, Cecilia Cruz-Baldenegro, Carolina Cruz-Popkin, Eva Dong, Paul Eckerstrom, Isabel Garcia, Maria Garcia, Andrew Gardner, Sally Ann Gonzales, Luis A. Gonzales, Ramon Gonzales, Soaring Hawk, Alma Hernandez, Caitlin Jensen, Hai Laventure, Pamela Lopes, Phil Lopes, Michael Ossipov, Pat Poore, Barbara Tellman, Cecilia Valdez, and Barbara Wright. (A pretty interesting list of personalities.)
How will this west side shake-up play out? Only time will tell, but judging by the players, there will be fireworks… and possibly some changes.