Alison Jones, a Democratic precinct committee person and activist, promises to reach out to progressive community and labor groups that have been shut out the Democratic party, if she is elected Pima County Democratic Party Chairperson.
“If we can collaborate all these groups, we will be a force to be reckoned with,” she said. “We have got to reach out to these marvelous organizations that share our values and want the same things we want,” naming Arizona Ground Game, Labor, Mi Familia Vota, Justice Alliance, Planned Parenthood, YWCA, and AZ Blue 2020. We need to be working with these groups and using the best ideas.”
She announced at the LD9 Democrats meeting on October 23 that she is challenging current Chair Jo Holt, who has held the position since November 2015. The new chair will be elected by precinct committee persons at a mandatory meeting on Saturday, Dec. 15.
Her new plans for the Pima County Democratic Party (PCDP) include:
- Build a bench of future candidates.
- Put a Precinct Committeeman (PC) in every precinct.
- Treat volunteers like royalty at the PCDP headquarters at 4639 E 1st St.
- Create a communications committee to reach out to all PCs by text message, for example, to show up at meetings and protests on short notice.
- Register all PCs on the state Request to Speak system, and start a Speakers bureau for PCs.
- Create a skills database, including bilingual people and tech-savvy people with computer skills.
“Perfection is not required for us to win in 2020,” Jones says. “But vision, tenacity, hard work, leadership, and vision are required.”
Career, education, and activism
Jones is a hydrologist who has been a Senior Associate at Clear Creek Associates in Tucson for 11 years. Most clients are mining companies and typical projects include designing a well or cleaning a contaminated site. She worked for two years as a Hydrogeology Manager for the Tucson Department of Environmental Services. Jones earned a BS in geology/earth science from Louisiana State University and a Master’s in geology/earth science from the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, CO.
She registered to vote on her 18th birthday…as a Republican. That changed and she became a member of MoveOn.org but was inspired to become active in earnest after the 2016 election, “which horrified women of my age.” She briefly announced a run for Congress in Tucson’s CD2 in June 2017 but quickly stepped back.
During the midterm elections, she wrote postcards, made phone calls with the IBEW and organized canvassing every Sunday in September in the Shannon Territory of LD9 (Northwest Tucson including precincts 15, 81, 134, 142, 185, 191, 201 and 213). She recruited people from her own office who had never done anything political and got them involved for Democrats.
She is known for her talk “The Economic Case for Progressivism,” and was recruited to run for party chair after she gave the talk at Democrats of Greater Tucson in May.
Her first act as Chair will be to call a summit of the Democratic legislative districts and all the community outreach groups to compare notes and work together. “Let’s talk about what worked in 2018 and what didn’t,” she says. “Every LD needs to come up with an outreach plan because we really haven’t been collaborating. We know the community groups are working successfully with other LDs and we need to bring them in. There is more overlap than there isn’t.”
Pima county encompasses six LDs: No. 2, 3, 9, 10, and parts of LD11 and LD14. “LD9 is the best possible place to be a Democrat in Arizona. But we need to figure out a way to help red LDs, like LD11,” she says.
Jones said she is “on the same page” as Tamar Rala Kreiswirth, founder of the Arizona Ground Game. “We can’t be fighting internally. We want the same things,” Jones said. She also wants to work with the highly-effective Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (ADLCC), which brought Democratic gains to the state house, and find a way to coordinate with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which funded Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful run for Congress.
“The party should be more involved with organized labor,” Jones added. “They are one of our key partners. Overall Democrats is the party of the middle class, and unions make a strong middle class. We need a middle class that gives poor folks a place to move up to. Right now the middle class falling into the ‘poor’ category.”
She called for building a bench of candidates within Pima County. “We need to make sure we have people running where it makes sense to run. If only a Republican is running for a position, we should absolutely have a Democrat running against them. The Republicans realize the value of putting somebody out there. You can’t let the opposition go unchallenged.”
Jones wants all PC positions filled, “we need to fill in those gaps.” She said PCs should start as soon as possible to get to know their neighborhoods. “You have to be willing to put yourself out there. There more you do it, the more comfortable you are,” she said. “I knocked on the door of a 19-year-old woman. Her father answered the door and said she was in the shower. He said “I’m a Republican but I am voting a straight Democratic ticket.’ He gave me a hug and said ‘these are crazy times.’”
Reaching Latinos and Millennials
At the PCDP headquarters, she wants visiting PCs to be treated like royalty. “I’ve heard that people call in but don’t hear back. When people give you their most valuable thing — the time they have — you have got to treat them well.
She called for creating a skills database, especially listing bilingual volunteers. “I consider reaching out to Latinos to be the low-hanging fruit. They do not vote in numbers as other populations do. I think we need to get out there with Spanish speakers. That’s why Bruce Wheeler was such a great candidate.
“We have to take the longer view — we won’t mobilize them all of them by 2020. We have to make it clear to them what they have to gain by voting. So many of the doors I knocked on, where people said ‘my vote doesn’t count,’ were Latino households.” She said a speaker’s bureau of Spanish-speakers can present talks about democracy in South Tucson.
Talks could cover civics education. “I don’t think a lot of people understand how our republic works. They don’t have a grasp of history. Kids need to understand that they need to protect the Bill of Rights. They need to know what freedom of speech is — kneeling for the national anthem is not disrespect, it’s free speech.”
Jones also wants to get Millennials involved in the Democratic party. “Every professional society struggling with young people not participating. When I was a young person I wasn’t participating in politics, I was struggling to make a living. My job took 100% of my time, and I didn’t have the luxury to participate as I should have. The only reason I can think of why they are not active is they don’t have time — they have children, demanding jobs, and they are exhausted.”
She said she would like to weave in people like 31-year-old Billy Kovacs. “He’s learned a lot and I think we’ll be seeing more of him. This is a part of bench-building.” After Kovacs lost in the primary for Congress in CD2, he worked as political director for David Garcia’s unsuccessful run for Governor.
“I work full time, and there have been other chairs who worked full time,” she said. “What convinced me to run for chair is that I have a lot of support. I have people who can be my ears and ears at headquarters. There are people willing to be on committees. I have people in organizations like The Arizona Ground Game to be supportive. They convinced me that being chair is doable.”