Democratic Party reorganization: Anti-Grijalva shake-up in LD3


Grijalvaby Pamela Powers Hannley

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 herehere, 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. 






  1. “Yet, for some reason you single me and my family out.”
    You were elected to the EC, so you were named.

    “It is hard for me to understand why the people who complained to you are “mad” that Latinos and Native Americans exercised their constitutional right of becoming involved in the political life of our community. ”
    This is a false assumption. No one complained to me. I covered this meeting because it’s news.

    “…and to ensure that ethnic minority and women’s issues are addressed in the Democrat Platform. I don’t ever read your blog.”
    If you did read my blog, you’d see that I have complained about the lack of diversity on the Pima Dems EC.

    “There is a huge difference, however, between me and the people who left the meeting angry and complained to you.”
    I didn’t talk with any of the people who lost; they didn’t complain to me. Don’t jump to conclusions. My main contact for this article was a Latino.

  2. Hello Pamela,
    I would like to introduce myself to you. I am Cecilia Cruz-Baldenegro. Although we have been at some functions together, such as Jobs with Justice-sponsored events, Occupy Tucson demonstrations, and PDA events, you don’t know me. Yet, for some reason you single me and my family out.

    Let me tell you a little about myself. I have fought discrimination against Mexican Americans, workers, undocumented people, women, children and the elderly all my life. Most recently I have been active in the fight to reinstate Mexican American Studies at TUSD. I was involved in the establishment of Mexican American Studies at the U of A and in the desegregation of TUSD in the ’70s. I come from a union family—my father was a founding member of the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers in Hayden/Winkelman. I literally grew up on the union picket lines. I have fought for workers to have the ability to unionize and strike; for equal pay for equal work; and for decent working and living conditions. I was one of the founding members of the Tucson Women’s Commission. I coached boys soccer (ages 7-17) for ten years in the south and west sides. I have served on many community boards—currently serving on Family Housing Resources, Coalition for Accountability, Integrity, Respect, and Responsibility (C-FAIRR), and the Search Committee for the new Pima Community College Chancellor. In addition to being a community activist I was a public servant for over 30 years.

    Over the forty years that I have been a Democrat, I have been a Voter Registrar for the Democratic Party, and I have worked on many, many Democratic campaigns. My involvement in LD3 goes back to the days when it was District 11 and then District 27. My family and I have worked hard to elect representatives we believed in and who we believed would represent our community. The candidates we have worked for are too many to list here, but they include Luis Gonzales as well as Raul Grijalva (going back to when he ran for school board and county supervisor). During the 2000 and the 2010 re-districting process, I attended meetings of the re-districting commission and spoke in favor of Democratic districts and in favor of protecting Democratic interests.

    I provide you this sketch of myself (and that’s all it is—I could provide much, much more about myself) to make the point that I am more than Salomon R. Baldenegro’s wife and Wenona Benally Baldenegro’s mother-in-law. I am, however, very, very proud of both Salomon and Wenona. The community should also be very proud of them. Just as you do not know me, you do not know them.

    Salomon has worked tirelessly for the rights of all peoples at great cost to himself and his family. Salomon founded the Chicano Movement in Tucson and Southern Arizona, which opened the doors of opportunity for our community, and has stood for the “right-thing to do” for close to fifty years. He has always chosen to do and stand for the right thing instead of what was expedient or popular, or that would be of benefit to him. And for this he is often vilified and lied about, as often from the left, by so-called “progressives,” as from the right.

    Salomon is much more than a civil-rights activist. He taught Catechism, coached youth soccer and Little League and was the President of Western Little League for four terms. He directed one of the most successful youth agencies in the state, helping thousands of families and creating a huge network of professionals and leaders. As an Assistant Dean of Students and professor at the U of A, he touched the lives of thousands of students. Professionals in many fields (teachers, social workers, physicians, judges, entrepreneurs, etc.) whom Salomon mentored can be found throughout Tucson, Arizona, and the country. Salomon was also a newspaper columnist that wrote about many community issues that others shied away from. During the 2000 re-districting process, Salomon was intimately involved in the designing and creation of then-CD7, from which Raul Grijalva was elected. Salomon carried Congressman Grijalva’s water with the re-districting commission, attending and speaking at every single local meeting of the commission. He also spoke in support of other districts to assure that Democratic interests were protected.

    Yet you falsely depict him as a petty person pursuing petty political agendas. For shame!

    Wenona is a very accomplished woman. Wenona grew up in a single-parent household on the Navajo Reservation and went on to earn degrees from ASU (BA), Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government (MA), Harvard Law School (JD), and the UA (LLM-Master’s of Law). Wenona turned down offers from Wall Street and Washington, D.C. firms, choosing to come back to Arizona and put her training to use helping financially struggling families and neighborhoods rise out of poverty and is a leader in fighting attempts to usurp the water rights of the Navajo Nation.

    Wenona has worked on many state and federal Democratic campaigns and served on the 2008 Obama National Tribal Leaders Steering Committee. Wenona inspired many Native Americans, Latinos, and young people to become active in the political process and in the Democratic Party. Wenona knows the value of one’s language and culture being respected and maintained; thus, she and her husband (my son) have been working to reinstate MAS at TUSD.

    During her recent run for Congress, the Arizona and Pima County Democratic Party worked against her despite the fact Wenona’s Primary opponent, Ann Kirkpatrick, received money from ALEC-affiliated people and organizations and consistently voted for ALEC-sponsored legislation, did not support the Dream Act, and supported SB 1070. My husband’s writings that you reference in your blog were his attempt to get the Democratic Party to do right. Although Wenona was endorsed by the National Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) as well as the two Co-Chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (AZ) and Rep. Keith Ellison (MN), the local “progressives” were nowhere to be seen during her campaign.

    You weren’t present at the November 26th LD3 meeting and, therefore, you know absolutely nothing of what happened that evening. Yet, you discredit and disparage the motives of the newly elected Latino, Native American, and Asian American PCs (half of whom are women). How do you presume to ascribe motives to people whom you do not know or know anything about?
    Although Latinos-Native Americans are 60% of LD3, you write that people were “mad” because we chose to be active in our legislative district. You confirm what many of us felt at the November 26th meeting. The animosity toward the new Latino-Native American and Asian American PCs was not subtle. It was obvious that we were not welcome and that we were seen as intruders. There was a lot of eye-rolling and nasty comments made in the background. Whether these were meant for us to hear or not, we heard them.

    It is hard for me to understand why the people who complained to you are “mad” that Latinos and Native Americans exercised their constitutional right of becoming involved in the political life of our community. When white people exercise their rights, they are given the “good citizens award.” But when Latinos and Native Americans do it, we are accused of having ulterior motives, of being divisive and carrying out a conspiracy and a “coup.” Like myself, the new Latino-Native American, and Asian American PCs simply want to have input into the Pima County Democratic Party and its policies and practices.

    You could have posted a blog about a “coup” at the July LD3 meeting, when a person who had no history in LD3 and who was attending an LD3 meeting for the very first time was elected Chair over a minority member who has been a long-time and active member of LD3. It appeared to me and others at that meeting that the newly elected Chair’s nomination and election was prearranged and predetermined. But, of course, you posted no such blog.

    In your blog you say that “some people” told you that Luis Gonzales recruited people to run for PC. I’m sure he did, but I did too (I recruited several, including one from another LD), as did Congressman Raul Grijalva and the Arizona and Pima County Democratic Party. During the election season I saw “shout-outs” for PCs from both Congressman Raul Grijalva and the Pima County Democratic Party. At the last two State Meetings of the Arizona Democratic Party I attended (one in Flagstaff, the other in Tucson), people were urged to run for PC and to recruit people to run for PC, and emphasis was placed on recruiting young people and Latinos and Native Americans to run for PC. The Pima County Democratic Party also encourages (recruits) people to run for PC. Here are some quotes from the website of the Pima County Democratic Party:

    “The PCs are the back bone of the Democratic Party.”

    “There are a number of ways to get involved and become a voice for change. Signing up to volunteer, becoming a precinct committeeperson or making a donation are all ways to ensure that your passion is put to good use.”

    “All LD 3 Democrats are encouraged to join and be active!”

    So, if the Party itself encourages people to run for PC and to recruit people to run for PC, the only problem, it seems, is the ethnicity of the new LD3 PCs.

    When I was nominated by State Representative Sally Gonzales to serve on the Executive Committee, I stated the reasons to those present as to why I wanted to serve as a PC and serve on the Exe. Com.—to serve and represent well the precinct that elected me, to keep in the Party the good philosophy that made me be a Democrat, and to ensure that ethnic minority and women’s issues are addressed in the Democrat Platform.

    I don’t ever read your blog. Someone forwarded it to me, and at first I was not going to respond to your blog. However, when lies and rumors are left unanswered, they have a nasty habit of becoming “truth” to people who don’t think for themselves. There is a huge difference, however, between me and the people who left the meeting angry and complained to you. I am owning my words and making myself available to talk to you and anyone else who is angry about what occurred at the November 26th LD3 meeting. I believe that people who have grievances with each other should discuss matters face to face instead of talking behind people’s backs and spreading rumors and lies. Just as I put my name and face to my comments, I would hope that the people who you say resent my participation (and that of other Latinos and Native Americans and Asian Americans) in LD3 would put their name and face to their dissatisfaction. I’m not holding my breath, however.

    La mentira dura hasta que la verdad llega. Ceci

  3. Ann Kirkpatrick is heavily funded by ALEC and CCA lobbyists. That is why Congressman Grijalva and the Progressive Democrats of America endorsed Wenona Benally Baldenegro for Congress in CD1. Where is the outrage about Kirkpatrick’s ALEC and CCA lobbyist donors?

  4. Ann Kirkpatrick is heavily funded by ALEC and CCA lobbyists. That is why Congressman Grijalva and the Progressive Democrats of America endorsed Wenona Benally Baldenegro for Congress in CD1. Mr. Muratore, if you support ALEC and Kirkpatrick, then SHAME ON YOU.

  5. Exactly. Connections to ALEC or Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) should not be tolerated. “Business friendly” Dems have been warned. Stay away from the evil empire of corporate greed (embodied in these groups) or you will be hounded by blogs like this one.

  6. If you think the City Council is not business friendly enough, then you will be hearing more from BfAZ in the future. I get sick of the “business friendly” whiners, who parade in front of the City Council every time they want the Council to bend the rules in their favor.

  7. I direct my comment to Pamela Powers Hannely. If you were to know who Joe Flores Is, You wound not refer to me as “Payday” Joe. Very disrespectful. This was a derogatory tactic by the Democratic party only to discredit my candidacy. Knowing who Joe Flores is, is to know that he served his community as a pharmacist and business man for over 40 years before creating a new business for his daughter as a check cashing and money transfer business (Western Union). Even though a pay day service was added as well as bill paying, Verizon, Cricket, Boost, Cellular phone services. None of these services we against the law for it’s operation.
    After retiring from my Drug Store business of 40 years in the year 2000, and being Vice President of my neighborhood association, I became more involved with city politics. Seeing so many discrepancies that were happening within the city government, such as Rio Nuevo, and City not being business friendly, I took it upon myself to run for city council, only to bring transparency and accountability within the city government on behalf of it’s taxpayers.
    Luis Gonzales, was my campaign manager, but he was also my schoolmate from Tucson High. I believe I know Luis better than most. He has always been a fighter for the betterment of his fellow man (women). He does not act hastily, but gives deep thoughts before his actions. He runs an honest and truthful campaign and gives it his all. I know that in his new position as LD3 Chair, he will make a difference for the better. We should feel lucky to have a person of his qualifications and integrity to give his services to this district.
    Good Luck and Best Wishes Luis.
    Joe Flores,

  8. I totally agree that there should not be endorsements in the primary. If you look back in my posts, you will see that I have written about this. I also didn’t agree with the treatment that Joe Flores was given. I believe that all Dem candidates should be given a fair shake by the party, and that the people– not party officers– should pick the candidates.

    Although you take issue with my use of the word “coup”, you did admit that you recruited the new PCs and then they elected you. Case closed. I talked with multiple people who attended this meeting, and from all accounts, the room was segregated into factions, and the lines of demarcation were clear. A witness told me that “the people who lost are pretty mad about it”.

    As chair, it is you responsibility to lead them all forward.

  9. Pam,
    I feel the obligation to respond to your commentary. I have been a Democrat all of my life. Throughout my political involvement, there have been occasions where I have not agreed with positions that the Democratic Party (as an institution)has taken and I have always stood up when I believe that the Party has strayed away from what I believe are the core values of the Democratic Party. This does not make me any less of a Democrat. You are correct, As an individual, I have made choices in supporting other than incumbents in contested primaries, I believe that individuals have that right. As an elected official of the Democratic Party, I would never take a position in a Democratic contested primary and I do not think that the Democratic party should either, after all, primary elections are for the purpose of nominating the candidate that will represent the Party in the General election. Obviously, there are others who do not feel as I do.

    My running for Chairman of District three has nothing to do with Congressman Grijalva and everything to do with participation in the Democratic Process. I can assure you that under my leadership the Congressman will be treated fairly, respectfully and equally as any other democratic elected official regardless of my own personal differences.

    Now as a writer,you can spin this LD 3 election as a “coup” and that is your prerogative and your opinion but more of an assumption, the truth is that from where I stand, your assumption is totally misplaced. Every registered Democrat in Pima County can run for PC in their respective jurisdictions and have their voice heard. This is precisely what has happened here. Granted, many were recruited by myself and others. LD 3 is a microcosm of residents of Pima County and its current officers and precinct committee people are a clear reflection of that population. You mention that new PC’s were mostly Mexican American and Native American,( I am not sure what the implication is here so I will not comment on your motives) if they had organized a “coup” as you claim, we would not have the representation we have today. It is worth noting that I nominated Andrew Gardner for Secretary, not because of his ethnicity but because he has done a great job in that position in the past and am confident in his abilities and appreciate his contributions to the Party, the same goes for Barbara White as treasurer, and the rest of the officers. Now, my goal is to help make LD 3 the best in the State, with a policy of inclusion, not exclusion, a policy of fairness, not bias,a policy of transparency, not secrecy,a policy of following our democratic core values of accountability, integrity and fairness. There is no question, there are factions in our party for whatever reasons many of us need to take responsibility for that, myself included. I want to help unite our party, make it stronger, this is why I am getting involved and I will base my participation and arguments in my quest to reach these goals on the principles I mention here. The Democratic party is the party I chose to belong to, I am proud of it, but when I see it moving away from its core values, I intend to stand up and be heard, that is the least I can do. It would behoove all of us in the Democratic Party to work together, to evaluate our Party from within and work to correct our own misgivings, strengthen it where it is weak and reinforce its strengths, and where we find obsolete rules, we need to abolish them. I could go on and on. Let me just close by saying that my intent has never been to take over anything or admonish or cast aspersions on anyone. If we are all in the same boat, we need to row together, yes there will always be disagreements in philosophy, but the goals are the same; President John F. Kennedy once said, ” Let us be strong enough to compromise on issues, but never so weak as to compromise on principles”. I hope that this sheds some clarity on where I stand. Thank you for your kind attention.

  10. Sheesh!! internecine warfare – so to speak – there is little worse for the aspirations of all Hispanics/Mexican-Americans, whatever designation you prefer. “they” – whoever they may be – will be glad to see you kill each other off – politically speaking – so they can have the whole with y’all out of the way!!!

  11. It doesn’t have anything to do with them being Mexican. It has to do with the guy who ran multiple campaigns challenging Grijalva now chairing an LD in his district, and coincidentally, they’re both Mexican.

  12. You failed to mention that both Raul Grijalva and the Progressive Democrats of America endorsed Wenona Benally Baldenegro’s campaign for Congress in CD1.

    All that is happening is that people are engaged in the community, and they are democratically electing their leadership. However, because these people happen to be Mexican-American, you have chosen to characterize this as a “coup” and a “takeover.” Shame on you.

  13. One thing that really hurt both you and Amanda Aguirre in the 2012 election cycle was your ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)– the group that gave our state SB1070 and many other anti-immigrant, anti-worker, and anti-women laws.

    As long as you two (and Luis Gonzales, since he was Aguirre’s campaign manager) have connections with ALEC, the progressives in LD3 will not back you.

  14. yes,
    You hit it right on the Nail,
    we want change! The People in LD3 need and want representation at the state level.
    We need represenatives that will show up for work and vote in our best interest.
    You forgot to mention that I, Maria Garcia ran for State Senate in the last election nor that I finished my late husbands State Senator Jorge Luis Garcia senate term.
    I my have lost the race but my desire to make change is still Bright.