2022 was mostly a good news story for the Maricopa County Democratic Party. Most of the statewide candidates including Katie Hobbs, Adrian Fontes, Kris Mayes, Kathy Hoffman, and Mark Kelly won the fourth-largest county in the country. Local Legislative District (LD) and philosophically aligned school board candidates performed according to electoral expectations. Perhaps the only depressing result, stemming from a ballot drop off in voter participation from the November elections was Julie Gunnigle losing in a special election for Maricopa County Attorney.
Crediting their Future Leaders of Arizona and Bottoms Up Programs, the leaders of the Maricopa County Democratic Party (Chairperson Nancy Schriber and Executive Director Ne’Lexia Galloway graciously took the time to discuss what worked in 2022 and what steps they will take moving forward toward 2024.
The questions and their responses are below.
- Please describe at least two ways 2022 was a good year for the Maricopa County Democratic Party.
Ne’Lexia Galloway: “I think two things that we did really well, compared to Maricopa County in the past, infrastructure: the infrastructure building between the legislative districts and then also at the county level. Then I would have to say, of course, our programs. I think our programs were really successful in 2022, and I think that a lot of the results that we saw were based on Maricopa County focusing on the programs.
Nancy Schriber: “Our biggest success is building infrastructure across the county with our tireless work with our 20 LDs (legislative districts.) We’ve never really done the kinds of canvassing at the county level. We’ve done a little, but the fact that we bounced around the county and we set up Saturday morning canvases and Wednesday night canvases and Kathy Hoffman would come and kick us off and we had school board candidates and It was great.
I’m a huge door knocker, so all that organizing makes a difference at the doors.
Specifically, what are the names of the programs that worked well in Maricopa County this last cycle?
Ne’Lexia Galloway: “Our programs, Future Leaders of Arizona(FLOA) that recruited and trained school board candidates to run for office, and then also Bottoms Up, which focuses on educating people on voting down the ballot and identifying the issues to the position that is tied to that race. FLOA recruited 19 candidates to run for office. Of the 19, 13 went on to pursue candidacy, and 11 were elected. If I’m doing the math, that would be a passing score. In 2020, we saw 186,000 people not vote down the ballot, which was the key reason we launched Bottoms Up. In 2022, that number was shaved by 100,000 voters.
Is there anything you would like to add before going to question two?
Ne’Lexia Galloway: “I would say all of our candidates made the ballot and obtained all their signatures. I mean, I would even go back to even say now that Nancy mentioned that like getting Julie (Gunnigle) on the ballot (for Maricopa County Attorney) in 21 hours. It has never been done before.”
Nancy Schriber: “It was huge. That was fun too. We were hitting doors in downtown Phoenix, and people were so excited to sign Julie’s petition in person. Then when we loaded the online, I mean, we were done, weren’t we in like 17 hours or something? Every other candidate was so jealous because they were like, do you know how long it took us to get all of our signatures, how many doors we knocked? How many, you know, places we stood with our petitions.”
- Please describe these two areas the party needs to improve based on the 2022 results. Like you said, Julie Gunnigle submitted her petitions in record time, and yet she still didn’t prevail?
Ne’Lexia Galloway: “I would say, yes, absolutely. Julie got on the ballot but we were not successful with that race. I think that it speaks to the amount of financial investment Maricopa County still needs in order to deliver in Countywide elections. I would like to point out that the down-ballot drop-off is still pretty significant. We did close the gap compared to the 2020 year, but there still was an 89,000 vote drop-off. If those people would’ve voted down the ballot, we may be looking at a recount vote in that county attorney’s race. So, I think that still narrowing the gap in educating people on why voting down ballot is so important is one of the most things that we need to improve, and I think it’s going to take all of us to uplift that message on why the counties are so important to our everyday lives.”
Nancy Schriber: “I think we made headway in all of the party’s branches: the ADLCC, the state party, and the county party. We all have our candidates. We have our roles. I think we did a really nice job this cycle working together. I know from the county’s perspective, we worked with Mission for Arizona and it had been bumpy in the past, but this cycle at least in the election piece, they hired incredible election team folks that worked so closely, and I think this would be true across the state, but in Maricopa, they helped us so much. I think we trained over 500 election observers. I know I had like hundreds of hand auditors ready and willing to go. We worked better together. The communication, the doors were open. We didn’t stay in our lanes as tightly as we normally do and that’s certainly true across our LDs as well. I think they did a really nice job of really working together and sharing ideas. We weren’t reinventing the wheel all the time because we’re never going to have as much money as the Republican Party so we have to work together. We have to work smarter.
- Please comment on to what extent the party was successful in programs for local school board candidates
Ne’Lexia Galloway: “I think that we were really successful in our local school board races. I was just telling Nancy last week that I had got the numbers for the East Valley Institute of Technology Board. That was an area of focus for us. We reviewed the data and we said, okay, we’re going to challenge the seats on this board because there are no people that align with democratic values on this board. So we set out and told people these positions were available and we recruited two candidates to run. Both of those candidates won. One of the consultants was telling us that Laura Metcalfe’s district is drawn 60%, plus Republican for her EVIT district, and we won that seat by 30 points for Democrats. I would have to say that speaks to the strength of our programming and it’s like we did that with very minimal resources and funding. Just imagine what we can do on a greater scale if there were financial investments in governing boards and in the board of supervisor seats, the county assessor, and the county attorney seat. In this election cycle, we had enough resources for the governing board grounds that we were covering.”
Both Ladies: “I’ll just add to that because I want this number to be in there. The number of our candidates from Future Leaders of Arizona. We recruited 19. We ended up running 13 and 11 won.
Do you want to single out any one of those 11 winning candidates?
Ne’Lexia Galloway: I’m really excited about the East Valley Institute of Technology seat as that district was very heavily republican. Laura Metcalfe was successful because we were intentional.
Nancy Schriber: “We did more work for school board candidates than we’ve ever done in any cycle. I mean, we worked really hard and they became a really important part of our team. I know they all appreciated it very much. They’ve become county supporters, which is fantastic. We just wish we had more money. We are also happy that Kelly Butler won her seat on the Maricopa Community College Board. She’s been my dear friend since our kids were in preschool together.”
- What are the party’s two operational goals for 2023?
Ne’Lexia Galloway: “Just continue to build infrastructure.”
Nancy Schriber: “This is our building year where we have the Legislative Districts focusing internally and we’re beginning to start thinking about candidates and then people are starting to reach out. It’s starting to happen already, which is interesting.”
Have people started enrolling in the Future Leaders of Arizona Program (FLOA?)
Ne’Lexia Galloway: “We have not officially launched FLOA for this cycle yet. We’ve been outlining all of our goals and objectives and when we need to meet deadlines. We haven’t even got on the calendar when we’re doing the training. Trust me. They’re ready because they’re like when are you doing your program again? I think we even had people that are interested in the West-Mec Board because they want us to do on the west side what we did in the East Valley (with EVIT.) We’ve been recruiting. It gives everyone something to be excited about. We haven’t started but as you may know, Arizona List partnered with us and we have to talk to our partners to see how we move forward because they were very instrumental in our women that were running for office because we had a lot of crossover collaboration. We’re probably looking at early spring.”
- Have you already started to recruit candidates for the next election cycle
Nancy Schriber: “We’re starting to collect names for lists but nothing official. We have ten official county races. We have five supervisors. Then, is it five county positions,
County School Superintendent, Paul (Penzone) at Sheriff, Attorney. Treasurer and three Maricopa County Community College Board seats.
- Is there anything not covered in the first six questions you would like the readers to know about the Maricopa County Democratic Party? Please explain.
Ne’Lexia Galloway: “If you’re considering running for office, reach out. If you would like to invest in the county party: donate and if you want to volunteer, sign up.”
Nancy Schriber: “I hope that people will, reach out to the county, read our website, and learn what we do. We do a lot. We’re the fourth largest county in the nation, and we are 62% of the voting You have to win here in Maricopa if you want to win statewide.”