By: David Gordon
The 2019 Summer Maricopa County Democratic Convention at the Madison Center for the Arts in Phoenix was a fun event that had a little bit of everything. It had:
- All the Democrats running for County Offices in 2020. County Party Chair Steve Slugocki commented to the hundreds of Precinct Committeemen in the auditorium that this is the first time ever that Democrats will be fielding candidates running for every office. The candidates and the offices they are running for are:
- Maricopa County Assessor: Aaron Connor
- Maricopa County Attorney: Julie Gunnigle, Robert J. McWhirter, and Ryan Tait
- Maricopa County Recorder: Adrian Fontes (seeking reelection)
- Maricopa County Sheriff: Paul Penzone (seeking reelection)
- Maricopa County Supervisor District One: Jevin Hodge
- Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools: Jeanne Casteen and Jennifer Samuels
- Maricopa County Treasurer: Dan Toporek
- Representatives from the various Legislative District, Congressional and Advocacy Campaigns. Signs for both the Anita Malik and Hiral Tipirneni Congressional Six campaigns served as a directional instrument to guide everyone to the Art Center entrance. There were current Legislative District Representatives like Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez and Jennifer Pawlik. There were candidates looking to win a seat to the legislature in 2020 like Eric Kurland. Finally, there were representatives of the Outlaw Dirty Money (including Terry Goddard) Initiative and Save Our Schools.
- Guest appearances, through prerecorded videos, from Presidential Candidates Julian Castro (who visited Tempe last month) and Elizabeth Warren (who is coming to Tempe on August 1).
- Actual debate on one of the proposed bylaw changes with regards to when a County Democratic official should resign when running for office. That proposal was tabled until the Winter Convention.
- Informative, moving, and inspiring speeches from:
- County Party Chair Steven Slugocki
- State House Minority Leader Fernandez.
- Maricopa County Democratic Community Director Edder Diaz- Martinez.
- Maricopa County Democratic Second Vice-Chair (and LD 12 Senate Candidate) Lynsey Robinson.
- Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes
- Former Phoenix Mayor and now Congressional District Nine Representative Greg Stanton
- Maricopa County First Vice-Chair Carol Maas
- Stanton staffer and President of Maricopa County Young Democrats Rebecca Dominguez
- Maricopa County Democratic Party Executive Director Maritza Miranda Saenz
The speeches covered a variety of themes all linked to the goals of continuing to build the party foundation and infrastructure from the local level to the state and then federal stages, harnessing voter enthusiasm throughout the coming election season for every elected office, and winning every office in 2020 and beyond.
Chairman Slugocki showed, through a PowerPoint presentation, how the county party (which has representatives from 20 of the 30 state legislative districts (LD’S) has already been planning since January 2019 for 2020. He also illustrated, as mentioned earlier, how Democratic candidates, more energized than ever, have gone from just one at the county level in 2000 to ten in 2020. He also introduced his seven-month-old son to a cheering crowd as the Democratic nominee for Phoenix Mayor in 2060.
Minority Leader Fernandez reminded the audience of the gains Democrats made in local and state elections in 2018. She also said that voters were on the Democrats side on the issues like fully funding public schools, repairing crumbling infrastructure, achieving affordable health care for everyone, and guaranteeing equal pay, equal rights, and protecting the right to vote towards everyone.
Both Edder Diaz-Martinez and Lynsey Robinson gave moving accounts of their experiences as Dreamers while calling for the need to talk to all voters and prepare for the next elections. Ms. Robinson said, “2020 is the best chance to take the majorities in the (State and National) Senate, House, and County offices.”
Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, the man with a voice like a Disc Jockey, told the audience that while national elections are important, the people “need to focus on races that affect everyday lives” like the County ones where the leaders decide on how to regulate the water you drink, the libraries that get built, the air quality of construction sites, the protection and availability of voting ballots and sites, and the selection of local school board members to vacant seats.
Former Phoenix Mayor and Congressional District Nine Representative Greg Stanton, picking up from Recorder Fontes, stating that the future Governors, Senators, and Representatives of Arizona will mostly start as officeholders in local county and legislative positions.
Stanton also went on to criticize Propositions 105 (Light Rail expansion) and Proposition 106 (Debt Management) as Koch Brother inspired ideas designed to cripple infrastructure and the ability to serve the public good, saying “We don’t need the Koch Brothers to tell us how to spend our money. I trust (current Phoenix Mayor) Kate Gallego and the Phoenix City Council.”
He also took a moment to chastise Mr. Trump for his racist tweets, earlier on July 27, attacking renowned Representative Elijah Cummings.
Finally, Representative Stanton contended that “Maricopa County is essential to Democrats winning” and he alluded that it may be the city that determines who wins the Presidency in 2020.
First Vice-Chair Carol Maas followed Stanton and emphasized the need to build the volunteer forces as “they are the backbone of the Democratic Party” because they are the people “that make sure the candidate wins.”
She congratulated the Legislative Districts for recruiting over 300 new P.C.’s since January 2019 bringing the total number of P.C.’s close to 1600. She praised the members of Legislative District 15 for having the most rapid growth of P.C.’s since the 2018 elections.
She finished by saying “Let’s volunteer and let’s win in 2020.”
Stanton staffer and Maricopa County Young Democrats President Rebecca Dominguez emphasized the need for the party to reach out to the disenfranchised, the young, and minorities as well as those who vote on a regular basis. Furthermore, she said that the Democrats “need to earn the voters trust as well as their votes.”
Maricopa County Democratic Party Executive Director Maritza Miranda Saenz gave the last speech of the day emphasizing the theme of “Doing the Right Thing.” She reinforced this by relaying, like Leader Fernandez before, that the people support progressive measures championed by Democrats. She concluded by saying “we need to push Democrats to do the right thing. We must win because current (Republican) leadership has not. We must do the right thing and the Republicans time is up.”
Chairman Slugocki then concluded the convention by saying “Let’s go win in 2020.”
Later, he commented that
“We had a great day filled with hundreds of dedicated activities, inspiring candidates and we were able to show the important work being done every day by MCDP. We know the job ahead is difficult but we are ready to lead the way to victory in 2020 across the county. I’m incredibly proud of the board, all the LD Chairs and the amazing staff of MCDP for putting together this fantastic convention.”
The Speakers at the Maricopa County Convention were right that local races matter and to ignore them is to do so at our own peril. For too long, voters never seemed to consider that who was the local constable or Assessor or member of the local school board could one day become a State Legislator or Governor or Federal Senator or appointed judge (for life.) Republicans realized this a long time ago. In 2018, Democrats by fielding candidates in every state and local race showed that they had learned the lesson.
In 2020, Democrats need to show that they did not forget what they learned over summer break and field candidates in every local, county, state, and national race because, with the devolution of the Republican Party into a White Nativist fringe clique, the nation’s future is at stake.
It is important that people that want an inclusive city or town, state, and county that moves forward and not backward remain engaged and involved, never losing sight of what could happen if they do not.