BACKGROUND Two weeks ago the state committee of the Democratic Party met and voted out incumbent chair Don Bivens in favor of Paul Eckerstrom, who seemingly popped up from nowhere. In my opinion, Bivens did a pretty good job, outfundraising the Republicans and helping to better organize the party. And we did have an uphill fight this year, with proposition 102 (Gay Marriage) bringing out the Republican base and with John McCain at the top of the ticket.
Nonetheless we did lose legislative seats and from my perspective it seemed like we were more worried about not losing than we were about winning; there was no clear message articulated about why voters should vote for our candidates. Also, the state party seemed at times disorganized. We ran a write-in candidate in the September primary for the state Senate after the Republican incumbent died and a staunch conservative was appointed to replace him. We did our part, and got the write-in enough votes to appear on the November ballot. But then the state party was late or non-existent in support of his campaign, and this is a district where Democrats can win. S
o as such, I was open to looking for new leadership even though I felt that Bivens deserved to be re-elected. Eckerstrom gave a resounding speech after being nominated from the floor at the state committee meeting, and he ran a good campaign that day. For example he got his stuff out on the seats. Of course Bivens probably came that morning expecting to be re-elected by acclaimation, but he had nothing out there. People read what is on their seats while waiting for the meeting to start and if they have no other information about the candidates, as many of the first time members did not, they tend to vote based on what they see on the seats. Bivens had sent out an email but people usually get emails when they have a bunch of others to read, in sharp contrast to the sometimes long waits they endure while sitting in the meeting.
What Eckerstrom said that got my vote (and probably many others) was that he favored a more focused message that concentrated on articulating what we stand for, and also that he favors the creation of a think tank in the state (which the Republicans already have, the Goldwater Institute.) He also said that he believes that the Colorado model for turning the state blue could and should be replicated in Arizona, and I also have said that myself in the past. It took me less than twenty-four hours to regret that vote, when I read the Sunday Arizona Republic and Eckerstrom was quoted as saying he had 'no intention of winning.' ?? If he didn't intend to win, then why did he run? In a group of six hundred voters, it's safe to say that if you get nominated for a position then you might, **gasp** win!
As such, I was personally disappointed but hardly surprised when Eckerstrom sent the members of the state committee an email indicating that he is resigning after two weeks on the job. He said that he did not realize the time commitment that a state chair has to put in (there is no excuse for being surprised by that. Even I know that, which is one reason why I have no intention of ever seeking any level of state party office.) I tried to respond but apparently his email is not set to accept responses. So, I am rephrasing my reply as an open letter:
AN OPEN LETTER TO PAUL ECKERSTROM:
Unlike many of those who voted for you, I had a very difficult time deciding to do so because I felt that Don Bivens has done as good a job as anyone could have done under the circumstances (people tend to forget that we are still fighting against what amounts to a Republican legislative gerrymander that the officially 'nonpartisan' redictricting board handed us in 2001.)
I voted for you because I agree that we need to confront these issues head on and your idea for a think tank is something I have believed is necessary for a long time. However, it was not an easy decision (and I have enough respect for Don Bivens that I told him that I didn't vote for him and why, which was not easy for him to hear.)
In this context I am disappointed with your decision to quit. If you were not fully prepared to serve then it would have been appropriate to officially withdraw your candidacy at the conclusion of your speech (as has been done by others in the past) and move that Mr. Bivens be elected by acclamation. There are many, many new state committee members and it is certainly going to be a drain on their enthusiasm to have to go back next month and elect another new chair, to say nothing of how much it will set our efforts back for the 2010 election cycle.
Paul, if you weren't aware of what the job would entail and if you weren't completely ready and willing to serve then you had an obligation to withdraw your name before the vote, and I am saying that as someone who did vote for you. In a group of six hundred voters, it is certainly feasible that anyone who accepts a nomination, might win.
-- Eli Blake
The good news out of all this is that I will get that rarest of moments in life, a do-over after screwing up (Eckerstrom won by a fairly healthy margin, but I'm still glad I at least get to fix my mistake.) And this time I will support Don Bivens if he runs. If he does not then I will still have a chance to vote for somebody who I feel confident actually wants the job, knows what it will entail and is ready to accept all responsibilities associated with the job.