Last week, Rodney Glassman, who some of you may know ran for the U.S. Senate against John McCain earlier this year, contacted me to ask if I would support him for chair of the state party. I called back and asked him some questions that I had, and I am convinced that he is the right man for the job.
The first reason I and many others are supporting him is that he has promised (once the redistricting commission has done their work) to develop a 30 district strategy that will aim to 1) put Democrats on the ballot for all ninety legislative seats, and 2) run a competitive race for each of them. I believe this can be done. It is certainly true that we should get a better legislative map than the 2000 map (it would be hard to get one that was worse than what was, let's face it, a Republican gerrymander even though drawn by an ostensibly non-partisan commission.) However, even in Republican districts, Democrats can win if we can match winning candidates with a winning message. As proof consider that former Governor Janet Napolitano, besides winning very heavily among Democratic and Independent voters, in 2006 also got a third of the votes of registered Republicans. So if we assume from this that a third of registered Republicans are at least willing to consider voting for a Democrat, Glassman's 30-district strategy seems very reasonable. In 2012, especially after two years of Pearce-Brewer budgets it's hard to imagine that voters won't be at least willing to listen to what we have to say.
That's the second reason I support Rodney Glassman. He wants to craft a message that matches the main concerns that people here have: the economy, education and jobs. Many people are feeling economically insecure and see their bills rising higher and higher while their economic prospects diminish and they worry about layoffs and unemployment. Republicans have always diverted attention from this by finding a convenient scapegoat, be it Washington or Latino immigrants or unions or any number of other distractions. The failure of Arizona Democrats to answer with a cogent, consistent economic message has often meant that these distractions are successful by default.
Rodney Glassman not only believes that we can do this, but he is willing to approach it with the same optimism that spurred him to run against the 2008 Republican nominee for President of the United States and still get more votes and raise more money against John McCain in Arizona than any Democrat ever has.
The third reason why I support Rodney Glassman is that he is committed to the whole state, especially rural counties. He told me that the success we in Navajo County had on the reservation through the help of the state party hiring a Native American Outreach coordinator based in Navajo County while we provided the infrastructure is a model for what we should do on all reservations and he's willing to commit to making it happen through his leadership of the state party. Turnout is always poor on the reservations (for example it was ony about 10% on the White Mountain Apache reservation) but the Navajo reservation was one of the few reservations where turnout numbers were reasonable. When Arizona native Americans vote they vote 90% for Democrats so building and expanding this outreach is crucial for reaching Native American voters. Further, as a party vice chair from a rural county I have been impressed with his outreach to every part of the state. Rodney Glassman made sure, even though by state law he only had to collect sufficient signatures in three counties to qualify for the ballot in his Senate race, that he collected them from all fifteen counties. And in stark contrast to his likely opponent who famously visited every county in the state during a 48 hour blitz on Sunday and Monday right before the election, Rodney Glassman visited around the state during the actual campaign and made it clear that winning votes in outstate Arizona is a priority for him.
Finally, Rodney told me when I talked to him that he plans to serve as state party chair full time if he is elected. In the past our state chairs have not done that, splitting their time with their job. For example, Don Bivens still practices law and recently served as a member of the board of the American Bar Association. Certainly a worthy thing to do, but it meant that he was unable to serve as party chair full time. Rodney is able to do so, between the fact that he does have the personal resources and his wife is working full time. In so doing, I believe he will supply the energy and organization that can only be provided by a full time chair. It also means that he will be available 100% of the time. If you call or contact Rodney he will take your call or listen to your message and get back to you. A party chair must be accessible and he will do that.
The Arizona Democratic party certainly has a wide range of intelligent, capable people. We have a unique opportunity ot make gains in 2012 when many incumbent legislators will be running in new districts. I believe that Rodney Glassman is the man who can turn these opportunities into reality.
Or, as James Carville once put it in a book that laid out a Democratic strategy for winning the country back during the Bush years, "I'm sick of losing." So is Rodney.