News Analysis

TUCSON – A model peoples’ campaign in Southern Arizona swept Raul Grijalva into Congress and helped elect Democrats Janet Napolitano as governor and Terry Goddard as attorney general.

Beginning in early summer, volunteers spread out through the neighborhoods, knocking on doors, registering new voters and talking about the importance of electing candidates who will represent the interests of working people.

The campaign for one of Arizona’s two new congressional seats concentrated on the section of the district inside metropolitan Tucson consisting of the city’s predominantly Chicano South and West sides and the predominantly white neighborhoods surrounding the University of Arizona.

Grijalva had represented much of this area for 10 years as County Supervisor, and for 12 years as member of the School Board. This area is home to a majority of the voters in the new district.

The local business establishment knew they couldn’t defeat Grijalva in the general elections, so they encouraged a whole slew of candidates in the September primary. His main opposition was State Sen. Elaine Richardson.

Richardson, amply financed by business interests, raised three times as much money, and had the support of the local daily papers and Emily’s List. Emily’s List is an organization committed to funding women candidates who support women’s issues and have a good chance of winning. In response to the group’s support of Richardson, 200 women attended a press conference to announce the formation of ‘Adelita’s List,’ committed to electing Raul Grijalva and pointing to his 30 years of commitment to the fight for equality.

As soon as Grijalva’s campaigners began knocking on doors, they found that Grijalva’s uncompromising support for working people, for better schools, against racism and as a lifelong environmentalist were well known and respected. The AFL-CIO also played a major role in the campaign walking, staffing phone banks and helping with resources.

The energy of the campaign’s volunteers drove Grijalva to victory. He swamped all seven opponents in the primary, even carrying Richardson’s neighborhood. He went on to trounce Republican Ross Hieb in November.

The Grijalva campaign energized volunteers and led to a much higher than usual voter turnout in minority neighborhoods. Arizona’s newly elected Governor, Janet Napolitano, squeaked through on the strength of these new voters. She is the first Democrat elected as Governor of Arizona since Bruce Babbitt won 20 years ago. The campaign helped many other progressive candidates get elected. Richard Elias, who ran a joint campaign with Grijalva, managed a good primary victory to succeed Grijalva as a progressive County Supervisor. Elias faced no opposition in the general election.

Adelita Grijalva, Raul’s daughter, was one of two new labor-endorsed candidates for School Board in the Tucson Unified School District. She and lawyer Bruce Burke ousted right winger Rosalie Lopez, who had been the Republican candidate against Raul Grijalva in the last County Supervisor race.

In the Sunnyside School District, another large south side district, Eva Carillo Dong and Tony Silvain were swept into office with the support of labor and the Grijalva campaign.

The author can be reached at stelnik@webtv.net

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