People gain in Arizona primaries

TUCSON – The tireless efforts of hundreds of grassroots volunteers dealt a blow to the corporate establishment here and their attempt to dominate Southern Arizona politics in the Sept. 10 primary election.

Long-time progressive Raul Grijalva routed seven other candidates to win the Democratic nomination for CD-7, one of Arizona’s two new Congressional seats.

Facing weak opposition, in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans by almost three to one, Grijalva expects to become only the second Mexican American ever elected to Congress from Arizona, and the first from Southern Arizona. As a Pima County Supervisor and Tucson School Board member Grijalva consistently fought for working peoples’ interests.

The Grijalva campaign was a textbook example of how to conduct a peoples’ campaign, beginning with its name: “A whole lot of people for Grijalva.” Hundreds of people came out seven days a week, sometimes twice on Saturday, to wear out tons of shoe leather.

Starting in early summer, when temperatures routinely exceed 100 degrees, volunteers knocked on every door, conducted voter registration, signed people up to vote by mail and most importantly, they talked to people about the issues and Grijalva’s track record. Campaigners canvassed voters, often two or three times, at their homes.

Carloads of volunteers visited rural communities. Many more volunteered thousands of hours doing office time, phone work and preparing bulk mailings.

Campaigners reflected the racial and national diversity of the district, which is more than half Mexican American, includes three Native American nations and most of Tucson’s African-American voters. The labor movement and environmental activists played an important and visible role.

The big business establishment tried to derail Grijalva by bankrolling the campaign of State Sen. Elaine Richardson, and encouraging several popular Latino candidates, so as to split the Chicano vote. Richardson was widely seen as pro-developer.

Grijalva thanked labor for its key support and for “putting the union label on me.” He promised the Southern Arizona Central Labor Council, at its Sept. 12 meeting, to become “an extension of the voice of labor in the U.S. Congress.”

Sharing a victory and campaign headquarters with Grijalva was Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias. Elias ran to complete the office vacated by Grijalva. The developers and other corporate interests wanted to gain complete control of the five-member County Board, which has two Republican members, by supporting Elias’ opponent in the Democratic primary. Elias won decisively.

In Arizona’s CD-1, the other newly created district, Mexican-American businessman George Cordova won the Democratic nomination with strong labor support. CD-1 includes most of the Navajo Nation, America’s largest Indian Reservation. Teacher Randy Camacho won the Democratic nomination for CD-2, where far right Republican Rep. Stump is retiring. Camacho is Mexican American and also had labor’s support.

Arizona’s election battle for governor between ultra-right Republican and former Rep. Matt Salmon against conservative Democrat Attorney General Janet Napolitano. The governor’s race is crucial, since the Republican right dominates one house of the legislature and is threatening to capture the Senate, now evenly split between the two major parties.

The author can be reached at stelnik@webtv.net