A massive earthquake of generational magnitude wreaked havoc on the old guard of the Arizona Democratic Party, or ADP, at Saturday’s reorganization meeting to elect new officers for the 2010 election cycle.
Initiated by the Progressive Caucus and further fueled by a boisterous and angry crowd of party activists, former Pima County Democratic Party Chair Paul Eckerstrom defeated old guard incumbent ADP Chair Don Bivens by a 79 vote margin, 324-245. It was a stunning victory for Eckerstrom, who had no plans to even run for Chair prior to the meeting.
"I was driving up here (to Phoenix) and had no intention of running for state-party chair," Eckerstrom told The Arizona Republic immediately following the vote. "I didn't campaign for this. Frankly, I had no intention of winning. I'm as surprised as everyone else."
More strategically, Eckerstrom capitalized on the boiling anger among Arizona Dems with the legislative results of last November’s elections where, despite outspending Republicans on legislative races and with Obama losing to Favorite Son John McCain by only nine points, they still lost ground in the Legislature.
The implications of Eckerstrom’s victory are huge. Legislative District 8 Dem Chair Laura Copple said:
"Well, this shakes the party down to its core. No question about it. New leadership, given the November result, is what Arizona could benefit from right now. I am thankful Paul stepped up to the challenge and will follow his leadership with an eye on what he can provide the legislative districts. Now we build out the grassroots and netroots in preparation for 2010."
LD 8 Dem Vice Chair Chris Brown was specific in his comments:
"In this past election we had hundreds of volunteers coming through our Acoma district office for the general election and the party wasn’t prepared to provide the support we needed on voter contact and phone banking lists to keep our people busy and effective. Because of the huge number of volunteers we had, we burned through in one day Party targeting lists they expected would take three days. And the party was unable to generate new lists to take full advantage of our enthusiastic volunteers. From what I have heard many other districts experienced this same frustration. And that frustration was a contributing factor in this call for a change in leadership."
Bivens, by all accounts I've seen or heard, is a good guy, a good man. However, he also represented in word and deed the old guard in ADP, long run by a calcified small group of insiders unwilling to adjust to dramatically changing political and electoral realities. The repeated failure (since 1994) of the old guard faction of the Party to win in AZ-01, a plurality Dem district the entire time no less, is a prime example of their sclerotic political and campaign style. One which left us with the odious Republicans JD Hayworth and Rick Renzi for 14 excruciatingly painful years.
Eckerstrom’s ascension finally brings an end to the outdated and magical thinking that drove the old guard. For the first time in many, many decades, progressives in Arizona now control the Party’s levers of power. And now Arizonans can reclaim our progressive roots. So, today, we too have Hope.
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