by Elinor Brecher
For Eric Robbins, PCDP Chair for the next two years, teaching is a family tradition. He left the business world for a middle-school classroom, following his parents’ career paths.
“Mom was the first Reading Specialist in Somersworth, N.H., in the early 1970s,’’ says Eric, 57. “I used to tutor kids in her Reading Lab. Dad was a teacher and principal.’’
Somersworth is a short walk over a bridge from Eric’s rural Maine childhood home. It’s also an early primary state that presidential hopefuls swarm every four years, offering young Eric a real-time tutorial in retail politics.
“I saw national politics localized: ‘There’s Teddy Kennedy walking down the street.’ I believed that politics was accessible.’’
The Robbins family moved to Tucson when Eric’s dad “got sick of putting wood in that wood stove.’’ Eric graduated from Amphitheater High School. He earned a B.S. in Information Technology from the University of Phoenix and an MBA from the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management. That program took him to China and Hong Kong, fueling his love of travel.
He spent 30 years in sales, business development and consulting, and owned two small businesses before “pivoting to my family vocation and becoming a teacher, completing some cosmic cycle.’’
“I’ve been in school most of my life,’ he says. “My hobbies are studying new subjects and futures trading, which is a thrilling exercise in managing both math and emotion.’’
Eric may be the first PCDP Chair from South Tucson, where he lives with “a wonderful life partner who enhances my knowledge of women’s issues,’’ eight cats and a rabbit. He’s dad to a high school student, whose future motivates his activism.
“The best world I can leave her is her truest inheritance,” he says.
Eric canvassed and registered voters before the 2016 presidential election but was “so dismayed/traumatized/horrified by what happened that I got much more involved at the LD level…I believe it is an obligation of every citizen to be involved in the body politic to represent their own interests. The degree to which I can help that happen is under threat.’’
Appointed LD21’s 2nd Vice Chair last year, he is “thrilled to be trusted to join the leadership of the Pima County Democratic Party as Chair by a huge turnout of PCs from throughout Pima County.’’ Outgoing Chair Bonnie Heidler “provided amazing leadership and led PCDP through a very challenging time with the pandemic. She did so with grace and professionalism. I am mindful of that legacy.’’
Among his priorities is building and restoring connections throughout Southern Arizona. “A party earns a place in a community by modeling values that are important to that community. It is inverted to think that a community should ‘join’ a party. A party must be willing to join with the community. That means service, commitment, candor, and engagement.”
He and PCDP’s new leadership team will also take a close look at PCDP’s fundraising structure during their first 90 days.
“We will build on the momentum from the recent victories in the mid-term cycle,’’ he says. “Those volunteers at the campaign level have key skills and talents, and we can work on increasing PC training, resources and support to help capture Democratic majorities at the local, state, and national level.
Supporting candidates for Tucson city elections will be at the top of our priority list in 2023.
“Politics is a team sport, and I am lucky to have people who have roots in local LDs and a history of accomplishment at both levels of the organization on our team, ‘’ Eric says. “The next two years will be critical.’’
Another agenda item: PCDP’s headquarters at 4639 E. First Street.
“It’s on the market, and although status of sale remains unresolved, selling is still the plan. But in the meantime, I intend to revitalize HQ and make it more welcoming to all Democrats.”
While celebrating the party’s statewide gains in November, Democrats’ most unexpected loss – Superintendent of Public Instruction – stunned him. Voters narrowly replaced a respected Democratic educator with a Republican anti-diversity crusader/politician who never taught.
“Given how close the recent elections were and seeing the superintendent race go to someone so much less qualified than the Kathy Hoffman is massively frustrating as an educator, and I hope to keep it in the forefront of the public mind,’’ Eric says. “Treatment of teachers is foundational to problems in Arizona.”
As for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s switch from Democrat to Independent, Eric feels the great Maya Angelou got it right. “ ‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.’ This was not a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention.”
During the PCDP chair campaign, Eric held a series of meet-and-greet Zoom Open Forums. Acknowledging Arizona’s battleground-state status, he titled the last one, “Is Pima County going to be the Center of The Political Universe in 2024?’’
“Maybe not,’’ he says, “but you’ll be able to see it from there. Pima Dems will be ready.’’