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Notes From The Chair – Transition of Leadership

Dear Pima Democrats,

Two years ago, as a relative unknown, I asked for the chance to lead PCDP in a new direction. You gave me that vote of confidence, for which I will always be grateful. I hope I have fulfilled your expectations.

Now, as my term winds down, I’m reflecting on the challenges we faced, the lessons we learned, the successes we had, and where we fell short. But first, I must thank so many people who volunteered for our party and did the hard work.

Depending on busy people to freely give their time is presumptuous, but that is PCDP’s (and virtually every county committee’s)  financial reality. We can only afford a handful of paid positions, so volunteers do most of the work. I hope that eventually, high-level party leaders find the political will to channel resources to county parties so that we can maintain a stable workforce, continuity, and momentum. 

 I was fortunate that volunteers with high-level skills in finance, writing and editing, website development, social media, education, HQ processes, data management and more, offered their services. Many were new to PCDP, bringing fresh ideas, out-of-the-box perspectives, and tremendous passion. These folks were not figuring it out as they went along; they walked into HQ with the skills, and we empowered them to make things happen.  

We learned many lessons. Among them:

–        PCDP has no chairmanship transition requirement. When I became chair, I requested files and financial records. The answer? There are none. A team of financial volunteers spent a month recreating our finances from bank statements and Secretary of State filings. Cat Ripley, my executive director for more than a year, guaranteed that would not happen at the end of my term, by compiling a transition notebook for the next chair. I intend to make sure that PCDP writes an orderly transition into the bylaws.

–          Volunteers transformed HQ during the past two years, thanks to a robust recruitment and training program. While PCDP is primarily a volunteer organization, it is fair to expect a degree of professionalism. We did, and that’s what we got.

–          Resources – including money – should flow toward the voters. PCDP should not ask legislative districts (LDs) for donations, as was the case in the past. PCDP should support the LDs to the extent possible. I hope that future chairs follow this model. It frees LDs to do what they need to do: engage with voters.

I am proud of the successes we had during the past two years:

–          Record fundraising put us on stable financial footing. We revived our Catalina Democrats Club and held a record-breaking – and really fun – Udall dinner in 2019. Our 2020 Udall dinner was a virtual event, but still a success! I spent weekends on the phone calling strangers and asking for money. To those who gave: Thank you for your trust. This allowed us to pay for hundreds of thousands of literature pieces for the LDs, donate to candidates, run a robust social media campaign, hire interns to help candidates, and more.

–          Financial accountability: Treasurer Maggie Winchell kept close watch on our finances, updated forecasts monthly, and reviewed them with me so that we could adjust our spending accordingly. We always knew where we were financially. This is an important fiduciary responsibility of the Treasurer and the Chair.

–          We fearlessly stood for our values. We built a platform – PCDP’s first – and passed resolutions that advance Democratic values. We were a bit opportunistic on this front, and why not? The current administration’s racist, anti-human rights policies make it easier to be bold and stand up for what is right. It’s the most effective way to build our party. We don’t vote for individuals; we vote for ideas.

–          We increased the relative percentage of registered Democrats in Pima County compared to Republicans and Independents. Pima is bluer than ever!

–          We elected Democrats.

But plenty of work remains. Even with changes to our Executive Committee’s makeup, which is younger and more diverse than ever, our county party – i.e. precinct committeepersons – does not adequately reflect our constituency. As long as that is the case, we won’t be as strong as we can be. We must put even more energy into convincing underrepresented constituencies, including Latinx, African American, indigenous, disabled, LGBTQ, young and rural voters, that Democrats respect their needs and value their participation at every level, from HQ volunteer to candidate. We are instituting a long-term program called Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA), to further this essential goal. IDEA will translate into more votes for Democrats.

Redistricting will be a challenge. Democrats remain a minority in Arizona, and we must strive for a fair outcome by closely watching the process. ADP and the DNC are pouring resources into the process, and PCDP has identified professionals with the skills to help us ask the right questions at the hearings.

Analyzing the vote margins in Arizona’s counties, it’s clear that red counties are getting redder and blue counties are getting bluer. The notable exception: Maricopa. The divide is generally urban/suburban vs. rural. Before COVID scuttled our plans, I was set to meet with and recruit folks in Ajo (Precinct 1). We need to finish this work and extend our network throughout Pima County. Virtual meeting platforms make this easier than ever.

The Trump administration’s attacks on our election processes have wrought untold damage. I don’t think Trump believes allegations of rampant fraud; they’re just a way for him to keep fleecing his followers. But millions of Americans do believe these allegations. I am not sure how to fix the damage. The Republican Party seems at a tipping point. It will split apart or find some way to come together. In any case, it won’t go away without a fight. We are entering even more interesting times.

Serving as PCDP chair during the most important election in human history – as Noam Chomsky reminded us at the Udall dinner – has been an honor, alternately overwhelming, frightening, exhilarating, unpredictable, surprising, exhausting, exasperating, frustrating and satisfying. But I never doubted that taking on this role was the right thing to do.

Thank you to every Democrat who contributed to our success. 

Letter from the Chair | August 2019

Letter from the Chair | August 2019

By Alison Jones

Dear Pima County Democrats,

A friend of a friend,  “Chuck,” was a good Democrat all his voting life. But in 2016, when his candidate lost in the presidential primary, Chuck cast a protest vote for Trump. Despite Hillary Rodham Clinton’s impeccable qualifications; despite the fact that she understood the issues; despite her history of public service; despite the fact that Trump is a sexual predator, a racist, and lying liar who can’t stop lying. Chuck looked at the options – and voted for Trump. I will never understand his decision.

Chuck wanted change. We all do. Chuck wanted that change NOW. He got change, all right, but in all the wrong ways. What is important is that we never stop working toward the change we want. Patience, or downright stubbornness – that’s what it takes.

For a lesson in perseverance, I give you EXHIBIT A: the extreme radical right. They began their quest to put one of their own in the White House more than 50 years ago. They were patient, they were methodical, and they approached their strategy with surgical precision. They started with school boards, moved on to city councils, and took over state legislatures. They carefully crafted their messages – many of them lies, but that doesn’t matter to them – and stuck with them. They coined clever, insidious phrases like “Right to Work,” “Compassionate Conservatism,’’ and “Pro-Life,” which masked their real objectives.

When they lost elections, they stayed in the background, manipulating and building. They won in incremental steps over DECADES. They weakened the greatest middle class in history, while making its members believe the right was on their side. They made it harder for people to support their own families, they made it harder to vote, and they made some votes count more than others.

They fanned the flames of racism by pretending it did not exist. We became the only First-World nation where you can go bankrupt if you get sick. They denied science and the value of education, replacing them with religious dogma. And somewhere along the way, corporations became people and money became speech.

They didn’t give up. We won’t either.

They didn’t win overnight. We won’t either.

I am hearing concern about our Democratic Presidential primary, about Pelosi vs. “the squad,’’ other ideological differences within our party, and what that means for us 2020.  Just google the words, “Democrats divided” and you’ll see what I mean. Pundits are casting doubt on our ability to win. And elected officials are asking me if we are going to be together in 2020. My answer is YES!

Each of us will have a choice in the 2020 general election: vote for incompetence and Trumpian malevolence in its many forms – racism, cruelty, misogyny, xenophobia, nepotism, cronyism, voter suppression, fascism – or. . . vote for a complex, flawed human being who may differ from you on some issues, but who shares at least some of your core values.

This is not an oversimplification. If a progressive wins the primary, moderates must move to the left – or we lose. If a moderate wins, progressives must move to the center or we lose. Sitting on the sidelines is not an option. Protest votes are not an option. Working hard for the candidate you want and being prepared to vote for one who is not your first choice – that’s the democratic process in all its messy, fragile, imperfect, high-maintenance glory. Please remember this as you watch the debates.

I hear that Chuck has wised up. He never believed his protest vote would amount to anything. He thought Trump couldn’t win. We know better. It was a hard lesson.   

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