Arizona has been written off as a hopelessly red state for along time. The last Democratic presidential candidate to win a majority there was Harry Truman in 1948 (53.8%), following 4 big wins by FDR. It was all downhill after that, although a winning pluralies award the state's electoral votes to Bill Clinton (46.5%) in 1996 and to Joe Biden (49.4%) last year. The state has been transforming itself into a legitimate swing state that now boasts 2 Democratic senators-- albeit two of the most far right Democrats in Congress-- and 5 Democratic members of Congress to the Republicans' 4. The state Senate is close-- 16 Republicans to 14 Democrats-- and the state House isn't out of reach either-- 31 Republicans to 29 Democrats.
In 2018 the anti-red wave helped raving Blue Dog Kyrsten Sinema overcome unpopular Republican Martha McSally 1,191,100 (50.0%) to 1,135,200 (47.6%). Sinema votes more frequently against anything smacking of progressivism than any other Democrat in the Senate, including Joe Manchin. Both have "F" ratings from ProgressivePunch, of course, but her lifetime crucial vote score is an abysmal 47.69% and his is 53.52%. The new Democratic senator, Mark Kelly, hasn't established much of a voting record yet, although he's tied for 47th worse member of the Senate with neo-fascist Bill Hagerty (R-TN), both already sporting "F"s and each its a score of 66.67%. No one who watched the campaign carefully ever doubted that Kelly, a former Republican with very conservative values and instincts, would establish a record as vomit-inducing as Sinema's.
But does this mean that Arizona can support right-wing corporate Democrats only and not progressives? Don't say that around Raúl Grijalva or Ruben Gallego who respectively sport an "A" and a "B" rating from ProgressivePunch, Grijalva with a 96.19% and Gallego with a 89.54%. In the 2016 presidential primary, 163,400 Democrats voted for Bernie. He even won Coconino County-- in 2016 and 2020-- where Flagstaff is a progressive beacon in a state still emerging from the political Dark Ages.
Last year even more Arizonans voted for Bernie-- 200,456 people and he won 29 of the state's 67 delegates. The fix was already in for Biden-- Obama having persuaded Mayo Pete and Amy Klobuchar to withdraw and endorse Biden, as Bloomberg had done. Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang had also withdrawn before the vote but didn't endorse Bernie. Inspired by Bany people, particularly, but not exclusively, young people became excited about a Democratic Party that was promising to not offer them a Tweedle-dee/Tweedlum-dum choice between two corrupt corporate parties.
Today, while the state GOP is riven with dissension and in thrall to a neo-fascist faction headed by Trumpist sociopath Kelli Ward-- who just stole the chairmanship election-- the Democratic Party has been moving in a more progressive, less corporatist direction. A few weeks ago, writing for the Arizona Republic, Yvonne Sanchez reported that the state Democratic Party overwhelmingly (75%) elected Democratic state Rep. Raquel Terán as the party’s new chair. Sanchez noted that "Democrats also passed four resolutions, one of which urged Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly to vote to convict former President Donald Trump for incitement of insurrection at the Senate’s upcoming impeachment trial. That resolution also urges the resignation of all four of Arizona’s Republican members of Congress, in part for challenging the results of the presidential election." That's reborn Democratic Party alright-- and one considerably to the left of Sinema and Kelly.
A one-time political organizer, Terán's activism was born as part of the movement that grew in response to Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070, the hardline immigration bill that helped reshape the state’s landscape from solidly Republican to increasingly Democratic. She ran for her legislative seat on issues like tuition-free college, universal healthcare, climate action and criminal justice reform.
The party also adopted three resolutions that declared racism a public health emergency, opposed Trump’s border wall, and called for “restoration of integrity” in the federal judiciary, which Trump moved further to the right with the installation of more than 200 judges.
A lot of Berniecrats were elected to the local party committees. The party as an entity is committed to reelecting Kelly and Sinema no matter what. But if either is the one-person (or two-people) spoiler on something-- like Biden's COVID rescue package or on minimum wage legislation or on a more peaceful foreign policy advance (Kelly is a 100% bottom-of-the-barrel war monger)-- could the party decide to not take a stand in a primary against either or both?
I asked our old friend, party activist, Bernie delegate and former congressional candidate Eva Putzova, about the organization she heads, Catch Fire, and how it is working to push Sinema and Kelly towards a progressive agenda. "Arizona progressives are cautiously optimistic that the new party chair Raquel Terán will lead with courage," she told me. "The stakes in Congress are high and not one, but two of our Senators are key to getting any progressive legislation to pass. Progressive groups active in Arizona have started to organize and coordinate our united front to push Kelly and Sinema on supporting Trump's conviction and ending the filibuster in the Senate. We are ready to hold our senators accountable should they fail to support the minimum expected of any elected Democrat. Everything is on the table, including organizing an Arizona-based PAC to support challengers as Kelly has to run for re-election in 2022 and Sinema's term is up in 2024. A national PAC to challenge Sinema (and also Manchin in WV) has already been launched. While both Arizona Senators act like their base doesn't matter, it is the on-the-ground voter outreach of many progressive organizations, including LUCHA, that got them elected. And these organizations are already on the record saying that their future support is absolutely conditional."