The Arizona Democratic Party is refusing to allow Dr. Manny Arreguin, a candidate running against incumbent Congressman Raul Grijalva, access to party resources hitherto provided to any Democratic congressional candidate in the state.
Specifically, the party is refusing to allow the Arreguin campaign access to their Voter File. The Voter Action Network, or VAN, has become an indispensable voter outreach tool for political campaigns.
Frank Camacho, beloved former newsman and current chief of communications for the AZ Democratic Party, informed me that the decision was made by a vote of the state Executive Committee. I was told the executive director, Luis Heredia, would call me back to explain. Heredia never called me back. The next day, the gracious Mr. Camacho apologized profusely for the lack of a response, then relayed what he was told to relay about the incident.
It seems that because Raul Grijalva is an incumbent with the endorsement of the White House, the Executive Committee somehow felt it necessary to empower Heredia with the ability to deny access to VAN or Voter File. "The party has invested in that file and it contains proprietary information," said Camacho. "So when the executive director was given authorization by the Executive Board, he exercised that authority and decided to deny [Arreguin] access." It should be noted that Heredia is a former aide to Congressman Grijalva.
Another candidate in the race, David Crowe Robles, dropped out on Thursday -- the same day the Arreguin campaign sent out its release. Citing a need to focus on his business, he announced he was endorsing the sole remaining Grijalva challenger, former State Senator Amanda Aguirre. Crowe is president and CEO of Tucson Embedded Systems, and Aguirre is currently president and CEO of the Regional Center for Border Health in San Luis.
There is only one problem with that: Aguirre has also been denied access to the Voter File. According to Camacho, she was informed of this in a meeting with the Executive Committee.
As first reported by Hannah Thorelsen at Western Free Press, the first outlet to cover this story, the understandably-outraged Arreguin campaign fired off a vitriolic press release Thursday, accusing the state party of resorting to Chicago-style politics:
"Today the State Democratic party attempted to impose their will on the people of Southern Arizona. I believe that the State Democratic Party bosses do not and should never hold the keys to our democracy. Historically, our Party has been an oasis in the desert that encouraged diverse opinions and welcomed participation of those who felt disenfranchised. It is unacceptable to sacrifice these principals on the altar of political patronage. This seat does not belong to the State Democratic Party; it belongs to the people of Congressional District 3."
At the end of her story, Thoreson opines, "It's pretty hard to argue with Dr. Arreguin's logic here. If Grijalva really believes in "access," "creating a level playing field," and other phrases often used by politicians on the left, he should allow for this primary to be a fair fight."
In an exclusive interview, Arreguin explained his understanding of the situation:
"We'd spoken to [AZ Democratic Party Elections Director] Sam Almy several times. He said it was a clear-cut process -- we got an affidavit, had it notarized, and sent it in with our check. We waited a while, and when we didn't hear from anyone, we called back and spoke to Sam. He said he'd already sent an email and was waiting for a response. Then he sent me an email on Friday afternoon saying Heredia had made an executive decision."
According to witnesses at Thursday's State Democratic Party Heritage Dinner, two volunteers identified only as Rebecca and Josie were passing out copies of the Arreguin release. However, after less than 25 minutes state party officials had the two young ladies physically removed. They were visibly startled, and audibly annoyed. "First they cut off our access to the Voter File. Now they're cutting off our access to voters," said Rebecca, a student from Tucson. "It's like they're afraid of something. I can't believe that a state Democratic party would treat its own members like this. What's going on over there?"
Josie, another volunteer, also couldn't understand. "I thought the whole point of democracy was to give voters a choice," she said. "Voting is the most our most important civic responsibility. If we don't give citizens any options, we're denying Americans a voice in our democracy. We're just working towards change in southern Arizona. You'd think the White House could empathize with that."
Arreguin couldn't agree more. "Our position is you can't silence the voice of the people," he said. "By doing something like this, you're negating someone's voice."