Progressives See Arizona Secretary of State Race as Pivot

Among the battlefield states in the medium term, few are getting as much national attention as Arizona, where the two main races—governors and the US Senate—lead the list. One progressive coalition, however, is making an eight-figure bet that the key to Democratic success is further understatement: the usually sleepy campaign for secretary of state.

Road to Victory, a national donor network and a number of local grassroots organizations focusing on the race for the top seat in elections is not only important to ensure fair elections in a key state, but also as a catalyst for achieving a Democratic victory in the state despite tough political hurdles.

The group’s focus is another sign that a once obscure administrative position has become a top one. political orientation. On the right, proponents of former President Trump’s lies about rigged 2020 elections are pushing for laws restricting voting access and are rallying around like-minded secretary candidates. Those who dismiss Trump’s claims of fraud warn that fair elections, the foundation of American governance, are under threat.

The fight is especially sharp in Arizona, where Trump lost to Joe Biden by about 10,000 votes, marking the first time the state has backed a Democratic presidential candidate in more than two decades. Since then, it has been a hotbed of election denial, including inept election review in Maricopa County, who failed to prove any wrongdoing but managed to destroy the Republican Party of Arizona.

The Republican-led statehouse has passed many election-related measures, earning Arizona the title of “most epicenter of the fight for the right to vote today,” according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.

“While we are still working on the Senate race and we remain focused on the state legislature race, the Secretary of State has priority mainly because of the attacks on democracy here in the state,” said Thomas Robles, one from co-authors. executive director of Living United for Change in Arizona, or LUCHA, an Arizona-based group that collaborates with Way to Win.

This priority is not only unusual, but also contrary to common sense. Polls show that voters are most focused on wallet issues like inflation. Democratic strategists are hoping renewed focus on issues like abortion rights or gun rights could lift the party out of its political decline. Few see fears about elections and democracy as a strong motivator.

“For the average voter, this is definitely not the most compelling point to attract and motivate them. They are motivated by things that directly affect their daily lives, such as education and health care, jobs and the economy, and so on,” said Mike Noble, an impartial sociologist who runs Phoenix-based OH Predictive Insights.

But Tory Gavito, president of Road to Victory, said the focus on the campaign secretary of state allows progressives to argue that any voter concern — whether it’s access to abortion or school funding — is mostly about belief in the election.

“The storyline should be that the Republicans are waging a full frontal assault on our freedom — economic freedom, freedom of physical autonomy and our freedom to make choices in elections,” Gavito said. “You just can’t unpack them. You should be able to talk about all this.”

The test for Way to Win and its partners should prove that the approach will appeal to a multiracial electorate, a particularly pressing issue for Democrats who openly worry about losing ground to working-class Latino and other minority voters.

Grassroots organizers say they are confident the pitch will work because they talk to residents year-round to find out what resonates with them. Roy Tatum, political director of Our Voice Our Voice, said that in the black community where his group has focused its efforts, many people are raising voting as a major issue.

“This atmosphere was created when we saw ex-president … traveling around different statesespecially in Georgia and Arizona to tell the secretary of state and state legislators, “Hey, cancel your election results so I can win,” Tatum said.

This dynamic is exacerbated by the Republicans who are now running for office, especially as a member of the state House of Representatives. Mark Fincham, who, according to the polls, is in the lead in August. 2 primaries, although many voters are undecided. Finch, who was active in the movement to cancel the 2020 election and traveled to Washington to meet Trump on January 1, 2020. 6 rally, built its campaign on unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud; Trump enthusiastically supported his.

On the Democratic side, Way to Win and its partners supported the state’s Rep. Reginald Balding on Adrian Fontes, former voter registrar of Maricopa County. Balding is the founder and director of Our Voice Our Voice; a state resident recently filed a complaint alleging that Balding may have illegally coordinated his campaign with a non-profit organization, according to Republic of Arizona.

The coalition is also seeking to qualify a voting initiative that will greatly expand voting access, including allowing registration on Election Day and reversing the removal of infrequent voters from the state early voter roll, who automatically receive mail-in ballots.

Activists say the strong results of this electoral initiative will send a clear signal to US Democratic Senator. Kirsten Cinemawho infuriated progressive groups last year when she didn’t support changing Senate filibuster rules to pass the vote’s defense.

“There is a lot of energy at the grassroots level to actually show that she is wrong, that Arizona really wants this reform and will lead through the state first,” Gavito said.

LUCHA, which has already announced its intention to support archrival Sinema in 2024, has previously managed to rally voters around local and electoral measures. In 2016 he campaigned set a minimum wage of $12; the initiative ultimately won with more “yes” votes than any candidate on the ballot. The group also organized around the ouster of controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio that same year after several failed attempts.

Since then, LUCHA has focused on getting new voters to the ballot box, despite what its supporters often hear from residents disillusioned with national politics.

“The message we have at the door is that we are winning,” said Alejandra Gomez, co-executive director of the group. “We can demonstrate that when we invest in local efforts, they have an impact – like the minimum wage, like firing Arpaio from office. People remember these things and they resonate because they have a direct impact on their lives.”

As a liaison between national donors and local groups, Way to Win has already committed $5 million in this cycle to partners in Arizona and aims to inject another $9 million by November. It hasn’t been easy, Gavito admitted, as Progressives have burned out due to activism during the Trump years and gloomy forecasts for the Democratic outlook this year, both due to historical trends against the President’s party in the interim and Biden’s low approval ratings. .

“We’ve really fought an uphill battle against narrative,” Gavito said, but added that she sensed a recent twist after The Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade and congressional hearings on Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. “As it starts to erupt, we’re seeing energy levels rise again.”

Success, according to Gavito, will be judged in part by numbers: if the organization’s efforts lead to an increase in the number of voters, especially among target groups. But she also said that a Democratic victory in the race for secretary of state would have more serious consequences.

“If the people of Arizona can go through and elect a secretary of state who believes in free and fair elections,” she said, “this is a real sign that the entire country is ready to close the book on this Republican attempt to undermine our electoral system.”