Most of the big-name Democrats running for statewide office will make an appearance Saturday starting at 11 a.m. at the Annual Democratic Picnic at Rumsey Park.
Former Board of Regents Chair Fred DuVal is the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor. He confirmed at the last minute he’ll attend. DuVal faces little serious opposition in the late-August Democratic primary. He will face the survivor from a crowded Republican field, all vying to replace outgoing Gov. Jan Brewer. DuVal has stressed job growth and education in his campaign. A longtime political consultant and activist, he worked for a time in the White House for then-President Bill Clinton.
Other headliners include Secretary of State candidate Terry Goddard, the former state attorney general and mayor of Phoenix. Goddard is the son of a governor who has made two unsuccessful runs for governor. That race will likely focus on a fierce struggle over laws that can affect voter turnout and registration, after a series of reforms, referendums and allegations, many focused on efforts to make it easier to register and vote by mail.
Felecia Rotellini is making her second run for attorney general. She worked for 27 years as an attorney, including work prosecuting real estate and financial fraud for the state. She will most likely face incumbent Republican Attorney General Tom Horne, although Horne’s problems with ultimately dismissed allegations of campaign violations left him with opposition in the Republican primary.
Superintendent of Education candidates David Garcia and Sharon Thomas will both appear. Garcia is an Arizona State University education professor and education policy analyst. He says he wants boost education funding, but target the spending on reforms research shows have a real impact on student achievement. He wants a partnership with the federal government that still leaves control in the hands of the state and local school boards. Running against him is Sharon Thomas. She’s a sixth-generation Arizonan and career teacher. She raised her two children on a homestead in St. David and now trains teachers. The winner will likely face incumbent Republican John Huppenthal, who does face primary opposition due to his support for implementation of federal Common Core academic standards and evaluations.
House candidate Lanny Morrison will also appear. He’s running against Rep. Brenda Barton (R-Payson) and Rep. Bob Thorpe (R-Flagstaff). He’s running on a platform that stresses education, job creation and a stronger state lead in water policy.
Rim Country Democrats scored a coup with the all-star lineup.
Republicans dominate the political scene in northern Gila County, while Democrats tend to dominate in south county, thanks to large blocks of Native American and Hispanic voters.
Nonetheless, registered Independents now outnumber either Republicans or Democrats statewide. So the tongue-in-cheek subtext of the advertising for the political event invited “Democrats, Closet Democrats and Disillusioned Independents.”
Registered Independents can vote in either party primary, but have to request one ballot or the other — especially people on the early voting, mail-in ballot rolls. Both ballots will also have local issues, like Home Rule for Payson and Star Valley and the Payson School District budget override. So backers of those issues worry that Independents might sit out the primaries — and miss those vital local votes.
The Republican primary remains much more hotly contested, with the statewide Democratic races all but settled. The event on Saturday therefore offers a preview of the general election themes and personalities.