Can Arizona Democrats Take Back The First District From Deranged Wingnut Paul Gosar? Depends Who They Nominate-- Meet Wenona Benally Baldenegro
More than half the reactionary Blue Dog caucus was defeated in November-- unable to attract Republican and right-leaning independents they had tried so hard to please, while completely demotivating the Democratic base. And it wasn't just Blue Dogs; a whole contingent of conservative Democrats who habitually voted with the Blue Dogs (and the Republicans) against core Democratic policy was also defeated. You would think Insider Democrats and the DCCC would have learned a lesson not to run these kinds of characters. But not only did they learn nothing they are actually re-recruiting the exact same losers in the hope they could be swept back into office in an anti-Republican wave election. One who we looked at all through the last congressional cycle was Arizona's uber-mediocre congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick who won in 2008 with 155,791 votes (56%)-- winning all but Yavapai and Graham Counties (and Yavapai in a tight 45,014- 45,487 cliff hanger) and lost the seat two years later with 99,233 votes (44%) and losing Gila, Navajo, and Pinal counties she had previously won, while being routed in Yavapai 47,449- 27,179. The DCCC should have lost her phone number. Instead they talked her into running again. She was one of the least effective members of Congress anywhere and consistently voted against her own party, even siding with banksters against homeowners in one of the hardest hit mortgage markets in America. She was one of only 3 Democrats who voted against HR 1728, which was aimed at overhauling mortgage lending practices and curbing predatory lending practices. At the time, we mentioned that "whenever it comes to a choice between working families and her big corporate donors, Kirkpatrick crosses the aisle and votes with the GOP in favor of the corporate special interests that have devastated the country's-- and her constituents'-- finances. Washington observers consider her to be one of the most dimwitted and ineffective members of Congress and a complete waste of a seat. The only positive thing we've ever heard about her from anyone was that she dresses neatly every day and that she's not a crook like her predecessor, Rick Renzi-- although she does tend to vote almost exactly like him."
The House leadership never asked her to compromise her "independence" and always let her vote with the GOP whenever she liked-- which was almost always, at least when it came to contentious, substantive legislation. And then everybody made a big mistake-- forcing Kirkpatrick to vote for a $108 billion bailout for European bankers. It was a vote many observers of Arizona politics at the time said would cost her her seat. Not only did Arizona progressives, like Raul Grijalva oppose the bill, even the state's most conservative Republicans-- John Shadegg, Trent Franks and Jeff Flake-- voted against it. But Rahm Emanuel insisted and a weak and clueless Kirkpatrick gave way-- and it helped mark her for defeat a year later. A month later we suggested she was the Blanche Lincoln of the House, with one of the 10 worst party unity scores of any Democrat in Congress-- 70% of them being defeated in November. Her constituents started floating the idea of a primary challenge.
Three months ago, when Kirpatrick first started floating her trial balloon for a rematch, we wrote that Democrats would be better off finding a real Democrat to oppose Paul Gosar. And now, it looks like they have: Wenona Benally Baldenegro is running for the seat as well-- and grassroots Democrats in Arizona are backing her. A member of the Navajo Nation who grew up on the reservation, she graduated summa cum laude from Arizona State and went on to Harvard Law and later to Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Take a look at a post she did a couple months ago after attending a lecture by Cornel West at the University of Arizona. It paints a picture of a real progressive leader, exactly the kind of Democrat we want to see running against teabaggers like Gosar and corporate shills like Kirkpatrick. You can donate to her campaign here. Her press release announcing endorsements from some of the most impressive Democrats in the first CD, paints the same picture:
We are very excited to announce that in her exploratory run for U.S. House of Representatives, Arizona Congressional District 1, Wenona Benally Baldenegro has secured the endorsement of Arizona State Senator Steve Gallardo. From his position representing LD13 in the Arizona State Senate, Sen. Gallardo has been a shining light for Arizona in the fight against Russell Pearce and the extremist Republican agenda that has taken over our State Legislature and is crippling the State of Arizona.
As a Congresswoman, Wenona will proudly stand by the values and principles that define the Democratic Party, and she will fight passionately for the working families of Arizona. She is firmly committed to protecting Medicare and Medicaid, and she will work tirelessly to end the Bush tax cuts to corporations and to the wealthiest Americans. She strongly supports small businesses and she will work hard for job creation and economic development. At the same time, she is deeply invested in protecting public health and our environment. Finally, she is committed to the Democratic values of equal opportunities and justice for all, including passage of the DREAM Act, repealing DOMA, and enacting immigration reform.
Wenona is a lifelong Democrat who has paid her political dues. She has worked on numerous campaigns, from Presidential campaigns to local school board campaigns. In 2008, she served as a Tribal Advisor to the Obama Presidential campaign, and last year, she served as co-chair, along with Congressman Raul Grijalva, on the Vince Rabago for Attorney General campaign. She will energize the people of CD1, including young voters, tribal communities, and Latino communities, to come out to vote in numbers that will help Democrats recapture CD1. Wenona also is very encouraged by the prospect that her candidacy will get out the vote, in numbers that help will put an Arizona Democrat into the U.S. Senate and help President Obama win his re-election campaign.
In her words, “This is a critical time for Arizona and the nation. The Republicans in Congress are attempting to balance the federal budget on the backs of the middle-class, working-class, and the elderly. Furthermore, the Republican-controlled State Legislature is balancing our state budget at the expense of our county and city governments. More than ever, rural Arizona needs a Congressional representative who will stand up for the middle-class and working poor, and who will vigorously fight for programs and services that are essential to the stability of our State and the country.”
Wenona’s candidacy is historic, in that she seeks to be the first American Indian woman to serve in the U.S. Congress, and the first American Indian from Arizona. “It is time for a new vision for Arizona and for the rest of the country. We need leaders who will stand up for the working-class and who will restore our image as proud Arizonans.”
In addition to Sen. Gallardo’s endorsement, Wenona has already received the following endorsements of her Congressional campaign:
Johnny Naize – Speaker of the Council, Navajo Nation
Macario Saldate – Bilingual education pioneer, Arizona House of Representatives, LD27
Joshua Lavar Butler – Council Member, Navajo Nation
Cecilia Cruz – Founding member, Pima County/Tucson Women’s Commission
Luis A. Gonzales – Former Arizona State Senator
Antonio Bracamonte – Dean of Student Services, Maricopa County Community College District
Antonio Bustamante – Union/Civil Rights attorney, Los Abogados
Salomón R. Baldenegro – Former Professor/Asst. Dean of Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs, University of Arizona
You can contribute to Wenona's campaign through ActBlue.