By: Trevor Loudon
Red Reps 13 here.
Most Arizona voters are probably aware that the 7th district Rep. Raul Grijalva leans pretty far to the left. After all, he is co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the nearly 80 strong bloc of mainly socialist connected Democrats. Some might know too, that while studying at the University of Arizona in the early 1970s, Grijalva was a member of MEChA, the infamous Chicano separatist group known for its love of Cuba and its Marxist values.
I’m betting though that few voters know of Raul Grijalva’s connection to the Arizona District of the Communist Party USA.
Arizona’s communists are very active. Once strong in the mining industry, the Party has in recent years focused on protecting the illegal immigration movement and in electing sympathetic Democrats to local and national office.
Raul Grijalva’s first documented ties to the Communist Party USA date from 1993, when then Pima County Board of Supervisors member Raul M.Grijalva, penned an article on NAFTA for the Party’s People’s Weekly World, November 13 issue.
Nine years later, the People’s World, September 21, 2002, issue carried an article on page 8, “People gain in Arizona primaries.” The column by local Communist Party leader Joe Bernick dealt mainly with “long time progressive” Raul Grijalva’s victory in the recent Democratic Party primary – which effectively guaranteed him a seat in Congress.
The tireless efforts of hundreds of grassroots volunteers dealt a blow to the corporate establishment here and their attempt to dominate Southern Arizona politics in the Sept. 10 primary election.
Long-time progressive Raul Grijalva routed seven other candidates to win the Democratic nomination for CD-7, one of Arizona’s two new Congressional seats.
Facing weak opposition, in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans by almost three to one, Grijalva expects to become only the second Mexican American ever elected to Congress from Arizona, and the first from Southern Arizona. As a Pima County Supervisor and Tucson School Board member Grijalva consistently fought for working peoples’ interests.
The Grijalva campaign was a textbook example of how to conduct a peoples’ campaign, beginning with its name: “A whole lot of people for Grijalva.” Hundreds of people came out seven days a week, sometimes twice on Saturday, to wear out tons of shoe leather.
Starting in early summer, when temperatures routinely exceed 100 degrees, volunteers knocked on every door, conducted voter registration, signed people up to vote by mail and most importantly, they talked to people about the issues and Grijalva’s track record. Campaigners canvassed voters, often two or three times, at their homes…
Campaigners reflected the racial and national diversity of the district, which is more than half Mexican American, includes three Native American nations and most of Tucson’s African-American voters. The labor movement and environmental activists played an important and visible role.
Bernick wrote a follow up article, “Peoples campaign is a winning strategy” for the November 16, 2002 edition of People’s Weekly World:
A model peoples’ campaign in Southern Arizona swept Raul Grijalva into Congress and helped elect Democrats Janet Napolitano as governor and Terry Goddard as attorney general.
Beginning in early summer, volunteers spread out through the neighborhoods, knocking on doors, registering new voters and talking about the importance of electing candidates who will represent the interests of working people.
The campaign for one of Arizona’s two new congressional seats concentrated on the section of the district inside metropolitan Tucson consisting of the city’s predominantly Chicano South and West sides and the predominantly white neighborhoods surrounding the University of Arizona.
Grijalva had represented much of this area for 10 years as County Supervisor, and for 12 years as member of the School Board. This area is home to a majority of the voters in the new district….
As soon as Grijalva’s campaigners began knocking on doors, they found that Grijalva’s uncompromising support for working people, for better schools, against racism and as a lifelong environmentalist were well known and respected. The AFL-CIO also played a major role in the campaign walking, staffing phone banks and helping with resources.
The Grijalva campaign energized volunteers and led to a much higher than usual voter turnout in minority neighborhoods. Arizona’s newly elected Governor, Janet Napolitano, squeaked through on the strength of these new voters. She is the first Democrat elected as Governor of Arizona since Bruce Babbitt won 20 years ago. The campaign helped many other progressive candidates get elected. Richard Elias, who ran a joint campaign with Grijalva, managed a good primary victory to succeed Grijalva as a progressive County Supervisor. Elias faced no opposition in the general election…
In the Sunnyside School District, another large south side district, Eva Carrillo Dong and Tony Silvain were swept into office with the support of labor and the Grijalva campaign.
Interestingly, Eva Carrillo Dong, who still serves on the school board, lectured this past September 24 at the Communist Party’s Salt of the Earth Labor College, in Tuscon, on the subject – “Right-wing legislators cut funds and then blame teacher’s unions for the deteriorating educational system. How can we resist this onslaught against the future of our children and our society?”
Very significantly, according to the People’s Weekly World , February 1, 2003 “Communist meet heats up in Chicago”, at a meeting of the National Board of the Communist Party USA in South Chicago, on the last weekend of January, 2003, an unnamed Arizona AFSCME activist stated “Using street heat tactics, all of labor worked to back one candidate Raul Grijalva in Tuscon…And we won!”
Tuscon Communist Party supporter Susan Thorpe also wrote an article covering the 2002 Grijalva campaign for the People’s World, November 8, 2003, page 5 entitled, “Arizona: Grassroots can beat big bucks.”
Nevertheless, here in Tucson, we are gearing up for local elections in 2003 and the presidential election ahead in 2004 by using the same tactics we did in 2002 to get Raul Grijalva elected to Congress.
Pima County, which contains most of Grijalva’s district, had a 67 percent voter turnout for the November 2002 election – the second highest in the entire United States. This is mainly because for months on end, teams of volunteers, every Saturday and Sunday – and weekdays as well – walked all the precincts three to five times in the sweltering 105-plus degree heat all summer long, getting vote-by-mail requests signed, registering voters, and dropping information brochures behind screen doors and hanging on doorknobs. We tracked the reception from each household, refreshed information over and over again in computers to generate the next walking lists, had art sales and house parties to fundraise. We followed up on election day by walking all the precincts twice more that day, making phone calls to remind folks to vote, driving people to the polls, manning all the voting locations – whatever it took. Massive effort from many folks for maximum payoff: That is what it takes…
Congressman Raul Grijalva is proving to be a wonderful voice for the people of Arizona. And our movement and those important connections made during his campaign are still alive in Tucson.
In 2006, the Communist Party campaigned through the organization Arizona Together to ensure that Arizona voters became the first in the nation to reject a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Raul Grijalva helped out, while another Communist Party affiliate, then Arizona State Rep. (now State Senator) Kyrsten Sinema, played a leading role.
Wrote Arizona Communist Party leader and Arizona Together activist Joe Bernick in the People’s Weekly World of December 8, 2006, “How Arizona defeated the hatemongers:”
Why Arizona? How come voters in more liberal states have voted for similar hateful laws while conservative Arizona voted no?
If you were to believe the pundits in the corporate-owned press, our rejection of Prop. 107 was due to the western libertarian traditions, the spirit of Barry Goldwater — you know them, those right-wing Republicans who are against government interference in our personal business and our bedroom…
But a quick check of election returns would have demonstrated to these so-called pundits that Prop. 107 was defeated in working-class and liberal university precincts while passing in Goldwater Republican precincts. In suburban Tucson precincts, the vote for 107 corresponded closely with the vote for the ultra-right, anti-immigrant GOP congressional candidate Randy Graf.
So how did we do it? The answer is: educating, organizing and mobilizing.
As soon as proponents started circulating petitions to put 107 on the ballot, opponents brought out their own clipboards, signing up thousands of volunteers. Arizona Together emerged as the campaign committee, chaired by progressive state Rep. Kyrsten Sinema…
Congressman Raul Grijalva appeared on radio ads calling Prop. 107 an attack on working families. The Grijalva campaign worked closely with Arizona Together, using its literature in their extensive door-to-door canvassing.
In 2008, Raul Grijala served on Barack Obama‘s National Latino Advisory Council, alongside past Communist Party USA and Democratic Socialists of America affiliates Congressmembers Xavier Becerra, Luis Gutierrez, Nydia Velázquez, and Hilda Solis and SEIU leader Eliseo Medina.
On immigration “reform,” government Jobs programs, environmental issues, Israel policy, in every conceivable way, Raul Grijalva’s policy positions always mirror the Communist Party line.
Why ever do you think that might be?