Thursday, December 20, 2012

Redistricting -- federal court update

Yesterday, in the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission's lawsuit on the GOP challenge to the legislative district map, parties met at the Sandra Day O'Connor federal courthouse in Phoenix for a case management conference.

I'm still trying to get more detailed information, but thus far I understand that the three-judge panel before which the case will be tried heard arguments on the AIRC motion to have commissioners dismissed as parties to the lawsuit and to have one of the claims in the amended complaint dismissed. That claim asks the federal court to enforce Arizona law. Based on the 11th amendment to the US Constitution, federal courts are barred from ruling on claims against state governments based on state law. I was unable to attend the conference on Wednesday, but I have thus far heard that the court is not inclined to rule on the motion to dismiss until after testimony begins in the trial next March.

Of course, federal court judges are not concerned with how much taxpayer money (in this case from the State of Arizona's General Fund) is spent on legal fees. Instead, these judges probably recognize this area of law is currently "underdeveloped," and therefore should be litigated.

This brings us to the issue of tomorrow's AIRC meeting. Much of the meeting (scheduled to start at 11am) will probably be conducted in executive session to confer with counsel about all of the pending litigation. Executive director Ray Bladine will also discuss financial issues including the likelihood of needing to request a current year supplemental appropriation when the 2013 legislative session begins (the session starts January 14) and how much to ask for in a FY2014 appropriation request.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Redistricting -- Meeting on December 21

Unless precluded by the impending apocalypse, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission will meet at 11am Friday December 21, at its office, 1100 W. Washington St., Phoenix.

At this point, it looks like the meeting will be attended telephonically by several of the commissioners. There will be no streaming video and at least part of the meeting may be conducted in executive session to confer with counsel.

There are two agenda items: report from legal counsel about the recent Appeals Court opinion on the open meeting issue/seeking advice on pending lawsuits; and executive director Bladine reporting on financial issues, including review of current year (FY2013) budget, request for a supplemental FY2013 appropriation and requested FY2014 appropriation request.

I will keep you posted.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The time to ACT is NOW.

Unless you were asleep all weekend, you already know that a gunman killed 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday before shooting himself in the head.

In addressing an interfaith memorial service last night in Newtown, President Obama noted that this was the fourth such mass shooting in America since he first took office.

Several aspects of American culture and society are -- without question -- factors in this epidemic of mass shootings in the US.

We may or may not be able to do anything right away to change popular culture that gives these monsters the notion that one can solve his problems with horrendous violence.

But we CAN act now to bring swift change to minimize the possibility this could ever happen again in America.

It's now three weeks shy of two years since Arizona Congressman Ron Barber (D-Second District) was among those shot by a young adult male with a particular serious mental illness in Tucson.

Because Barber was re-elected last month, could there be anyone better positioned to take the lead on public policy changes that can stop these incidents from ever recurring?

Yesterday, the Arizona Republic published Barber's op-ed reflecting on the latest incident.
Information is emerging about the mental health of the Connecticut gunman. It is irresponsible to dismiss untreated mental illness as a factor in several recent mass shootings. We have it within our power as a nation to resolve these issues. It is important to remember that the overwhelming majority of people dealing with mental illness are not violent...
After I was wounded almost two years ago, I took steps to address the mental-health issue head-on. My family and I founded the Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding, and our first priority was to increase community awareness and to remove the stigma that prevents many people from getting treatment for a mental illness.
This year, I co-sponsored the Mental Health First Aid Higher Education Act, which would provide training to help people identify and respond to signs of mental illness and deal with psychiatric crises. The bill did not pass this year, but I am committed to reintroducing it next session. We also must protect state and federal funding for mental-health services.
There are many other factors that can produce a violent tragedy. But we do know that the availability of certain weapons coupled with mental illness is a recipe for disaster. (emphasis added)
Thinking about this tragedy all weekend, a number of things become clear to me.

Apparently, there actually IS evidence demonstrating that making it harder to obtain firearms dramatically reduces injury and death from firearms. After mass shootings in Australia in 1996, firearms regulation was reformed. According to a 2006 study on the issue:
After a 1996 firearm massacre in Tasmania in which 35 people died, Australian governments united to remove semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns and rifles from civilian possession, as a key component of gun law reforms.
Australia’s 1996 gun law reforms were followed by more than a decade free of fatal mass shootings, and accelerated declines in firearm deaths, particularly suicides. Total homicide rates followed the same pattern. Removing large numbers of rapid-firing firearms from civilians may be an effective way of reducing mass shootings, firearm homicides and firearm suicides. 

An op-ed column in the Sydney Morning Herald reflects on the issue of firearms availability:

Too many lethal weapons are too easily available to too many people. Most US states have no owner licensing or gun registration, no requirement to provide a good reason to own a gun, no ban on semi-automatic assault weapons, and no limit on the number of such guns a person can own.
Australia has all of the above, thanks to the reforms to our gun laws after the 1996 massacre at Port Arthur in Tasmania. That contrast is why the rate of gun death in the US is more than 10 times the rate in Australia.
Port Arthur was the tipping point for Australia, after many years of avoidance by politicians who knew the gun laws needed reform but lacked the guts to do it. The murder of 35 people on one afternoon marked the end of the prevarication. The laws were overhauled with resounding success: annual gun deaths have dropped by half, and we have not had a mass shooting since 1996. An evaluation by researchers at the Australian National University found the laws saved, every year, 200 lives and $500 million.
Other developed countries that have suffered such calamities have also toughened their gun laws. The massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School reprises the tragedy at Dunblane Primary School in Scotland in 1996, where 16 children and their teacher were murdered and 12 more children wounded by a disgruntled man with a gun. The only eventual glimmer of consolation for those grieving families was that Britain reformed its gun laws, and it is extremely unlikely that such a horror will recur in that country.
So, evidence DOES show the clear correlation between easy availability of firearms and mass shootings. 

When the gun fetishists invoke the canard that "when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns," it will be important to stay focused and on point.

The first steps that need to be taken do NOT outlaw all guns. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has announced that she will introduce, reportedly on the first day of the 113th Congress, an assault weapons ban. And Rep. Barber intends to re-introduce the Mental Health First Aid Higher Education Act. Neither bill, as specified so far, will go far enough.

However, if Americans demonstrate resolve on this issue and show unwavering support for Members of Congress who dare to defy the National Rifle Association, other changes can be made in short order.

It is well past time to mandate background checks for ALL firearms sales, ESPECIALLY at gun shows. Waiting periods are also warranted.

NONE of these steps breach the rights of citizens spelled out in the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.

Two steps that you and I can take right now:
  • Publicly pledge to vote against ANY state or federal lawmaker who accepts ANY donations from the NRA.
  • Sign on to the petition calling for Congressman Barber to take the lead in addressing the epidemic. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

How long will it take to forget this time?

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
That quote is often attributed to Albert Einstein. It doesn't matter to me who first coined the expression. However, I do care that we can reasonably attribute lack of action on the problem of gun violence to a mythology that has paralyzed American society.

There are academics and journalists in the US who have studied our country's gun culture. It would be redundant for me to reiterate the statistics on mass shootings, domestic violence, mental illness, and economic despair. Are those things at all related to preventable tragedies?

When will YOU decide that SOMETHING must be done?

Complex problems cannot be solved by unthinking, knee-jerk reactions. The problem of gun violence in America is complex. Complex solutions must be discussed and implemented. People with far more insight than what I have must get involved.

I can keep insisting that something be done. So that's what I hope to do.

If the NRA and commercial firearms interests want to be involved in the discussion, we should demand they move beyond today's prevailing mythologies. 

Is American society "insane" to allow ANYONE to invoke the mantra "the solution to gun violence is to have more guns?" When will we realize that the only result of such invocations has been to drop the issue until the next mass shooting?

When will YOU decide that something DIFFERENT must be done?


Just in case it wasn't obvious, I do NOT know what will ultimately mitigate the problem of gun violence in America. I do not advocate "taking away all of our guns." I do think that perhaps one major obstacle to development of workable solutions is people fear that talking about solutions will lead to gun bans. We have to get BEYOND that fear.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Redistricting litigation update(s)

Since we last met (or since I last wrote about Arizona's independent redistricting), a number of things have taken place in lawsuits pending in federal and state court.

The Arizona Court of Appeals on Tuesday issued a 59-page opinion affirming the Superior Court ruling that Attorney General Tom Horne had no justification for his 2011 witch hunt (investigation into possible Open Meeting Law violations).

The IRC has the capacity and standing to bring this action for declaratory and injunctive relief. As a matter of law, the OML [statutory Open Meeting Law] applies to the IRC. The communications alleged in the petition for enforcement, insofar as they pertain to hiring the mapping consultant, are not protected by legislative privilege. There is, however, no reasonable cause to support the OML investigation. We affirm the superior court's entry of summary judgment in favor of Appellees [AIRC] and the injunction against further investigation under the OML of the acts alleged in the petition for enforcement. (emphasis added)
The opinion is 59 pages long because the court went into painstaking detail on what, where and why the AIRC is and is not subject to the Open Meeting Law spelled out in Arizona Revised Statutes. Boiled down to its essence, however, the AIRC is subject to OML except and to the extent the statutes conflict with the Open Meeting Clause in the constitutional language about the commission.


In my most recent previous post on redistricting, both parties to the federal court challenge to the state legislative district maps had signed a proposed case management plan that presented an overview of the case and what each side believed the other needed to prove in order to prevail. A key point of that proposed plan is that the AIRC stated it needs more time to adequately prepare than the proposed March trial dates would allow.

Yesterday, Judge Roslyn Silver issued a 4-page order setting forth a firm March 25, 2013 trial start date, specifying other parameters for pre-trial preparation and noting a case management conference to be held at the Sandra Day O'Connor federal courthouse in Phoenix on Wednesday, December 19 at 4:30pm. Among the matters to be discussed at next Wednesday's conference is whether the Commission or any of its members should be dismissed as defendants in the case.

Silver also notes that parties must be prepared Wednesday to discuss the issues raised in the AIRC motion for judgment on the pleadings (filed Dec 3). That motion asks the court to dismiss the commissioners as parties to the lawsuit and to dismiss the second claim for relief. From the motion for judgement on the pleadings:

The second issue necessitating review is the State of Arizona’s Eleventh Amendment immunity for the Second Claim for Relief, which seeks to enjoin state officers to conform their conduct to state law. The Eleventh Amendment prevents a federal court from entertaining, without the State’s consent, “a claim that state officials violated state law in carrying out their official responsibilities.” Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 121 (1984)*. The Commission is asserting the State’s Eleventh Amendment immunity** over Plaintiffs’ Second Claim for relief.

The second claim for relief, in the second amended complaint asks the federal court three-judge panel to declare the legislative district map in violation of the Arizona Constitution. However, the 11th Amendment bars federal courts from using state (Arizona) law to rule against states (Arizona).
ARIZ. CONST. art. 4, pt. 2, § 1(14)(B) requires the IRC to draw legislative districts with equal population to the extent practicable. The IRC could have drawn legislative districts that achieved the ideal population had it wanted to do so, just as it did with congressional districts. To do so, however, would have prevented the McNulty/Herrera/Mathis bloc from maximizing the number of Democratic-plurality districts. As a result, the McNulty/ Herrera/Mathis bloc deliberately defied the equal population requirement of ARIZ. CONST. art. 4, pt. 2, § 1(14)(B) for the sole purpose of maximizing the partisan interests of the Democratic Party. The Final Legislative Map therefore violates the equal population requirement of ARIZ. CONST. art. 4, pt. 2, § 1(14)(B), and thereby injures Plaintiffs, and each of them, and is null and void.

In the Congressional district map challenge (currently before Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Mark Brain), documents filed last week include the AIRC response to the second amended complaint (17 pages); a motion to dismiss claims three and six of the second amended complaint (7 pages); and a stipulation to dismissal of the first claim of the second amended complaint (3 pages).

The second amended complaint, to which these three documents refer, is found here.

The stipulation simply recognizes that Judge Brain had dismissed that particular claim and plaintiff's counsel (Hauser) wanted to reserve the right to appeal that particular dismissal.


*Note (partial quote from
Ct. Majority: When a suit is brought against a state official,  it is brought against the State itself.  Whether the parties are seeking injunctive relief or actual damages before a Fed. Ct., a suit against state officials on the basis of state law, cannot be entertained.  The state is the real and substantial party at interest, and therefor, the state immunity under the 11th is preserved.
**Note (partial quote from the June 2010 Harvard Law Review article on the 11th Amendment by Bradford R Clark):

The traditional “immunity” theory, currently embraced by a majority of the Supreme Court (but few academics), argues that states enjoy broad constitutional sovereign immunity beyond the terms of the Amendment. Proponents of broad immunity regard the Amendment’s text as unacceptably underinclusive because it bars suits only by out-of-state citizens. In Hans v. Louisiana, the Court famously characterized a citizen’s suggestion that “[t]he letter” of the Amendment left him free to sue his own state as “an attempt to strain the Constitution and the law to a construction never imagined or dreamed of.” In the Court’s view, the purpose of the Amendment was to bar all suits by individuals against states.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Arizona UPRISING -- Maricopa County Democratic Reorganization

Congratulations are in order for the Maricopa County Democratic Party, citizens and voters. Precinct committeepersons this morning elected Laura Copple to serve as chair for 2013 and 2014.

Laura's a grassroots superstar. She knows how to build relationships, encourage people (young and old, rich or poor, etc) and get the job done. But she is NOT (all by herself) the be all or end all to MCDP and she will not be alone in the quest to turn Maricopa County and Arizona BLUE.

More than 250 Democratic activists showed up this morning and gracefully handled a democratic election with multiple candidates for the chair and vice-chair positions. Each candidate (and those who nominated them) made a pitch. The vote totals and margins were neither razor thin nor absurdly lopsided. To me, this means there was a healthy level of disagreement along with a reasonable way to handle the importance of the decisions those votes represented.

While there had been discussion of concerns over the last few weeks regarding the 2012 election season, there was no undercurrent of acrimony or hostility. Of course, there were also very real electoral victories.

I believe Copple's willingness to listen to and work with those who brought (or will bring) up concerns has already gone a long way toward addressing those concerns.

I have FULL confidence in the entire body of Precinct Committeepersons, activists and executive committees of each Democratic legislative district group in Maricopa County that the vision and collective talent will be immediately focused on building for a successful 2014 election season.

Steven Slugocki, who has served as MCDP treasurer for the last two years, was elected First Vice-Chair. His experience will be a tremendous asset in the transition for the new executive committee. He has contagious enthusiasm and high level of energy.

Kristin Foster, a PC in LD17 and teacher in South Phoenix schools was elected Second Vice-Chair; Dan Trozzi is the new Treasurer; Jacqueline Sandoval was elected Sargeant-at-Arms and Robert Donat is the new MCDP Secretary.

Each brings new enthusiasm to the MCDP, but I am particularly excited about what I believe Robert Donat will do to revamp and update the website to make it easier to feel connected to each other in our mutual endeavor over the next two year period.

Longtime Democratic activist Carol Corsica also spent some time talking (informally, afterward) about the history of standing and ad hoc committees and recruiting for prospective committees. She is particularly interested in election integrity. She invited people to contact her if they are interested in learning more.

There are provisions in Arizona statutes for volunteers to be more actively involved in polling place monitoring. But to take advantage (and minimize problems like we saw with unacceptably high levels of provisional ballots last month), volunteer recruitment and training has to begin well ahead of the next election dates.

By the way, one concern that had been brought up recently is that "patting ourselves on the back" for how the 2012 election ended up might cause a let down in goals and expectations. Nobody I know is satisfied, however, with the fact that voters in Maricopa County re-elected its notorious nativist sheriff.

Ann Wallack and the 2011-2012 MCDP executive committee and volunteers did a tremendous job. But EVERYBODY is hungry to "take it to the next level."

On Wednesday, Copple described her vision for GOTV (Get Out The Vote) when speaking to a meeting of Democracy For America -- Maricopa County. In legislative districts with strong Democratic voter advantage, if those voters do not turn out (perhaps believing it is not necessary because their state lawmakers are unopposed in the general election), that adversely impacts the chances for our candidates in statewide (or countywide) races. Needless to say, she sees this as a key opportunity to enhance Democratic electoral performance.

The bottom line is that together WE can make a difference and change the political culture in Arizona.

Make no mistake, Republican state lawmakers are UNLIKELY to seriously moderate their quest to enact draconian legislation that infringes on individual liberties (for example, like last year, under the guise of religious freedom for corporations), attacks on social safety net programs and diminishing worker rights (under the guise of making Arizona more favorable for companies to bring jobs to our state).

With the GOP continuing to move in that direction, opportunity for Democrats to elect common sense candidates who will actually represent the PEOPLE will be better in 2014 than it was this year.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Arizona UPRISING -- Reorganize, Regroup, Reenergize

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. -- Theodore Roosevelt, at the Sorbonne, Paris, France 1910
Of course, it is still easier to see where others are mistaken than to recognize our own foibles and folly many times. And in politics, the game is all about conflict anyway.

Now that it is time for grassroots political groups to reorganize, at least here in Arizona, it is also a good time for serious reflection and robust discussion. I'm thankful for what Arizona Democrats accomplished in the 2012 general election. But I'm also keenly aware that there were big blunders and there was and is plenty of room for improvement.

How do we get where we need to go? How do we become the change we want to make happen?

MIT senior lecturer Peter Senge's book, The Fifth Discipline: the art and practice of learning organizations, is considered "seminal" by management experts and those who teach leadership of various types of organizations. The book's page on describes it thus:
This revised edition of Peter Senge’s bestselling classic, The Fifth Discipline, is based on fifteen years of experience in putting the book’s ideas into practice. As Senge makes clear, in the long run the only sustainable competitive advantage is your organization’s ability to learn faster than the competition. The leadership stories in the book demonstrate the many ways that the core ideas in The Fifth Discipline, many of which seemed radical when first published in 1990, have become deeply integrated into people’s ways of seeing the world and their managerial practices. 
What we have today, in the current reorganization environment, is a challenge to take what has been the reality of the organization(s) (the Arizona Democratic Party; the Maricopa County Democratic Party (and other county party organizations) and legislative district party groups -- then define the vision of what we will make happen, conduct the learning that it will take to get the end result to materialize as a result of the cooperative work of volunteer activists throughout the state.

I will have more to write on this subject, hopefully in the next day or two.

I will also set forth bits and pieces of analysis of election results, comparing those election results with voter registration rolls and the efforts of activists making calls, knocking on doors and getting people to the polls.

With the partial results that I have posted thus far, I have not taken the time to expound on what the vote totals mean when compared to voter registration. It is those analyses that will provide guidance for developing goals, strategies and tactics for the next two years (election cycle).

On Saturday morning, we will begin to hear from candidates for various leadership positions, ultimately choosing the executive team for Maricopa County Democrats. I am confident that we will have good people with solid Democratic values who will provide excellent leadership.

In the meantime, however, people with concerns about how the last election cycle unfolded will articulate their concerns and hopefully also ideas for improvement will begin working on that plan. They (we) will, ultimately (hopefully) grow to care deeply about each other and become teams willing to LEARN and GROW together to change the political culture of our great state.

We WILL persist until we succeed.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Party activists untie... er, UNITE!

Or something like that.

Back in the day, testing telecommunications systems during my enlistment in the US Air Force, we would send the message, "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country," to a distant terminal, hoping it would get there without being garbled in between.

Nearly forty years later, I'm USING telecommunications systems more than testing them. And I've been a Democratic Party activist for the last couple of years. So, it's more than just a test to see if the message gets garbled up before it reaches its destination.

Now IS the time for all good people to come to the aid of their (state and county and local district) country.

Soon, it will be time to analyze the election results (the official canvass is due to be signed by the Secretary of State and the Governor, and posted online on Monday).

Comparing voter registration numbers with the election results will provide important insights. That will be a good place to start the next step in grassroots political (party) activism.

The 113th Congress will convene on January 3rd and the 51st Arizona Legislature on January 14, 2013.  The next election for lawmakers hoping to serve in each will take place on November 4, 2014.

But grassroots activists do not take the year 2013 off.

The last few months of the 2012 primary election season (which coincided with the long hot Arizona summer) exposed issues that became difficult to address at that time.

Namely, that the Democratic party failed to field candidates for a number of key elected offices. Yet, for others races, multiple Democratic candidates exposed other problems, like whether Party officials could, should, or would support particular candidates in those contested primaries.

At the time, it occurred to me that many of those questions could not be appropriately addressed in the middle of the situation(s). So, when should they be brought up? That brings us to Party reorganization time. Which is now.

I'm not conversant on bylaws and rules or regulations for running the Party. I don't even know if the bylaws or other written documents are the proper place to provide for guidance on addressing the foreseeable problems.

Next Saturday (12/8) , the Maricopa County Democratic Party meets so that elected Precinct Committeepersons can elect new leadership. It occurs to me that THIS might be THE time to work out the hows and the whys and the wherefores to decide how inevitable tensions (reasonably expected in the Spring and Summer of 2014) are properly anticipated and addressed when they do arise.

Fellow activists groused from time to time about the fact that no Democrat challenged Republican County Attorney Bill Montgomery in his re-election campaign. Besides failure to field candidates for all open offices/seats, the other big problem was the deep divide that occurred because of the contested primary between Paul Penzone and John Rowan to see who would challenge Maricopa County's controversial nativist sheriff.

Wouldn't it be better to have a robust discussion NOW than when history repeats itself in 2014?


All of that leads me to address an op-ed column the Arizona Republic ran in its December 1 (Saturday) edition written by Nomiki Konst.

I was immediately intrigued when I first read this Friday night. But not necessarily in a positive way. The very first thing Ms. Konst says is that "Arizona Democrats blew it."

"Wow," I thought. "What on earth does she mean?"

Of course, I knew that results for the only statewide races for public office in our state were disappointing for Democrats. Come January, when all five members will be Republicans, the Corporation Commission becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of ALEC. That SUCKS big time.

Then there was the opportunity Democrats had to have former US Surgeon General Richard Carmona represent us in the US Senate. However, having closely observed quite a bit of that race, it is apparent to me that simply claiming that "they" blew it does more to spread a cloak over the situation than to illuminate it.

I don't know that I am qualified to definitively pronounce the reason(s) why Arizona hired a former mining industry lobbyist (Flake) to represent us in the Senate, but I'm confident there's a whole lot more to it than just "they" blew it.

Should we really believe there were NO factors other than what the Arizona Democratic Party could control? Just how big of a role did Citizens United and SuperPACs play? I don't have those answers, but legitimate understanding can only be had by delving into the data.

Here's a first glance, according to unofficial vote counts posted by the Arizona Secretary of State:

  • Richard Carmona (Dem) 1,036,542 (46.16 %)
  • Jeff Flake (Rep) 1,104,457 (49.18%)
  • Marc Victor (Lib) 102,109 (4.55%)
  • None of the above (aka, Write-In) 2,501 (0.11%)
Voter turnout: 74.36 % 

Final voter registration numbers for the 2012 General Election: 
  • Democrat 952,931 (30.5 %)
  • Republican 1,120,992 (35.88%)
  • Green 4,863 (0.16%)
  • Libertarian 22,086 (0.71%)
  • Americans Elect 237 (0.01%)
  • Other 1,023,603 (32.76%)
Total active voter registration -- 3,124,712

Clearly, in spite of a LOT of SuperPAC money pouring into Arizona, Democrats didn't fare as badly as Big Money had hoped. I'll save further analysis for another time.


Okay, let's get beyond the fact that the brash Ms. Konst had to know she was going to make Arizona Democrats defensive from the start. Whether they (we) rightfully should be defensive is a different question altogether. The net result of Konst's opening salvo is that whatever insight she might present will be met with, at best, skepticism.

But let's take a look at her claims.

Starting out with HUGE generalities, she says President Obama won because he
constructed a coalition of new voters. Nationally, Republicans lost because they didn't get this message -- but neither did the Arizona Democratic Party. 
Really? I've not seen ANY analysis of national voting data providing legitimate insight or a demographic profile of the "typical" Obama voter. While Democrats picked up a couple of seats in the Senate, the US House will still be run by John Boehner and the GOP.

Where exactly does Konst come up with her claim that Democrats in Arizona are making excuses such as that Hispanics do not vote? Or that messaging was ineffective or organizational strategies were weak?

On November 18, I published my initial, very cursory analysis of the results of Congressional districts 1, 2, and 9 races. (Last night I updated the vote totals with the latest data from the Secretary of State's website). The three districts were the only ones with voter registration balance that provided any possibility of a competitive contest.

Based on the data in that post, and the fact that Democrats picked up a few seats in each chamber of the state legislature, I believe Ms. Konst to be VERY FAR off the mark in her characterization of the election outcome.

Political Scientist Jennifer Steen, an assistant professor at Arizona State, specializes in analysis of election and voting data. She told me:
My take is that the three “competitive” districts are indeed competitive and could have been won by either party... The five Democratic winners will all enjoy the advantage of running as incumbents in 2014; however, it will be a midterm election with a lame-duck Democrat in the Oval Office so if the GOP nominates strong candidates with broad appeal in any or all of the three competitive districts...
... it is possible the Republicans could retake the majority of our state's House delegation.

Let's step back a bit. From a critical thinking look at Konst's column, she cited NO DATA on ANY of her claims. She made specific accusations against the chair of the Arizona Democratic Party as well as the Pima County chair. She said her volunteers were threatened. She stated what she thinks Party officials are using as excuses, but cites NO source for quotations. Of course, there are several other holes in her "logic" and "reasoning."

Let's change direction for a moment. Konst says the party has but one duty -- to grow. Okay, well, outside of the fact that she has not made a case for her being a voice of authority, growth is STILL very important. What ideas did she provide to make that happen?

Did she, instead, really just unload on Arizona and Pima County Democrats out of frustration and unrealistic expectations for not getting support to which she felt entitled -- in her quest to become the youngest Member of the 113th Congress? Besides vigorous debate about the direction of the Democratic Party, this is also a good time to spell out what potential candidates should be ready to bring to the table and what they can reasonably expect from the Party.

Having never heard of this brash young lady before reading her letter, I turned to Google to learn more. I found that she has been published on Huffington Post. Her HuffPost bio says she's "a former 2012 Congressional candidate for Arizona's second district. [sic]" Her personal website says:
Nomiki (Nomi) Konst was recently a Congressional candidate for Arizona's second district. Running in the district formerly held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, at 28-years-old, Konst was vying to be the youngest woman to ever serve in Congress.​ Currently, Konst is a political strategist and organizational and start-up strategist.
I have to give her credit for being willing to take risks*. She is young and she is brash. My impression of her op-ed is that she is both mistaken and expressing frustration.

Friday night I posted the column to facebook and asked my friends for their impressions. Most read the naivete and sour grapes aspect of it without me having to expound on it. But a couple of people said they agreed with her on a point or two anyway. Clearly, young people with drive and ambition are worth having in the Party. I'm not sure how realistic it is to allow her to be "the" leader, but she has as much of a right to have A voice as I do.


Apart from analysis of what Konst wrote, I have to wonder why the Arizona Republic decided to publish Konst's op-ed. On the surface, one possibility is that they saw it as an opportunity to bolster the paper's bona fides with its conservative subscriber base. Because it seems obvious that the GOP would relish the thought of turmoil and division among Arizona Democrats, and the potential for this letter to the editor to cause tension certainly is pretty high also.

Of course, the Republic MIGHT have had altruistic motives and simply wanted to give Arizona Democrats the chance to change our ineffective ways. Hmmm... right.

Nevertheless, all politics is about conflict. We certainly do not increase our chances of winning by shying away from disagreement. Instead, let's use this to generate robust discussion and ideas to do better in the next election cycle.


* "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly." -- Robert F. Kennedy