Tucson: Arizona elections heat up

The news that Rep. Raul Grijalva, co-chair of the Hispanic Caucus in the U.S. Congress, is now in a tighter race than expected has jolted working-class and progressive forces into action. Money is pouring in, while hundreds of volunteers are knocking on doors and making thousands of phone calls.  This time not only local supporters, but also busloads of volunteers, are coming in from Phoenix and even from California to help the campaign.

Grijalva's 2010 campaign is now looking less like recent contests and more like the 2002 primary elections when Grijalva, aided by an army of 650 volunteers, routed seven other candidates for the Democratic nomination.  For the first time ever, the Southern Arizona Chicano community is represented in Congress by one of their own.  Phoenix's Rep. Ed Pastor is the only other Latino ever to be elected to Congress from Arizona.

A majority are expected to vote by mail.

Phone calls escalated as soon as the ballots were mailed to voters, and now with only a week remaining, the calls will concentrate on those who have yet to vote. 

As in previous elections, the strategy is to get a massive voter turnout that will not only re-elect Grijalva, but also help benefit other Democratic candidates, especially Attorney General Terry Goddard who is challenging ultra-right governor Jan Brewer.

The governor's race is critical for progressives here because they hope to have an executive branch of government in Arizona that can counter what they see as an increasingly right-wing and racist legislative branch.

When Janet Napolitano,  herself not considered a strong progressive in many areas, left to join President Obama's cabinet trouble for progressives intensified.

With Brewer at the helm public education is now on the chopping block, children stand to lose health care coverage, ethnic studies may be outlawed, and then there's the infamous SB1070, the most draconian anti-immigrant law in the country.

In addition to these problems, the legislature placed a long list of propositions on the ballot that will abolish any remaining affirmative action programs, sabotage federal health care legislation, and prevent the Employee Free Choice Act from being enforced in Arizona, just to name a few.

Most of Arizona's other Congressional races are also too close to call. Liberal Democratic Rep. Ed Pastor is likely to keep his CD-4 seat but Arizona's three other Democrats, who are "centrists," are facing stiff right-wing challenges.  In CD-3 Democrat Jon Hulburd is locked in a close race for an open seat with Ben Quayle, son of the former vice President.

Republican Senator John McCain appears likely to be re-elected.

Arizona's labor movement has geared up its "Labor to Labor" outreach to voters with a massive door-to-door campaign targeting all union households in the state.

People are going door to door, dropping off lists of labor-endorsed candidates with a special insert extolling Grijalva's support for jobs, extending unemployment benefits, and the EFCA, compared to his opponent, Ruth McClung's campaign, "to leave the unemployed out in the cold."