Perceptions of Bias
We are in the middle of the most important election year in Arizona. We have elections from the top to the bottom of the ballot and local elections have never been more crucial than they are this year. We also have more primaries than we’ve ever had before.
Primaries are exciting because we get to really see who our candidates are and how they perform under the pressure of being challenged…. and our candidates have the opportunity to become better because they are challenged.
Primaries are intended to give the voters options through which they can determine whom best aligns with their values and expectations.
Democratic organizations are intended to create a platform for candidates to reach voters, thus giving voters the opportunity to more closely inspect and question candidates.
But primaries also have challenges because we must make tough decisions between candidates from our same party.
It can be uncomfortable.
But I firmly believe this discomfort is priceless because it forces us to evaluate our values, determine our own priorities when faced with two candidates with many shared platforms, and we learn to articulate our reasons for supporting one candidate over another, beyond party affiliation.
We want every single eligible voter to be excited about candidates this year, and that excitement will (and should) result in personal bias for or against candidates. However, events by Democratic organizations should not reflect that bias through exclusion or sabotage because it robs voters and candidates of the very democratic values we profess and are trying to protect.
Over the last few months, we have received multiple reports from Democrats accusing the State Democratic Party and several County Democratic Parties of performing activities perceived as showing an extreme preference for one or more candidates who are currently facing primaries.
Such accusations have increased over the past week and now include activities involving office openings by the State Democratic Party as well as Congressional District and Legislative District offices.
Some of those accusations include the direct exclusion of candidates’ materials, inviting only one candidate in a primary to speak at official events, and candidates invited as current office holders speaking instead as candidates (i.e. giving a stump speech). All allegations are in relation to direct Party invitations (or lack of) rather than candidates randomly showing up for events.
It is important to note that no written requirement exists for the State Democratic Party or most, if not all, County Democratic Parties to remain neutral during primaries. Nor is it a requirement that any Democratic office or organization (i.e. Democratic Clubs and Legislative Districts) remain neutral unless those groups have formally adopted such language themselves.
We understand strong beliefs exists that Democratic organizations in Arizona remain neutral during a primary, but it is in fact not required by any position formally adopted by the State Democratic Party.
Much like our erroneous belief that Presidential candidates must disclose their taxes, the Democratic Party remaining neutral is a tradition, rather than a formal requirement.
All previous State Democratic Party leaders have followed that tradition by espousing the intent to remain neutral and maintaining neutrality.
This year is complicated because we have more primaries than ever before, as well as a lot of emotion around the 2018 elections.
We have, however, spoken informally and formally to those in leadership positions within the State Democratic Party (previously and this month) to get clarification on their position due to the many well-documented allegations by Arizona Democrats.
The State Democratic Party has assured us of its commitment to remain neutral in the primary and in inviting all statewide candidates to all future State Democratic Party events. They have further committed to:
- Making “sure that every single statewide candidate is invited to any of the office openings.”
- “Having a complete list with all the correct email and contact information for all the campaigns”
- “Making sure that anyone on the phone [calling on behalf of the State Party] can [truthfully] say that all candidates have been invited” to any State Democratic Party event.
- “Performing a root-cause analysis [of how and why previous exclusions have occurred] in order to determine what corrective action” they need to take to avoid biased actions or perceptions of bias toward any Democratic candidate.
We have a lot of seats to secure this year and even an appearance of impropriety will hurt us from the top to the bottom of the ballot.
Any Democratic organization that does not intend to follow the tradition of neutrality should publicly disclose that decision so fellow Democrats are not confused or disillusioned by false expectations.
This is not about me or any other candidate feeling slighted or even about fairness.
This is about who we are and who we say we are.
Because if we’re willing to give up our own democratic values, there is no reason to worry about anyone trying to take them away from us.
May the best candidates in all primaries win by embracing our Democratic values and may everyone stand behind that winner in the general election regardless of whether it was their first choice.
That’s how we show who we are and demonstrate the strength of our values.