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Independent Again

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[The following speech was given at a press conference on the afternoon of 7/25/17]

My fellow Arizonans,

It has been incredibly exciting to campaign among you for the last several months.  Shaking thousands of your hands, listening to your concerns, and hearing you express your excitement to vote for me has been very touching and humbling.  My unique campaign has brought together many people of varying backgrounds.  Most of my work so far has been with Democratic voters, and they have received me warmly.  I’m also proud to say I’ve also received lots of support from independents, Republicans, Libertarians, and Greens. I couldn’t be more thrilled at the reception the public has given me, as evidenced by the dozens of speaking invitations, the thousands of dollars in unsolicited donations from across the state and around the nation, and the hundreds of people who have signed my petition.

Though I have not been a registered Democrat for very long, I’ve been voting for many of the party’s ideals and candidates for at least a decade.  I believe there was a time when being a Democratic party leader meant being a champion of inclusion.  This was the umbrella party where everyone was welcomed.  Anyone interested could have had a home and voice within the Democratic Party. Today, while that may be the local experience, at the levels of state and federal leadership the Democratic party has shown itself to be largely unwilling to support candidates who are not the stereotypical Democrats.  

Again, I want to be clear. I am not talking about county level leaders. I am not talking about legislative district leaders.  I’m not talking about the grassroots organizers.  And I’m certainly not talking about the average voter.  The vast majority of these people have been very welcoming and helpful.  I am so grateful to them for the crash course they have given me in navigating the Democratic party and politics in general.

However, Senior state level partisans have been working in both subtle and not so subtle ways to give my fellow candidates advantages and to slow my progress.  They have attempted to silence a common sense approach to the Governorship.  Given the respect and influence these people wield, though they have by no means halted my campaign, they made it clear, both in my campaign and numerous campaigns around the country, that if you are not a party insider, you are not allowed to run for office so far as they are concerned.

To be clear, I am not so naive as to have expected that the party leadership would welcome me with open arms and throw their unconditional support behind me.  Skepticism and hesitancy were an appropriate starting point given my lack of involvement with the party previously.  However, I expected that the party would move to quickly vet me and my ideas, and then support me or not based on their findings.  Had they done so, they would have found me sincere and capable, and excited to fight for the values we share.

But there has been no such vetting.  Instead of evaluating me on my merits, they decided to evaluate me based on sensational in spreading.  While tens of thousands of Democrats have arrived at the truth easily enough, those responsible for leading the party have been unwilling or uninterested in having the same experience.

The party needs to grow. It needs to change. It needs to shift. We have tried. I have personally worked hard to stretch the party to actually be the party of inclusion. Senior party leaders in the state have decided that a progressive who believes in common sense governing has no place in their party.  If I want to win, I have to run in a way that will allow me to campaign and then to govern with real transparency and integrity. I’m not interested in being beholden to elite members of a political organization.  I won’t be owned by lobbyists and shady corporate contributors.  I intend to lead first and foremost as an Arizonan; an intelligent, hard working, human with a deep love of our great state.

Having observed the 2016 presidential race, I know what happens to progressive independents whose aspirations threaten to outshine entrenched partisans.  I had hoped that the party had learned its lesson and was ready to embrace that kind of candidate, but one need only read the transcripts from recent courtroom proceedings involving the DNC to know that the party is still unrepentant.  Certainly, my personal experience is also in line with that conclusion.

It has become clear that the only way that I can see the changes that we need in Arizona is to separate myself from the party.  For that reason, I have decided to move forward with a big, bittersweet change to my campaign.  I will be changing my party affiliation to independent, and running as a Clean Elections candidate.  

I say the decision is bitter because I worry that the Democrats who have shown me support will feel like I am abandoning them.  I assure you, this is not true!  My platform is not changing as part of this switch.  I am still fighting for great public education in Arizona.  I am still fighting for equality and fairness for all Arizonans, including our blacks, our immigrants, our women, and our LGBTQ community.  I am still fighting for economic policies that benefit everyone, including small business owners, entrepreneurs, and employees, not just the highest executives of Arizona’s biggest corporations.

I say the change is sweet because I will be campaigning not only for policies I truly believe in, but for politics I truly believe in.  Arizonans, and for that matter Americans, are tired of the stalemate the 2 party system has created.  Arizonans want to elect people who are more interested in making progress than making headlines.  They want to elect people who are committed to free thinking, not group thinking.  They want to elect people who serve the people, not who serve themselves in the name of the people.  

When I started my campaign, I thought I needed the structure of a major party to win. But I was wrong!  If I want to win, I don’t need their structure; I need to build a new structure for independent voters and candidates.  To that end, I am excited not only to announce my own candidacy as an independent, but an ambitious plan to run 100 independents in 2018, including an independent for all 98 state offices called the AZ Indie 100.

It took the major parties nearly 200 years to build out the nationwide system of local, state, and national leaders that allow them to dominate today’s elections and thereby attract candidates.  However, by focusing only on Arizona, empowered by modern technology, and with an incredible helping of grit and determination, I know we can develop an organization for independents here in Arizona that rivals what the major parties have built, and we can do so before the 2018 election.

We know Arizonans are hungry for it because in 1998 we became one of only 15 states that offer public financing options for compelling candidates who don’t have deep pockets.  Individually, the amounts can be small.  A Clean Elections candidate who runs for state legislature gets less than $30,000.  But if we run an independent for all 98 offices that are eligible for clean elections funding, that’s nearly $5.5 million dollars.  To get that money, all we have to do is raise about $200,000, $5 at a time.  It’s not a small task, but it’s a doable task, and I know thousands of independents are going to come out to help us.  Combined with other monies that clean candidates are allowed to raise it makes for a total budget of over $6 million to spread the message that voting for independent candidates isn’t only a viable choice, it’s the ONLY viable choice.

Having shared the plan broadly, I now want to speak to independent voters.  We have to do more in the 2018 election!  We are the fastest growing political group by far.  The major parties aren’t even close.  Over the last 30 years, the Republican and Democratic parties have grown about 40% in Arizona, but registered independents have grown by nearly 500%.  There are over 1.2 million independents.  That’s hundreds of thousands more than the Democrats, and practically the same as the Republicans.  We have the numbers to make our voices heard, we just have to organize.

If you have ever considered running for public office, this is the election for you to get off the fence and make it happen.  We are here to help you.  Please reach out.  We have developed a turnkey campaign plan that will help you get up to speed quickly and make the most of your time.  You will get to focus on determining your policies and communicating with voters.  We have a very capable team to set up your campaign and connect with voters.  You can learn more about running as an independent at ArizonaIndependents.com.

I want to say one more thing about running for office with the AZ Indie 100.  Part of being human is disagreeing.  I am not trying to assemble 99 other people who agree with me issue by issue.  There will be no such thing as a party line among independents.  I feel strongly about women’s reproductive rights, a strong public education, and the Black Lives Matter movement.  There may be candidates in this program who are anti-abortion, support giving public funds to private schools, and who don’t acknowledge racial injustice in America.  

These are serious differences, and sometimes they will divide us.  But we will be united in our resolve to look at the issues honestly and intelligently, and to work together to solve problems.  When it is done right, the objective of politics is not to agree on everything, but to come to an agreement.  

Arizona, get excited because 2018 is the start of a new era.  Independent, Democrat, Republican or otherwise, this will be a historic election cycle, and I am confident that the people will stand up, make their voices heard, and demand a government that truly represents them.

Thank you.


For more information, please visit ArizonaIndependents.com.

 

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