Making a Case in Arizona

When you’re a civil rights lawyer, you learn a thing or two about bullies. They talk tough. They act tall. They take advantage of the voiceless and the vulnerable, and they attack people who may not look or sound like them.

I’ve encountered quite a few of those in my day. The white supremacists in Texas who I prosecuted for racially motivated hate crimes; the big banks that I went after for foreclosing on active-duty service members; and of course, the immigrant-bashing Sheriff Joe Arpaio who I took on right here in Arizona.

When I was head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division under President Obama, we went toe-to-toe with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department, and we took Arizona all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to make sure SB1070 would not stand.

As the son of two immigrants from the Dominican Republic, I was so proud to stand up for the rights of all those seeking a better life in the land of opportunity. And in November, the voters of Maricopa County stood up, too, by booting Sheriff Arpaio and his immigrant-baiting tactics out of office.

But November’s election also brought us face-to-face with a new bully in President-elect Donald Trump. To quote Sheriff Arpaio himself, he and Trump “see eye to eye” — and ego to ego. And much like the sheriff, Trump is putting forth an agenda that threatens the values we hold dear.

Now more than ever, Democrats need to stand together to fight for those values and protect the progress we’ve made over the last eight years. That’s why I’m running to be the next chair of the Democratic National Committee.

I believe this is a “where were you?” moment in our nation’s history. We’re fighting for the very heart and soul of America. And I know we cannot best serve Americans until we build a strong, vibrant, and inclusive Democratic Party.

Luckily, the grassroots organizers in Arizona have given us a blueprint for moving forward. In an election most Democrats want to forget, you helped achieve unprecedented progressive victories in your state.

Arizona saw the biggest surge in Latino early voting in the country. Sheriff Arpaio was shown the door and Adrian Fontes became the first Latino to win countywide office in Maricopa County. And by an overwhelming 16-point margin, Arizona voters approved raising the state’s minimum wage and requiring companies to provide paid sick leave.

And you did all of this the old-fashioned way: knocking on doors, making calls, and organizing the largest voter registration drive this state has ever seen.

I want to bring that same spirit of organizing to the DNC. Following your example, our party needs to get to the basics: supporting state parties; investing in grassroots organizing; focusing on the issues that keep American families up at night; and communicating our message of inclusion and opportunity to voters in all 57 states, territories, and abroad — not just every election cycle, but year-round.

To achieve all of this progress, we also need to have a chair who can grow our party and speak to its big tent, and who has the management experience to run a complex organization that delivers real results for all Americans.

I think I can make a difference because I’ve been taking on progressive fights and winning my entire career. After putting myself through college with Pell Grants and by working on the back of trash truck, I passed up offers from white shoe law firms, choosing instead to start my career as a civil rights attorney. And for the past eight years, it has been the privilege of my life to serve under President Obama.

First at the Justice Department, where, in addition to battling Joe Arpaio, we cracked down on police misconduct, fought for marriage equality, and challenged discriminatory voter suppression laws in Arizona and around the country. And then as Secretary of Labor, where I’ve spent the last three years overseeing a complex agency with more than 16,000 dedicated employees across the country who are fighting to expand opportunities for working people — from better wages and overtime pay, to collective bargaining rights and a path to retirement security.

But my strongest roots are in local leadership. As an organizer, I helped lead a group called CASA de Maryland grow from a small service provider in the basement of a church to one of the largest immigrant advocacy organizations in the Mid-Atlantic. We made change happen from the ground up, and we did it through that same simple formula: organize, organize, organize.

That’s what you’ve been doing here in Arizona. That’s how we’ll work together to turn this state blue. And that’s how we’ll build a Democratic Party that can win seats from school boards to the Senate, and that can take on bullies from Maricopa County to the White House.