State Dems to meet in Kingman for the first time

KINGMAN - The normally ruby-red Kingman is set to look a whole lot bluer this weekend, when the Arizona Democratic Party brings its quarterly state committee meeting to Mohave County for the first time.

About 300 party officials including Chairman Don Bivens, former gubernatorial candidate Carolyn Warner, and several potential candidates for Attorney General and State Superintendent of Schools are expected to converge on White Cliffs Middle School at 400 Grandview Ave. this Saturday, much to the delight of local district chair Mary McLaughlin.

"We've fought for a year for this event to be held here," McLaughlin said. "My son, he's the one who argued with the state to get it up here."

According to the state party's communications director, Jennifer Johnson, the decision to hold the meeting in Kingman marks a radical departure from the party's usual stomping grounds of Tucson, Phoenix and Flagstaff. Johnson said the change in venue is due in part to be fair to those Democrats in outlying rural areas, and in part to help improve the party's image around the state by holding at least one quarterly meeting per year in a rural county.

"Basically, the state party is attempting to strengthen our statewide profile," she said. "It's similar to when the Democratic National Convention happens - it's not held in D.C. or New York every time. We're trying to emulate that on a state level, to increase our overall presence."

But before local Democrats get too excited, Johnson noted that the meeting will focus primarily on "nuts and bolts" matters, with individual caucuses splitting up into various classrooms to discuss the current state of affairs for each of their groups, as well as their organizational strategies for future electoral campaigns.

All the same, McLaughlin is hailing it as a triumph for the local party, whose candidates were soundly defeated in last year's elections.

By garnering more attention from the state party, McLaughlin is hopeful that someday soon the Democrats can redefine the political landscape of Mohave County and begin fielding candidates with a stronger chance of making it to the Legislature.

"There was such a big flare-up last year - we got (President Barack) Obama but we didn't get a lot of our local candidates elected. That wasn't just here, it was all over Arizona," McLaughlin said. "I really do think they're now seeing that they need to concentrate when we've got some really good candidates and they haven't taken the effort to build these candidates up."

McLaughlin added that the committee meeting may well provide a small but much-needed economic boost to the city, with many of the attendees set to arrive Friday evening, staying in Kingman's hotels and eating at Kingman's restaurants.

"The Dam Bar's going to be crowded," she said. "For two days, this town will make some money from the Democrats."