Arizona Democratic party preparing to elect new leader as race narrows

Steve Gallardo and Yolanda Bejarano are competing to become Arizona's Democratic Party chairperson, which could determine the party's future.
Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 5:59 PM MST|Updated: Jan. 26, 2023 at 6:14 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Gov. Katie Hobbs will face her first fight since becoming governor, and it is against fellow Democrats and the party’s direction in Arizona. On Saturday, rank-and-file members of the Democratic party will elect a new leader. The race is down to two candidates, Steve Gallardo and Yolanda Bejarano, and the race has split the highest-ranking Democrats in the state.

Gallardo is a longtime political figure in Democratic politics. He’s the lone Democratic voice on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. Gallardo is a former state lawmaker who served alongside Hobbs, who has endorsed her old capitol colleague for party chair. “I’m up for the game. I’m up for the challenge. Let’s do it, let’s get to work,” Gallardo previously told Arizona’s Family.

Bejarano is the current vice-chair of the state Democratic party. She has locked up the support of other big Democratic names, including Sen. Mark Kelly, Congressman Ruben Gallego, Rep. Greg Stanton, Secretary of State Adrian Fontes and Attorney General Kris Mayes. “We are coming out of a very successful 2022 election but there’s a lot more work to be done,” Bejarano previously said on Politics Unplugged.

It’s unclear how Gallardo and Bejarano differ, but it appears to be a partisan popularity contest and a proxy fight between Gov. Hobbs and some within her party. She declined to answer questions last week about her endorsement. “I’d rather not talk about state party politics in this government building, thanks,” Hobbs said at the time.

However, if Gallardo wins this weekend, the governor can celebrate a political victory that gives her more influence over the party. But a loss could put the state’s first Democratic governor in 14 years at odds with her own party.