It will be official shortly, but Andrei Cherny, Chair of the Arizona Democratic Party, is stepping down today, in anticipation of a formal announcement of his candidacy for the Ninth Congressional District seat sometime next week.
The former Arizona Assistant Attorney General and policy adviser to the Clinton White House has chaired the party for the last year, offering a more vigorous and outspoken leadership style than his predecessor Don Bivens.
Congressman Ben Quayle has been considered a possible Republican contender for the CD9 general election, and many observers believe Quayle has been waiting to announce whether he'll run in the newly-formed CD9 or against fellow Republican U.S. Representative Davis Schweikert in CD6.
The theory goes that Quayle would be able to handily take the uber-lefty Sinema or the less better-known Schapira in a general. But Cherny, with his national connections and fundraising ability, would mean a harder slog for a Republican.
In 2010, Cherny ran unsuccessfully for State Treasurer against Doug Ducey. But he was able to pull-some high-powered support. His old boss, ex-President Bill Clinton came to town to stump and raise money for him.
With star names like that on his side and Cherny's own youthful charisma and impressive resume, he'll make a formidable opponent to any candidate that the GOP fields.
Plus, Dems now have a real donnybrook to look forward to, as three of their biggest names locally duke it out in a hotly-contested primary.
I spoke with Cherny just now, who confirmed he's stepping down as chair, but he declined to make a statement on the record at this time.
UPDATE: Below is Cherny's letter to the party faithful, announcing his resignation:
A year ago, I had the great honor of being elected to lead Arizona's Democrats. At the urging of many of our state leaders, I agreed to serve for at least a year because a Democratic Party that was flat on its back after the disastrous 2010 elections needed to be rebuilt to be ready to fight against political extremism and for Arizona's mainstream.
In recent weeks, many of those same leaders have urged me to take on a new and different task. It is a bittersweet moment, but I have decided to step down as chair of the Arizona Democratic Party.
I do so with the knowledge that we have strong leaders ready to step into my place and the confidence that I am leaving the leadership of a party that has - by all of us working together - been transformed over the past year.
A year ago, we knew we had to go on the offense against a Republican leadership in Arizona that was taking us in a radically wrong direction. Whether it was Russell Pearce's attempt to rewrite birthright citizenship, Tom Horne's conflicted investigation of the Fiesta Bowl scandal, or Jan Brewer's push to impeach the chair of the Independent Redistricting Commission, we spoke out boldly, worked hard - and beat them back.
We knew we had to build a big tent Democratic Party that brought in new voices and gave independents and fed-up Republicans a home. We did that by:
Creating our new Arizona Democratic Business Council. Founding our New Leaders group of young professionals. Actively organizing thousands of Arizonans in the redistricting process to push for more competition and less gerrymandering in our elections.
Most of all, we knew we had to build a new, bottom-up Democratic Party that tapped the idealism and efforts of grassroots activists around the state. We have done that too:
A new e-PC program to spread our Democratic message and ideas online. A 61 percent increase in the number of small dollar donors over 2010. A 488 percent increase in the membership of our DEM-AZ monthly giving club. A 52 percent increase in the membership of the Arizona Democratic Council. A network of new Party Affairs Liaisons all across the state.
All our hard work has made a big difference. Our Democratic Party now has wind in its sails. We helped elect Democratic mayors in both Phoenix and Tucson for the first time in 20 years. And the work of many ordinary citizens ended Russell Pearce's extremist reign of error.
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For the first time in a long time, we are getting used to using those face muscles that make us smile. But we realize that the real fights are coming up ahead in 2012. With redistricting we have the opportunity to pick up seats in our state legislature. We can send new strong leaders to Congress and help take back the majority from the Tea Party. For the first time in 24 years, our nominee for the United States Senate will win in November and help change the face that Arizona shows to the world. And there is no doubt that Arizona will be at the forefront of the fight to send President Barack Obama back to the White House for four more years.
We all have much work to do in the year ahead. I hope you'll continue to invest your time, financial contributions, and energy into our Arizona Democratic Party. There is so much at stake and so much to do. I have been humbled and grateful for your support and faith in our party. I look forward to continuing to work with you in the years ahead to forge a stronger Arizona and America.