Warren Camp Staffs Up in Arizona Ahead of March Presidential Preference Election

Presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren. Kaylee Mark
Elizabeth Warren is gearing up for a fight in Arizona, building up senior campaign staff in the Grand Canyon State ahead of the March 17 presidential preference election.

The Massachusetts senator's presidential campaign has hired five new senior staff in Arizona, as well as a state director announced in December, bringing her total paid staff in the state to more than a dozen, according to the campaign, which was planning a public announcement Thursday morning.

Warren's early 2020 push in Arizona forecasts what will likely be an intense year of campaigning in the state. Because of Arizona's rapid growth and changing population, many consider it a battleground state for the presidency, despite its history of traditionally voting for Republican candidates.

Accordingly, President Donald Trump has had a campaign team on the ground in Arizona for months. He'd hired 22 local staffers by December, the Associated Press reported, with political consultant Drew Sexton as state director.

Warren's Democratic competitor Michael Bloomberg has also made Arizona an early focus for his campaign, hiring over 30 in-state staff and funneling over $100 million into TV ads in four states including Arizona.

Warren's new hires are familiar names in Arizona politics. Among them are Bren Pantilione, an organizing director, who previously worked for the Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, and Jessica Rubio, a community organizing director, who has worked at the Latino Victory Project and as a Phoenix-based coordinator for the nonprofit Mi Familia Vota.

Pantilione is a Mesa native and an ASU graduate, and Rubio immigrated to Phoenix from Mexico at age 14 and later attended Grand Canyon University. Both will work under State Director Andrea Nemecek, who trained staff for the Arizona Democratic Party and led Iowa efforts for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's unsuccessful presidential bid before joining Warren's camp.

Warren's campaign has also hired three regional organizing directors based in Phoenix, Tucson, and Flagstaff.

“Organizing is at the heart of Elizabeth Warren’s fight for big, structural change in Arizona,” Nemecek said in a statement. "Our new team members bring diverse experiences and strong community ties to the table, which will be invaluable to our organization on the ground."

Warren's campaign offices in Phoenix and Tucson, opened last year, are focusing on voter outreach with a dedicated emphasis on communities of color, the campaign said. The candidate also visited Arizona on the campaign trail in August, traveling to Tempe's Marquee Theatre for a town hall with a crowd of around 3,000.

Arizona's presidential preference election is scheduled for March 17, two weeks after Super Tuesday, which typically winnows the field. The results of that election will divvy up the state's Democratic Party delegates to winning candidates before those delegates help select the party's nominee this summer.

Warren has consistently polled in the top half of candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, ranking third in recent national polls behind former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Neither Biden nor Sanders has a campaign office in Arizona yet, their campaigns confirmed on Thursday. Vedant Patel, a spokesperson for Biden's campaign, said his team has a state campaign chair and is "in the process of staffing up" and establishing a local office.
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Ali Swenson was an editorial fellow for Phoenix New Times starting in 2019.