Run Goober, Run: Gordon can't escape tough questions from his own party. (Photo from Phil's Web site.)
Saturday, I made my way down to the Maricopa County Democratic Party convention being held on the west side at the Carpenter Union Training Center because both Mayor Phil "Goober" Gordon and Jarrett Maupin were slated to speak back-to-back. Got there as Goober was on the podium before the 200 or so persons present, basically tap dancing around the 800-pound gorilla in the room: his turncoat endorsement of Sen. John McCain for President in the Republican primary. (A primary which -- it's interesting to note --the mayor cannot vote in as he's still a registered Democrat.) Goober did a little soft shoe, instead, giving attendees his old, tired b.s. about Phoenix being a city on the rise, and talking about how he's a long-time Democrat, how he's campaigned with Governor Napolitano and AG Terry Goddard, etc. His speech received polite applause, then he amscrayed as quickly as he could, stopping to speak briefly only to a couple of people. I'm told he showed up about 10 minutes before he spoke, so he obviously didn't care to spend too much time with his fellow Dems.
He saw me standing right beside him as I waited for him to finish talking with someone else, then he moved past me almost at a trot as I followed right beside him, asking, "Why should any Democrat vote for you after your McCain endorsement? Why do you need $1 million to run for Mayor of Phoenix? Aren't you really running for Governor, Mayor? Why did you take $7,000 from Red Development while they had business before the city? Are you afraid of answering a tough question -- your mother's not here for you to hide behind now?" And so on. The entire time, Phil kept his head down, refusing to answer, then hopping into the back seat of a waiting SUV and speeding away. What a freakin' wuss!
By the time I'd returned to the hall, Maupin was already onstage, working the crowd up into a fever pitch about Phil's betrayal. He reminded those present that Phil had crossed lines before, for Jim Weiers for State House, for Andrew Thomas for County Attorney, and most recently for McCain.
"Any democrat that crosses party lines and endorses a Republican has sold out the grassroots workers of this party.That’s who you are. Don’t let people sell you out," Maupin told the assembled.
"Even though people would say it’s not a partisan race, it is a partisan race," insisted Maupin. "Because I didn’t see anybody from here who lives in Phoenix campaigning for Randy Pullen when he ran for mayor [against Phil]. So it is partisan."
Maupin continued, hammering away at Phil:
"There is no way in the world that someone from our party should support a candidate that endorsed a Republican in such a critical year," asserted Maupin, going into preacher mode. "This is bigger than Phoenix. It’s bigger than Arizona. It’s bigger than I, it’s bigger than he. It’s about America. It’s about changing our country’s control from under the helm of Republican leadership and those who are selling our country out and destroying America. Those who ruin our image abroad and make us vulnerable to terrorism."
Towards the end, he had the county leadership eating out of his hand, practically, capitalizing on their collective distaste for Gordon.
"I spoke to Maria Weeg, the Executive Director of the Arizona Democratic Party and I had questioned her on Phil Gordon’s endorsement of Sen. John McCain and what the party was going to do about it," Maupin related. "Because I know if this had been Chicago, he’d be floatin' down the river. [laughter & applause] She told me something that really troubled me. She told me that because she held a non-partisan office and because he had done so much for the Democratic party, he had the luxury of endorsing a candidate like McCain or any other Republican.
"I would never do you that way. Nobody has the luxury of taking you for granted. Nobody has the luxury of having Democrats beat the pavement for them to get elected so that they can go up there and turn things around for us and then turn around and throw all of that support down the garbage by endorsing a losing candidate in the first place. What would you think of Rev. Maupin if I endorsed Strom Thurmond for President? You would think I’m out of my mind. That makes about as much sense as Cheney saying he’s a member of Congress."
When Maupin finished, he received a standing ovation from the crowd, which should give you an indication of how they felt about phony Phil. During breaks, I canvassed the conventioneers. Overwhelmingly, they told me they were p.o.'d at Phil for his endorsement of McCain.
"Mayor Gordon is an opportunist," said Dan O'Neil, state coordinator for Progressive Democrats of America. "He should change his ways, or join the other party."
O'Neil was one of the few people Gordon deigned to speak with after he left the podium. Seems the first thing O'Neil asked him about was his McCain butt-kiss.
"He gave me this b.s. story that he grew up with the McCains, he’s a good friend of the McCains and everything else, and there was that kind of family loyalty," explained O'Neil. "And I said, look, I’ve got friends that are Republicans, neighbors that are Republicans, I talk to my neighbor across the street. But I’m not going to vote for him. Democrats vote for Democrats, we don’t vote for Republicans and we certainly don’t go out and endorse Republicans….I told him there are a lot of good Democrats running, why don’t you go endorse one of them?"
(Good idea, especially in light of today's news that McCain's cutting back on campaign staff due to piss-poor fundraising.)
Tempe precinct committeeperson Randall Holmes said, "I think he should have apologized." He continued:
"Phil Gordon, whether his position is partisan or not, he got his position in large part due to the hard work of Democrats. And that’s a slap in the face for him to turn around and endorse a Republican."
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Holly Burke, precinct committeeperson for her district in Glendale, was also unimpressed with Goober Gordon.
"I have a problem with Democrats endorsing any Republicans, no matter what office they hold," she informed me. "Especially the state this country is in right now. We need to maintain course with our party and endorse ourselves or else things are never going to change."
She concluded by saying, "I think this will come back and bite him."
This is how many Democrats feel county-wide, and that's not good news for Goober's future statewide ambitions. Obviously, the man is already running for Governor, figuring his bid for Mayor is a cakewalk. However, in any statewide run, he'll need the assistance of his party, assuming he remains a Democrat. And his endorsement of a Republican for President is unlikely to be forgotten by party faithful. Goober's screwed his own pooch on that front. And ducking tough questions will not change that in the least.