***UPDATE 11/3/10 6:12 AM: The Associated Press has called the state AG race for Horne***
Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard did little to lift the morgue-like atmosphere at the Wyndham Hotel in Downtown Phoenix Tuesday night.
By the time Goddard ascended the stage shortly before 10 p.m., Governor Jan Brewer had already claimed victory in the gubernatorial race, and the crowd was dwindling in the Wyndham ballroom.
As his wife wept and his son looked on impassively, Goddard spewed the excuse that numerous Dems would regurgitate to me throughout the evening.
"This was not a good year to run as a Democrat," he told the faithful.
Particularly for a Dem who's weak in the knees, natch.
But then Goddard sounded a note that was curiously absent during the campaign. He denounced the climate of hate, fear and scapegoating that the state GOP has so gleefully encouraged.
"This state that we love is not, has never been and must not become a place of hatred and racial unrest," Goddard spoke in a strident tone that had escaped him as a candidate. "We must resoundingly reject Russell Pearce and those that would make our great state a poster child for racial discord in this nation. We cannot allow that to happen to Arizona."
Um, like, wow. So where was this Terry Goddard during the campaign? Especially since Goddard waffled on Senate Bill 1070, state Senator Russell Pearce's pet legislation, hurrying to defend it in court, only to be rejected by Brewer in favor of the for-profit legal team at Snell & Wilmer.
So, even though I was at the Wyndham to cover the state treasurer and the state AG races, I had to ask Goddard -- as he descended from the podium to engage the Fourth Estate -- why he hadn't been denouncing Pearce and 1070 throughout the campaign?
"You could have been of more help," he said, pointing at me, no doubt referring to my latest Bird column wishing he had an ounce of spine.
I had high hopes for the Dem's stallion in the state treasurer's race, Andrei Cherny, as he'd run a tough campaign against a flawed opponent, Republican Doug Ducey, former CEO of Cold Stone Creamery, but Cherny conceded shortly after Goddard's speech.
Immigration wasn't really at issue in the treasurer's race, and Ducey was plagued with reports of filing his taxes late, and of former Cold Stone franchisees tales of woe and bankruptcy.
Cherny, a former adviser to ex-President Bill Clinton, told me that though he'd raised beaucoup cash, had run tough ads against Ducey, and mercilessly hammered Ducey on Cold Stone's financial record, his campaign ultimately could not compete with the broader marketing ploy of the state GOP.
"It was not a race by race kind of thing," Cherny opined. "I think it was a general Republican brand that was out there in every race, especially outside of southern Arizona, the numbers were just so overwhelming."
I agree with Cherny. The Dems need to re-brand themselves, from the toothless party of "me too," and GOP-light, to a shark ready to devour Republicans and offer different solutions on immigration and everything else.
The problem is that the Arizona Republican Party has essentially made itself the party of fear and security. It promulgates the fear of illegal immigration -- a false fear -- and offers 1070 and a continued crackdown on the brown as the answer; i.e., the "security" people need as reassurance against a very effective campaign of scaremongering.
You don't battle that GOP assault by giving in to it, or cooperating with it, unless you're just accepting a self-fulfilling prophecy that the Dems always are fated to lose in this state.
Nearby, I overheard Democratic Party chairman Don Bivens talking to someone else about reaching across the aisle to work with the Republinuts. I buttonholed him and asked him why all the jazz about cooperation?
"Because it's the right thing to do," he claimed. "For all the independents that are not represented by this election, for all the Dems that are not represented by this election. We have got to start working together if this thing is going to work, whether it's Dems in office or Republicans in office."
Spoken like the leader of a tiny nation whose land has been overrun by a conquering army, again and again and again.
Bivens even told me he didn't think immigration would be an issue two years from now. Crikey, this is what local Dems were saying in 2008, long before Russell Pearce fathered that hellish, anti-Latino beast known as 1070.
Immigration is not going away, and if Sand Land Dems think they can overcome the GOP's latest litmus test by feigning agreement with 1070 by half-measure, then they might as well concede the 2012 state elections right now.
As I left the Wyndham and began to head over to the Hyatt, where the Party of Pearce was ensconced, Democratic Attorney General candidate Felecia Rotellini was not showing her face. Apparently, she had earlier, but with the AG's race still somewhat tight late in the evening, she was avoiding the press, waiting for a clearer picture.
In the lobby of the Hyatt, GOP chairman Randy Pullen was prancing around like a peacock, glad-handing everyone in sight. I made for the elevator and up to Republican AG candidate Tom Horne's room on the 17th floor.
Upon entering, a Horne supporter immediately berated me for my latest column talking up Rotellini as a tough-as-javelina-hide Dem contender.
Hey, I said, I may like Horne on a personal level -- just as I do Terry Goddard -- but I disagree with Horne virulently on the platform he ran on: pro-1070, pro-ethnic studies ban, and anti-amnesty.
I would like to see a Democrat, some Democrat, any Democrat win statewide elective office in Cactus Country. For this, I will not apologize, anymore than I would apologize to Goddard for lambasting his latest ineffectual and impotent gubernatorial bid.
In any case, Horne seemed at ease as his party decamped for a supporter's home. Still eyeballing the returns via computer even as everyone else packed up, there seemed little doubt in his mind that the world was turning his way.
"I'm starting to feel confident," Horne told me as he was up around 67,000 votes statewide, with most precincts reporting. "We're getting close. It won't be a week like last time."
He was referring, of course, to his primary race against erstwhile Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, which dragged on for days until a winner was evident.
Regarding some of the attacks lodged against him, including an ad by a 527 independent group out of DC called the Committee for Justice and Fairness, which ran a pretty nasty TV ad, implying that Horne was soft on child pornography and statutory rape, he claimed his reputation helped him parry these thrusts.
"I think the key is I've been superintendent of schools for eight years," he said. "People know me, and they didn't believe it."
I followed Horne down in the elevator, back to the lobby, where he embraced none other than Russell Pearce himself. Sca-ry.
Such is the sad reality of our state. Horne is a moderate Republican born again, a Canadian-born Harvard grad who must toe the nativist line as dictated by puddin'head Pearce, the party's Hispanic-bashing hatchet-man.
This is the GOP that Don Bivens wants to extend his hand to? He should be careful. They just might bite it off.