I’m not sure if the name is a good or bad thing; I guess it depends on which Jason Williams people associate him with. He is the Phoenix regional director for Teach for America, an organization that recruits and trains teachers and places them, often in schools in stressed areas. Given what I do for a living, I can appreciate this sort of work.
The other candidate in that Democratic primary is Slade Mead, a former Republican State Senator who was read out of the party for, gasp, being pro-public schools. I get the impression that he was recruited by party leaders to run. I know that there was an active effort to get him to switch parties after his defeat in the primary last year.
I don’t know who I support. Williams was a classroom teacher not too long ago, and he has sucessfully administered a educational program. Mead has great policy experience (he was vice-chair of the education committee before they stripped him of that job), plus he’s got a story he can tell to the voters about what his old colleagues really think of public schools.
Interestingly, the primary seems to have the same shape as the last one. In 2002, the primary was between Rod Rich, a classroom teacher from the East Valley, and Ken Blanchard, a state senator with similar “Republicans hate me” credentials (Blanchard beat House speaker Jeff Groscost in what was the biggest upset in Arizona political history). Interestingly, as a Senator, Mead seemed to vote more with the Democrats more than Blanchard did…
In that primary, the entire establishment lined up with Blanchard. He managed to win the primary, only to get beaten by Tom Horne in the general election. Rod Rich was a political neophyte who everyone personally liked but didn’t have a great deal of political support.
Williams showed up to the walk yesterday with two volunteers who worked the room with him. So, at some level, he knows a little bit of what needs to be done, and the primary is still a year off.
Mead is despised by the Republican activists. Don’t underestimate this as a motivator for Democratic primary voters.
So, what happens if the Republicans nominate a weak candidate for governor? Blanchard lost 50-46, a pretty small margin given the supposed Republican advantages in this state. Other state wide Democratic candidates lost by similar close margins. If there is a weak Republican at the top of the ticket, it could swing things our way in a few more of the lower races.
Which is why it is really important to nominate people for all of these “constitutional offices.” We could pull out a win here and there, and these offices have a lot to do with the services that regular citizens need from the state. Remember that the dreaded and poorly administered AIMS test came out of the Superintendent’s office, not a Governor or group of legislators.