“This is a natural fit for us: being able to identify candidates, send them through their program, and have a governing agenda that is for the people.”
A coalition led by one of Arizona’s most prominent progressive community outreach organizations and a growing, working-class political party launched a new effort last month to ensure the state elects voices who represent the needs of the community—and they’re starting in Tucson.
Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA) and the Working Families Party announced a formal partnership in May, kicking off the announcement with the endorsements of Tucson city councilmember Lane Santa Cruz and Mayor Regina Romero.
“The issue that has been so important for us is the climate,” Alejandra Gomez, Executive Director for LUCHA, told The Copper Courier. “Mayor Romero is a climate champion. What we’re hoping is to continue to see—especially with all of the dollars that have been provided by the [Biden] Administration—is that we continue to work with her to be able to bring a lot of the resources that the administration has provided to our communities directly.”
Taking on the Climate Crisis
Under the leadership of Romero, the Tucson City Council unanimously passed an extensive climate action plan in March 2023. Known as Tucson Resilient Together, the plan outlines an outreach strategy to inform the public of the impact climate change will have on the city in the coming years, achieve net zero emissions and plant one million trees by 2030, increase access to alternative energy infrastructure such as solar power and electric vehicles, and focus resources on communities expected to face the brunt of the climate crisis.
Tucson declared a Climate Emergency in 2020, and since then has researched extensively the impact the climate crisis has had and will have on the city. As part of their research, city officials discovered that:
- Tucson’s average long-term temperature has risen consistently since 1985;
- the average maximum temperature will rise from 85.6°F in 2000 to 94.8°F by late century;
- climate change has brought environmental instability, including a 20-year heat drought, an unpredictable monsoon season, damaging flash floods, and record-breaking air pollutants from wildfires. These natural disasters are expected to continue and increase.
Unless the city is proactive in addressing the climate crisis, its impact will be felt by all residents—but particularly, its most vulnerable populations.
RELATED: Researchers Applied Phoenix’s 2006 Heat Wave to Today’s Climate. The Results Were Catastrophic.
Addressing climate change is a prime policy objective for both LUCHA and the Working Families Party, and Gomez said that their partnership would help both groups build relationships of co-governance with elected officials at every level.
This type of relationship can most recently be illustrated with the election of Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs. LUCHA endorsed Hobbs, has met with her on multiple occasions since she took office in January, and has seen policy priorities they advocated for championed by Hobbs, such as an additional $40 million in the state budget for college scholarships.
What is the Working Families Party?
The Working Families Party is a progressive political organization that emphasizes support for candidates and policies that support workers’ rights, such as healthcare reform, living wages, a more equitable tax code, and combating the climate crisis. They are a recognized political party in several states and have endorsed national figures such as US Reps Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Jamaal Bowman.
While the Working Families Party is not recognized as an official political party in Arizona, the organization has spent the past several years supporting candidates and ballot propositions. Nine of their endorsed candidates were elected to the state legislature in 2022, and they have been a growing figure in Tucson, where they have supported several members of the city council.
Looking Beyond Tucson
The party’s partnership with LUCHA formalizes an alignment of values and electoral goals that have already driven the two groups to notable successes. Both groups endorsed a voter-approved ballot proposition in 2022 that aims to protect Arizonans from predatory debt practices, and 17 candidates across the state received endorsements from both LUCHA and The Working Families Party last year—10 of whom won their elections.
“This partnership unites our shared values and aspirations for a more just and equitable society,” said Matthew Marquez, Arizona campaigns director of the Working Families Party. “Together, we can dismantle the barriers perpetuating inequality, empower workers, and create a future where economic security, environmental sustainability, and personal freedom are accessible.”
Thriving in the Face of Opposition
Forged in the fire of SB 1070, the anti-immigration “show me your papers” law passed in Arizona in 2010, LUCHA has developed into a civic powerhouse, cultivating progressive leaders like US Congressional candidate Raquel Terán, bringing back in-state tuition for undocumented residents, and spearheading the successful efforts to raise the minimum wage and guarantee paid sick leave for virtually all Arizona workers.
Gomez attributes their success to what she calls a people-powered movement. LUCHA is a membership organization, and any initiatives taken on—including candidate endorsements—must be approved by the membership. She believes their dedicated member base coupled with the Working Families Party’s infrastructure for identifying and training candidates will help them achieve even more electoral success in Tucson this year, and throughout the state in 2024.
“This is a unique partnership because the Working Families Party itself is a pretty unique entity,” said Gomez. “We were able to knock on 558,000 doors last year, and the Working Families Party does a lot of incredible trainings for candidates—candidate identification and support. This is a natural fit for us: being able to identify candidates, send them through their program, and have a governing agenda that is for the people.”
The formal partnership between the Working Families Party and LUCHA will first be put to the test on August 1, 2023, when Tucson holds its Primary Election.
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Correction: A previous version of this article was published with an incorrect attribution. We regret the error.