Last week CNN called the Senate primary between Arizona Democrats Randy Parraz and Rodney Glassman "THE primary to watch." Citing Parraz's "message, momentum, and support" as responsible for the "dead heat" presumed front-runner Glassman now finds himself in, "Latinos, the GLBT community and many independents" are breaking towards Parraz as name recognition and knowledge about the candidates increases.
Below the fold I discuss how the Parraz-Glassman primary marks a new line in the culture wars, a battle not between left and right, but within the Democratic party.
Certainly Randy Parraz's insurgent campaign - along with his uniqueness in being the only Latino running for Senate - can be partially credited for the support he is receiving. In a political environment where descriptors such as "incumbent" and "establishment candidate" elicit even less warmth than they did in 2008, Parraz's campaign appeals to the same demographic that turned out in droves two years ago.
Establishment favorite Glassman hasn't helped himself much with respect to winning over Obama voters. His refusal to boldly state his opposition SB1070 (the Arizona immigration law), even when confronted in a televised debate, seems misguided at best. According to a release by America's Voice, three recent polls indicate that immigration is the top issue for Latinos. How candidates react to the debate will determine how enthusiastically these voters will turn out this cycle, as well as the loyalty they feel towards the party those candidates represent.
Comments by Glassman, a Republican donor as recently as 2004, indicate he would be a better fit for 80's style sensitivity training than for a modern Democratic party. When asked what would be the toughest thing he expected to do as a Tucson City Councilmember, the newly-elected Glassman responded, "The toughest thing for me to do will be to sit next to an openly gay councilmember."
Rodney Glassman's homophobic comment is not the only questionable statement he has made in his official capacity as a public figure. When asked why he hires women, Glassman responded, "because when you have the choice of looking at a hot chick or a dude all day, I'd rather surround myself with hot chicks."
Compare Glassman to his opponent, Randy Parraz, Randy Parraz is a father of two girls, an economic populist and opposed SB1070 before it was passed into law, citing both moral and economic arguments. Rather than hedging the issue of Marriage Equality as Glassman has, Parraz stated on the record "that calling 'Gay Marriage' something besides 'Marriage' is like saying, 'You are less than me.'"
Parraz's boldness in the midst of what Chris Cillizza calls, "the return of social issues" demarks a new front in the culture wars, a line that runs right through Arizona and between the candidates Randy Parraz and Rodney Glassman. But unlike past culture wars, this one is taking place within a single party, the Republicans having already picked what side of history they plan to join.
Establishment Democrats unsure about adopting a new generation's sensibilities will be looking at the August 24th primary as a test of the current political climate. The competition between Randy Parraz and Rodney Glassman something to watch, not only because Parraz's surge threatens to upset the establishment candidate, but also because of what it will say about the values of Democratic voters and their willingness to hold candidates accountable.