Democratic Party supporters are planning to open a north East Valley headquarters in the shopping district of Old Town Scottsdale, a region historically dominated by Republicans.
Having a high-profile spot in the heart of the Fifth Avenue merchant district could help wake up apathetic Democrats or woo moderate GOP members in the area, organizers said.
With the state party's blessing, a group of Scottsdale Democrats is spearheading fund-raising efforts and planning to open the new headquarters by September — just in time for the 2004 campaign season.
"We are coming down to the home stretch," said District 8 vice chairwoman Laura Roskind. "We are very excited about it."
They acknowledge that much work needs to be done to gain ground on the GOP. Republican voters outnumber Democrats by a margin of more than 2 to 1, or 54,738 to 22,908, according to state voter registration figures for District 8, which encompasses Scottsdale and Fountain Hills.
The weak registration rolls are precisely why Democratic organizers want to stake their political ground in Scottsdale.
"That's one of the main reasons — look at the numbers," said Eugene Sherman, a District 8 member. "We had some good breaks this last time around, getting the governor (Janet Napolitano) installed and the attorney general (Terry Goddard). We think that might start some momentum."
Roskind, a former member of the Massachusetts Democratic Committee who has lived in Scottsdale since 1998, is kicking off the fund-raising by bringing in Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., on Saturday to speak at a high-dollar cocktail reception at her and her husband's Troon North home.
Roskind said she has long been involved in politics, and helped to increase Democratic registration in her hometown of Sherborn, Mass., once a Republican stronghold.
"I like to network and build parties, so I kind of thought, 'Well, maybe I could do the same here and help out at least a little bit,' " she said.
State Democratic Chairman Jim Pederson said District 8, and nearby District 17, which covers south Scottsdale and Tempe, are target areas for the party. The region abounds with moderates who could swing to either party, he said.
A Scottsdale headquarters makes more sense than trying to put resources in "those hard Republican, right-wing districts" of the East Valley, he said.
"This is what we depend on our clubs and our legislative district and county organizations to do. God bless the people in District 8," Pederson said. "They took it upon themselves, they have the gumption, they are paying for it themselves. And they are going to get it done."
Republican Party spokeswoman Camilla Strongin said the party plans to open temporary satellite headquarters before the 2004 election season, but that no decision has been made as to where they might be located.
The Democrats are eyeing a spot on Fifth Avenue, east of Goldwater Boulevard. A lease has not been signed. Organizers said they want to raise up to $15,000 before inking a deal. That would pay for at least a year of rent and utilities, Roskind said.
The north East Valley headquarters would be staffed by volunteers, have a phone bank and meeting rooms and offer its services to neighboring districts, Sherman said.