Rep. Raul Grijalva (D)
Elected: 2002, 4th term.
Born: Feb. 19, 1948, Tucson .
Education: U. of AZ, B.A. 1985.
Family: Married (Ramona); 3 children.
Elected office: Tucson Unified Schl. Dist. Governing Bd., 1974-86; Pima Cnty. Bd. of Supervisors, 1988-2002.
Professional Career: Asst. dean of Hisp. Affairs, U. of AZ., 1987.
The congressman from the 7th District is Raul Grijalva, a Democrat first elected in 2002. He grew up in Tucson, the son of a bracero, or, guest worker, who emigrated from Mexico in 1945. He graduated from the University of Arizona and has lived in the city all of his life; he has deep roots in the immigrant community on the city’s southwest side. He was director of El Pueblo Neighborhood Center and assistant dean for Hispanic student affairs at the university. In 1974, he was elected to the Tucson school board and served 12 years. In 1988, he was elected a Pima County supervisor and served 14 years. As supervisor, he backed an effort to extend medical and dental benefits to same-sex domestic partners of county employees and focused on affordable health care, family and children services, and economic growth. Developers and builders helped elect him to office, but his support for planned growth and impact fees later alienated them.
|Raul Grijalva (D)||124,304||(63%)||($720,896)|
|Joseph Sweeney (R)||64,425||(33%)|
|Raymond Petrulsky (Lib)||7,755||(4%)|
|Raul Grijalva (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (61%), 2004 (62%), 2002 (59%)
When the district was created in 2002, the Democratic primary in effect determined who would get the seat. Grijalva entered with a home-court advantage: 64% of the primary votes were cast in Pima County. His chief opponent was state Sen. Elaine Richardson, who was endorsed by the women’s fundraising group EMILY’s List and spent more than $500,000 on ads. She criticized Grijalva for wasting taxpayer money on a $3.8 million contract to survey all the manholes in Pima County. Although outspent nearly 3-1, Grijalva had a well-organized grassroots effort and endorsements from labor unions, teachers’ unions, and the Sierra Club. Mocking his opponent’s national funding, Grijalva created “Adelita’s List,” invoking a name alluding to the independent women who fought in the Mexican Revolution. He opposed the partial privatization of Social Security and a proposed increase in the retirement age, and he supported amnesty for illegal immigrants. He won the primary with 41% to Richardson’s 21%. In Pima County, Grijalva got 54% of the vote. He won easily in November and his daughter, Adelita, won a seat on the school board.
In the House, Grijalva’s voting record is strongly liberal. On the Education and Labor Committee, he urged full funding of the Bush administration’s 2001 No Child Left Behind law, which tied federal funding to student performance on standardized tests. Grijalva and other liberals complained the program was too underfinanced to be effective; he derisively dubbed it the “No Child Left Untested” law. Much of his effort has been focused on immigration policy. He has co-sponsored bills to raise the number of low-skill visas from 5,000 to 400,000 and to allow legalization for some illegal immigrants, provided they pay a $500 civil fine. He has worked to expedite citizenship for members of the U.S. military and to do away with per-country limits on green cards.
Another strong area of interest for him is his work as chairman of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, which is a part of the Natural Resources Committee. He has worked to stop uranium mining in the Kaibab National Forest and on federal lands near the Grand Canyon. He also has sought wilderness designation for the Tumacacori Highlands, to prevent mining claims in the Coronado National Forest, and, more generally, to prevent oil and gas drilling without environmental review on public lands where it is currently allowed. He and Tucson-area colleague Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords got the House to vote in favor of creation of a Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area in October 2007. He has opposed the 4,000-acre Rosemont copper mine on U.S. Forest Service land southeast of Tucson, and has sought to protect Tumamoc Hill from development by trading federal lands with the developer. He has worked to create a Sonoran Desert conservation system, which would protect 3.3 million acres and 56 miles of trails in Arizona.
In 2008, Grijalva was widely mentioned as a possible nominee for Interior secretary, and was supported by several national Hispanic organizations and by Natural Resources Chairman Nick Rahall, D-W.V. But in December, Obama announced then-Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., as his choice. “The problem was, I didn’t have anybody on the inside promoting me on the transition team,” Grijalva told reporters. “We are a little more assertive about some of the issues than others. That possibly played a role.” The same month, he turned down an offer of a seat on the Ways and Means Committee, saying he preferred to stay on Natural Resources. “You come to Congress for the things that you care about—resources, education, and labor,” he said. “Ways and Means is prestigious and powerful. It ain’t my cup of tea.”
Grivalja is on the far left in the Democratic Caucus. In December 2007, he joined 22 other Democrats in the move to impeach Dick Cheney. In November 2008, he was elected co-chair with Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., of the 75-member Congressional Progressive Caucus. He endorsed former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards for president but switched to Obama shortly before Edwards’s withdrawal. But Hillary Rodham Clinton carried Arizona and the 7th District in the Super Tuesday primary. In the general election, Grijalva campaigned for Obama among Hispanic voters in Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. He has been re-elected by wide margins.