Gilbert’s Constitution Fair in September featured replicas of the White House and Washington Monument, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor as a special guest — and, some say, the Republican Party.
"I was just struck by the fact this is supposed to be a celebration of the Constitution and all of a sudden there’s a corner that’s more like a celebration of the Republican Party," said resident Mike McClellan, who said he’s a former Republican turned independent.
The nonprofit community group that organizes the annual event received some concerned comments from both Democrats and Republicans that the booths were filled with only Republican candidates and elected officials collecting signatures and handing out materials — as well as the conservative John Birch Society.
Constitution Week committee co-chairmen said Democrats were invited but just didn’t show. With about 60 percent of town voters registered as Republicans, that’s not a surprise, said cochairman Bill Norton.
He and co-chairwoman Barbara Stowell said they’d advocate for more representation from parties, also including independents and Libertarians as long as parties don’t oppose constitutional law being celebrated at the event.
In fact, during the event’s first year in 2002, Democrats and Libertarians did have booths, but Norton said the vast majority of new voter registration forms were filled out at the Republican booth. The event is funded by the nonprofit Constitution Week committee, which raised $49,000 for this year’s event.
Arizona Democratic Party spokesman Seth Scott said that although no Democrats may have been at this event, they are gaining strength in the East Valley with an active group called the Gem Dems.
Fundraising and planning is already under way for next year’s Constitution Fair, which may focus on the 200th birthday of Benjamin Franklin.
"I’d love to have Democrats there," Norton said. "We really want the community process and democracy to be represented."