It appears state Sen. and former Tempe mayor Harry Mitchell will become the next chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party when party members meet to elect a new leader this week.
Members are scheduled to gather Saturday in Flagstaff and cast their ballots for a new party boss to replace the outgoing Jim Pederson, who stepped down earlier this year.
With no other announced challengers, Mitchell is expected to easily win the party’s top post.
"I don’t plan any major changes. I plan on continuing to take the party in the same direction that Jim Pederson has," Mitchell said.
Mitchell said Pederson, who is gearing up for a run against Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in 2006, has left the party in good shape.
He credits Pederson with bolstering the number of registered Democrats in the state, as well as increasing the number of volunteers.
Because of state laws that limit the number of terms a public official can serve, Mitchell will have to leave the Senate next year.
Mitchell, a former high school teacher, began his political career in 1970 when he was elected to the Tempe City Council. Eight years later, he was elected mayor and served until 1994.
Many have credited him with turning the run-down and seedy downtown area into a thriving urban district.
Mitchell has served in the state Senate since 1999.
Every two years — when voters elect their senators and representatives — the party elects a party leader.
Because Pederson left, the party was forced to pick a new leader who will serve one year before they are up for re-election.
If elected, Mitchell said he hopes to hold the position for longer and does not intend to step down after this term expires in 2006.
Unlike the previous chairman, Mitchell said he does not intend to use the office as a springboard to another elected position.