SCOTTSDALE, Az. February 23, 2012 – While the main political action in Arizona was the February 22nd GOP debate and the upcoming February 28th primary, so many activities took place beyond those events.
Being on the ground floor gives a window into the people, places, politics, sights, scents, and sounds that cannot be gleamed from a television or a newspaper.
Presidential Candidates Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul were the main event, yet plenty of undercards played a small role in making Arizona a hotbed of fun for political junkies in late February of 2012.
On Friday, February 17th, I spoke to the Quail Creek Republican Club in Tucson at a morning meeting.
Saturday, February 18th, had me speaking to the Cobre Valley Republican Club at their Lincoln Dinner. They are located in Gila County, although the “G” in Gila is pronounced like an “H.” Other speakers included Arizona GOP 1st Vice Chairman Russell Pearce and Congressman Dr. Paul Gosar, a dentist.
Congressman Gosar just got elected in 2010, and he already has to run in a new district thanks to redistricting. Redistricting is a big deal in Arizona, and so far there appears to be more chaos than order.
Congressman Gosar had the crows laughing when he pointed out that as a dentist, “Drill Baby Drill” means something very different to him.
Wil Cardon also spoke. He is one of several individuals running for the United States Senate seat being vacated by the retiring John Kyl.
On Sunday, February 19th, I spoke in the afternoon in Scottsdale at a “Panini and Politics” event put together by the Arizona Chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition. Amy Laff runs that group.
While Israel is important to them, the Second Amendment was also a very big deal. Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO) had a couple of their members show up.
On Monday, February 20th, I spoke in the evening in Mesa to the Leisure World Republican Club. Also speaking that night was Clair Van Steenwyk, another competitor for Senator Kyl’s seat.
(Full disclosure: I have been a radio guest of “Van the Radio Man” on his “Crossroads” program.)
A straw poll was taken, and Leisure World in Mesa gave Rick Santorum a big win with 18 votes, followed by Newt Gingrich with 11, Mitt Romney at 8, and Ron Paul with 4 votes. Despite having dropped out ages ago, Herman Cain received 2 votes.
Perhaps they were Stephen Colbert supporters, although his audience tends to be slightly younger than the people at Leisure World.
By February 21st, the entire political world had descended on Arizona. Events were everywhere.
Former Virginia Governor and Senator George Allen spoke to a Jewish group supporting Israel. One hour after him was a separate fundraiser for former Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle, who is now running for her state’s open United States Senate seat.
Governor Lingle and I keep missing each other. While I was speaking to the Arizona RJC, she was speaking to the Los Angeles chapter only three blocks from my home.
(Yes, the same hotel where Whitney Houston left us and Barack Obama stays at. It is a popular hotel.)
I arrive in her state on Friday, so perhaps our paths will cross. She is a Jewish Republican who has crossover appeal to many other demographics.
As active as the Republicans were, the Tea Party and similar groups also had big events on the same evening.
The Arizona 2012 Project had a fundraiser with Herman Cain.
The Fountain Hills Tea Party featured Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Craig Romney, one of Mitt’s five sons (who also has perfect hair).
The Southeast Valley Tea Party Patriots had a Ron Paul spokesperson. I was informed that only about a dozen people showed up, but with so many candidates and events, spokespeople were less of a draw.
Yes, the presidential candidates themselves all made multiple appearances at different times.
That evening Rick Santorum was speaking to a passionate crowd at an auditorium in Phoenix. I attended that event.
February 22nd was debate day, but there was still plenty of activity in the hours preceding.
Mitt Romney had a pep rally feel to his event in a school gymnasium in Chandler. I was there, and it was a large crowd.
Ron Paul held private fundraisers for breakfast and lunch at the Hilton in Mesa. Since these were fundraisers, attendance was smaller than at his rallies. Yet by fundraising standards, turnout was quite successful. I met Dr. Paul again but did not stay for the fundraiser.
Starting at 3pm, three hours before the debate was to begin, “A Taste of Arizona” was taking place at the Mesa Arts Center.
Overall the turnout seemed very light. One reason for this was because the rally scheduled from 3 to 4pm was cancelled a week earlier due to security concerns. Therefore, the only reason to go inside the Taste of Arizona itself was to try the different foods.
Outside activity was also fairly light, as it seemed vendors and politicians almost outnumbered actual attendees.
The candidates for local, state, and federal offices handed out literature, and some candidates showed up personally. Volunteers for Governor Jan Brewer sold copies of her book, which has been helped by the recent verbal assault on her by the thin-skinned President Barack Obama.
As always, the great ladies of the Republican Women’s Federated had their booths and were well represented. Neither the political heat or the unseasonably hot weather kept them from working hard.
The one candidate who had massive support outside the event was Ron Paul. They held a rally as police looked on in bemusement. The candidate was not in attendance. While there were a few of the stereotypical crackpots in attendance, most of the crowd was passionate but well-behaved. There were no incidents.
6:00pm brought the debate itself. All four presidential nominees and CNN moderator John King presented themselves in a professional manner. Those who did not attend the debate inside the auditorium watched on a jumbotron in the street as part of the Taste of Arizona festivities. A live band was playing during the afternoon, but the evening was for the debate itself.
Ron Paul held one rally for supporters after the debate, while Newt Gingrich made a 9pm cameo at an event called “Politics on the Rocks (event video).” Charles Jenses runs the organization, and “The Mint” club in Scottsdale made for a good mix of libations and current affairs.
Speaker Gingrich and his wife Callista were very well received.
Not everybody engaged in Arizona politics is a Republican. One person I met was a passionate Democrat. Jessica Florez is a former city councilwoman. She is Hispanic in terms of classification, but she is actually a Spaniard. She lost her reelection to a Democrat who happened to be gay.
Identity politics split various liberal constituencies as Miss Florez was defeated by only 57 votes. Miss Florez is not your typical politico. Her hobbies include watching ESPN, and she is a huge Peyton Manning fan as well as a Jason Kidd fan. Her political sidekick is her dog Jade. Yet while she loves dogs and sports, she is a political animal herself.
She expressed elation at another Kennedy running for office in 2012.
For those who got lost on various Arizona highways, food was available in most places. I do not know the politics of the owner, but I highly recommend a small shack called the Higley Hot Dog Hut. The owner has Cubs and other Chicago paraphernalia inside, and the Chicago dog is a good choice. Also try the corn dog and the beef taco.
Late at night in Scottsdale, being lost is a bad thing. While Scottsdale is far from a bad neighborhood, there are long stretches with no food places open. Starvation in the desert was averted by a Country Western Bar known as the Buffalo Chip Saloon. Their beef sausage is good. The band sang “My baby loves me when I’m stoned.” The drinks flowed and the pool tables were ready to be played.
After the debate, not everybody scattered.
On February 23rd, Mitt Romney held a morning fundraiser in Phoenix. Rick Santorum was off to Michigan. Newt Gingrich went to Washington State and Idaho for events.
As for me, I arrived at Reata Pass Steakhouse at 6:30pm for dinner and a speech to the Rio Verde Tea Party in Scottsdale. 7:45pm meant a race to Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix for a 9:50pm flight to Los Angeles. A few hours of sleep in my own bed would be followed by an 8:45am flight to Honolulu, Hawaii. Do not be fooled by words like “Oahu” and “Waikiki.” This is all (almost) business. March 3rd is one county convention and March 13th is the Hawaii Caucus.
The taste of Arizona is now in the rearview mirror. Yet tastes of Hawaii are on the horizon.
I hope Sheriff Joe and his cohorts are not paying attention to the roads. To paraphrase Lee Greenwood, I’ll be flying down the highway headed West…in a streak of black lightning, called the Tygrrrr Express.
Arizona was fantastic, and the primary is five days away.
On to the next adventure.
Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a politically conservative columnist, blogger, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian.
Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.” Eric is 100% alcohol, tobacco, drug, and liberalism free. After years of dating liberals, he has finally seen the light and now only dates Republican Jewish women. His family is pleased over this. Republican, Jewish women, you may contact Eric above.
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Eric Golub is an independent writer for the Communities. Read more from Eric at his TYGRRRR EXPRESS blog.
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