Democrats rally in shadow of election
By James Gingerich
The night was bustling with activity as downtown Flagstaff was alive with the clamor of First Friday Artwalk and, inside the Orpheum, citizens gathered aware that in just three days their hard work will be met with either failure or success. It was the last meeting the Democrats of northern Arizona would have before Election Day.
“Usually [these rallies] are all in Phoenix and Tucson,” said Katlyn Sulltrop, a senior political science major. “This happening really makes the Democrats up here feel appreciated, which is good because we really do work hard.”
The room was filled with young and old alike, students, professors and volunteers. Candidates Tom Chabin and Patty Hansen, running for State Senator and County Recorder, respectively, mingled with supporters brimming with optimistic smiles. In a few moments they would be giving their campaign speeches at least one last time, but the crowd was all waiting for one man, one candidate that embodied all of their hopes for Arizona: the venerable Richard Carmona.
Running against Jeff Flake for the Senate seat vacated by retiring Senator Jon Kyl, Carmona has a resume to fill a lifetime. A decorated veteran, he went on to become a trauma surgeon and deputy sheriff in Pima County before being chosen as the 17th Surgeon General under President George W. Bush. Now he is trying to be the first democratic senator in Arizona in nearly two decades.
Cathleen Nichols, seeking a superior court judgeship, and Patty Hansen were among the first to speak. Nichols recounted her climb up the judicial ladder while Patty Hansen bureaucratically reiterated the importance of knowing the electoral process. All the while people sat in patient politeness, but still Carmona seemed present in the hushed conversations of the audience.
The rally picked up steam with the state candidates, Tom Chabin, Doug Ballard and Angela LeFevre — the latter two running for the state legislature. They pitched their usual pleas, railing against the “extremism” of the right and noting their opponents’ support for the controversial plans to mine uranium in the Grand Canyon and end state funding to Planned Parenthood.
However, even more conspicuous than their platforms was their demeanor, they were giddy.
“Senator Chabin sounds good,” Tom Chabin said. “But Senator Carmona sounds even better.”
The room fell silent in anticipation as the last local of the night spoke, Liz Archuleta, member of the county board of supervisors, who introduced Carmona. Stating his record as a public servant and professional the crowd, for the first time, seemed unified in attention.
“The combination of his distinguished career, his strong and ethical leadership and his personal background make [Carmona] the best choice for Arizona’s next senator,” Archuleta said.”There’s also something that is very near and dear to my heart, Dr. Carmona will be the first Latino senator of Arizona. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Carmona.”
The crowd erupted in applause as the tall Carmona strode to the podium..
“We’ve been all over the state and we’ll be in Phoenix after this,” Carmona said, assuring the audience that he is working his hardest so their efforts wouldn’t be in vain.
He harkened back to Obama’s acceptance speech, saying only in America could he go from being homeless to being the surgeon general. He highlighted his plight as a soldier coming home with no education and how he rose above it all.
Moving to a partisan tone, he criticized his opponent Jeff Flake about “earned rights,” such as the GI Bill and Social Security entitlements. He asserted Flake wouldn’t decide what healthcare would be afforded to his granddaughter and he lauded the audience for their efforts in building, what he called “an army of passion.”
He noted the night wasn’t just about him, stating he knows what is means to serve and listen to the people, having served “both in uniform and out.”
“Some people used to say that I was like Don Quixote, a nice guy chasing windmills,” Carmona said. “But you know what, all my life I’ve been chasing windmills and I usually catch them.”
Election day is Nov. 6.