I live in the small mountain town of Prescott, Arizona. This town is developing into a larger city, but for a city dweller, it still is small. The inhabitants are proud of their community college and the local theater. I still feel that it is a developing city. The one thing that I don't like about Prescott is its politics. This is a very Republican city. In my previous articles, I have said that I live in a very Republican neighborhood but a five minute walk away is a Democratic street. There are now many Obama signs. Some of my friends have small businesses, some work for companies and others are retired teachers and social workers. We are all feeling the pain of being short on money without any hope of improving that situation soon. As a professional pianist, the economy hurts me personally - far fewer parents can afford to pay for piano lessons for their children. Only the necessities of life can get funded.
This background is necessary foreground. In June 2008, John McCain said that "Arizona is a swing state." I asked my friends at the Debate Watch Party if they had hear that. The consensus was applause. I googled a question and came up with an article at Boston.com. Apparently, there is a resurgent state Democratic Party and a "burgeoning number of unpredictable independent voters in Arizona." There is a lot of infighting amongst the Republicans and there are many more dissatisfied voters in the Republican party. The Democrats are gaining voters daily. This has been greatly helped by the Obama's Registration Drive. Voter registration is up 2.8 percent in 2007 and the likely increase could be distinctly higher now. The Independents registration is up 7.6 percent in the last year. To date we have 725,000 registered Independents out of 2.7 million registered voters. This has become a tri-party state, and now Independents can go to the polls and select a Republican or Democrat ballot. According to my research, with those numbers, I suspect the reason that Rick Davis did not include Arizona as one of the "17 historically Republican states" is simple--we as Democrats are beginning to turn this state "blue." Even though, since 1952, except in the 1996 election, Arizona still voted for the Republicans. It is interesting to note that Bill Clinton won Arizona narrowly by 2.2 percent. This news has made the Democrats work even harder to register more voters. It is interesting to note the large number of Independents and the number is growing. There doesn't seem to be be much data on how the Independents voted in years past, but from my research I gathered that many were disenfranchised. The passing of SB1015 giving Independents the right to choose ballots on the primary, seemed to help greatly. In fact, the vote was cast with 27 yea and 3 abstaining. I have a feeling that this will make Arizona even more interesting politically with this tri-party politics. In talking to people who say they are Independents, none wanted to reveal their vote over the last eight years.
At an event at Granite Park, I met Arizona State Senator - District 16, Leah Landrum and she told the group of 200 attendees that McCain has said that "Arizona was his turf," and that didn't sit well with her. She felt that Arizona belongs to the Democrats as well. This got her thinking, why can't we win Arizona. When I heard that comment about Arizona belonging to Senator McCain, I wondered if he was doing the "old two-step flip-flop?"
Senator Landrum told me that she is going to ride on the Obama bus to all 16 counties in five weeks. She also said that "Arizona can't be taken for granted. Arizona is winnable." Senator Landrum asked the crowd to canvass people door to door, make phone calls and talk to everyone we could. She later told me "We must have better representation around the world." The Mayor of Prescott, Jack Wilson, concurred and told me "We have suffered for eight years under Bush. He has taken away our constitutional rights by Presidential Mandate and he is tryig to take over the Supreme Court. That's why we need change."
After the event, I decided to research how Arizona voted in the last 2 elections and I also wanted to investigate what the Democrats were doing to make Arizona Blue. I called to the State Democratic Headquarters and spoke with Emily DeRose. She was very pleasant and she told me the following "We are focused on the message of GET OUT THE VOTE. We are working on all levels, including the State House. The Republicans have owned it for 44 years. Right now, in the State Senate we are evenly split for Democrats and Republicans. We are working towards changing that. We are a vigorous, young, democratic organization. We are talking to everyone. We are finding candidates who are committed to middle class values. Some of our candidates, were formerly Republicans, and now have switched to the Democratic side. Some of the republicans who switched recently includ Ted Maish of the 20th district, and Reverend Eve Nunez of the 12 district. We are pleased with the progress we are making, and we are working very hard to accomplish this." Realizing that I must be fair, I tried to get some comments from the Republicans, and no one returned my call. In fact, I spoke with a volunteer, who did not give me his name at the Prescott Republican Headquarters and when I told him I was writing for the Huffington Post and gave him my name, he said "I know another Sarah, but you are not voting for her." I guess he figured I was a Democrat. What are they hiding? Is this due to the fact that the Democratic Party is suing the state Republican Party for fraudulent donations? The Democratic Party filed suit on the 14th of October. Emily DeRose gave me a copy of the article. It makes you wonder why no cooperation is in evidence.
The data I found to support my original thesis of "Is Arizona becoming blue?" is very interesting. In 20000 36% of the voters were Democrats, 42% were Republicans and 23% were Independents. (Gore lost Arizona by 100,000 voters.) In 2004, 39% were Democrats, 33% were Republicans and 25% were Independents. The numbers haven't been released for 2008, but as of April 2008 the Independents were at 30%. Yes, I believe that Arizona is starting to turn blue, and yes I believe that McCain might be right to wonder, "am I losing my own state?" Only time will tell.