By Sarah Meaney
Weeks of planning paid off for the Democrats of Rim Country. With the help of AZ Blue 2020 and the participation of several statewide candidates, more than one-hundred constituents filled the Payson Senior Center for the Rim Country Roadshow.
The AZ Blue 2020 team started the trip at our favorite meeting place, the park and ride at Gilbert and the 202 and this time no one got lost. We all opted to seek solace in the shade while waiting for all the carpooling candidates to arrive. The day was hot and muggy. Kathy Hoffman had already spent her morning canvassing in the heat for Kevin Patterson in CD 6. Once everyone had arrived, we consolidated. We packed into our vehicles, cranked the A/C and began our ninety-minute journey to the cool, pine air of Rim Country.
We were quite the Democratic menagerie as our AZ Blue 2020 team entered the venue, complete with flyers, stickers, eight state candidates and ADP Vice Chair, Karyn Lathan. The list of candidates were:
Democrats of Rim Country began trickling in around 3:30 to hear the slate of speakers. Many attendees were sporting their Gila County Dems and Trump caricature shirts. The dull roar of mingling candidates and interested constituents created an electric buzz of excitement. Photographers roamed the room while voters got to know the candidates. The AZ Blue 2020 team stickered as many attendees as possible while John Ainley greeted people at the door.
The program began with AZ Blue 2020 outreach team member, TJ Cuddy, taking the mic to thank the Democrats of Rim Country for their help coordinating the event. Diane Green, President of the Democrats of Rim Country, did a great job promoting as proven by the turnout. TJ opened with an intro to AZ Blue 2020 and why the group helped bring candidates to Payson. “They’re depending on you,” he said to the crowd about the candidates. AZ Blue knows ground game is the most important aspect of winning elections. And, in line with our mission, TJ promoted the job of PC. “If you want to become a PC, find Chris Tilley.” He joked about her carrying PC applications with her everywhere she goes.
After the intro, Vice Chair Karyn Lathan was up first. She reiterated the importance of being an active participant in the legislative process. Karyn talked about her background and how she became involved in the party. Next up was Kiana Sears, candidate for Arizona Corporation Commission. Kiana outlined the reasons she decided to run. At the top of her list were the allegations of corruption surrounding the current ACC. Sears has been a long time advocate for child welfare and education. She is a current Mesa School Board member and is running as a clean elections candidate.
Bill Pierce then took center stage, which may have felt odd for an engineer. Pierce spoke about his forty years of experience in the mining industry. He has several certifications and knowledge of the industry, making him a more than qualified candidate for mine inspector. He was followed by the two candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction who have both been vocal supporters of the Save Our Schools referendum on SB1431.
David Schapira was up first. He went through his substantial list of qualifications including his years of experience as an educator and administrator. He also spoke on Arizona’s current state leaders and contrasted their ideas about public education with his own. “They are working intentionally to dismantle our public schools in this state and we have to fight back.” David serves on the Tempe City Council where he helped pass the “Tempe Free Pre” initiative, finding money in the budget to provide year-round preschool for 360 students for the next two years.
Kathy Hoffman is an educator and speech pathologist in the Peoria school district. She has worked with special needs students, those with autism and English-language learners. Her platform includes advocating for these students to ensure they receive the public school services necessary for their success. Kathy outlined three priorities for Arizona: invest in our students, prioritize and fight for the inclusion of all students, and increase pay for our educators. As a first time candidate, Kathy represents true grassroots democracy.
The candidate for Attorney General is January Contreras. Her impressive resume includes experience as a County Prosecutor, State Prosecutor, Assistant Attorney Generaland former policy advisor to Governor Janet Napolitano. She served on the White House Council on Women and Girls under President Obama, contributed to the development of the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, and volunteered on the Board of Directors of the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence. The list goes on and on. January also fights for protection of Arizona’s most vulnerable populations. She founded ALWAYS, a nonprofit that provides free legal services for children and young adults impacted by the foster care system. She spoke about the cumulative effect of her experience and how it has shaped her vision for the Attorney General’s office. January’s family is always close and supportive of her run. We have seen her mom, cousin and niece at our last two roadshow events. January has set the bar high for any candidate that chooses to run against her.
Jim Moss, a relatively unknown candidate, was next on the agenda. He and his wife Kelly are small business owners in Globe. He is running for U.S. Senate. Jim helped organize citizens to fight against a private prison contract supported by local officials in Globe. Although, many in the audience had not heard Jim’s name before they certainly remembered him after his speech. He had the audience clapping and nodding in agreement after his points about standing firm on progressive values. He suggested Democrats be unapologetic about their platform and forgo bi-partisanship in order to pass legislation that supports the party’s values. Jim and his wife own a trading post in Globe. He has degrees in political science and secondary education.
TJ then took a few extra moments to introduce the next speaker on the panel, Dr. Randall Friese. Dr. Friese didn’t hesitate to participate in a town hall organized by TJ earlier this year. Dr. Friese has been available not only to constituents in Legislative District 9, but has made a continual effort to support people allover the state of Arizona. He drove from Tucson to make the Rim Country event. As a surgeon, Dr. Friese has spoken out against bad health care legislation being passed at the state level. He mentioned during his speaking time the need for ACA improvement and a move toward universal health care. Dr. Friese has also been an advocate for improvement of the education system in Arizona. He is a veteran of the US Navy, a House Representative for Legislative District 9, a ranking member on the Health Committee and serves on the Judiciary Committee. Keep up with Dr. Friese for an official announcement about his run for U.S. Senate.
Rounding out the panel was Gubernatorial candidate David Garcia. Audience members vocalized their support of David during his run for Superintendent, which he lost by a narrow margin. Some Dems in Payson already had a soft spot for the candidate. He communicated that voters must be aware of the core values of the candidates they elect, “…the reality is we are going to go back to those core values that have built us, to those core principles of who we are and we’re going to fall back on those to make decisions.” He stated that is fundamentally how elected officials will govern. Garcia touched on the voucher bill and Doug Ducey’s strong push to support it. “I will venture to say none of you tweeted Doug Ducey to congratulate him on that voucher bill. Did you? But Betsy DeVos did. Betsy DeVos tweeted him to congratulate him.” The crowd moaned with disapproval to Garcia’s example of how the current Governor is mismanaging the priorities of the people of Arizona. David Garcia is a veteran and the first in his family to graduate from college. He is a nationally recognized expert in education research and policy and currently works as a professor at Mary Lou Fulton Teacher’s College at ASU.
Once the speakers finished, attendees milled about talking and donating fives to the clean elections candidates. Payson Democrats turned in a stack of Save Our Schools referendum petitions to be brought back to the valley before the deadline. From the feedback and smiles the AZ Blue 2020 team received from Payson residents, the event appeared to be a success.
We cleared the hall and walked over to the Mogollon Moose. The local eatery provided delicious gourmet sandwiches, salad and pastries. Executive Chef and owner, Kristi and her husband were gracious enough to provide last-minute vegetarian fare for the non-meat eaters in the group. The sandwiches were works of culinary artistry. Everyone raved about the kale salad. Next time you are in Rim Country visit the Mogollon Moose, located in the heart of Payson. They make everything delicious…even kale.
Our events just keep getting better. Good candidates and engaged citizens win elections. AZ Blue 2020 will bring a roadshow to your town. Let’s work together to create excitement for next election. For more info email: info@AZBlue2020.org