With former President Barack Obama in town to campaign with them, Democratic candidates running for office tried to strike a more hopeful tone at a campaign rally with only six days to go before Election Day.
“We are the party of hope,” U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego said to the crowd gathered at Cesar Chavez High School, echoing Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan to thunderous cheers. “We are the party of the American Dream.”
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The tone was in contrast to how Democrats have been for most of the midterm campaigns, which has largely focused on the extremism of their Republican opponents and the consequences of electing a slate of candidates who deny the results of the 2020 election.
While many of the speeches Wednesday night certainly made note of the GOP candidates’ rhetoric, the Democratic candidates focused primarily on energizing their base and driving turnout.
“Despite all the news, Democrats, we are ready,” Gallego said. “When we hear about this election, can we win it? Yes we can!,” Gallego said, leading the crowd in a call and response once again echoing a catchphrase from Obama’s presidential campaign.
Arizona’s races are currently tight, with Democratic Senator Mark Kelly holding a three-point lead over his Republican rival Blake Masters and Lake holding a similar two-point lead over current Democratic Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs.
Other races, like those for secretary of state and attorney general, are similarly close.
“You’re going to be the ones making sure my teenage girls can choose what they can do with their body,” Democratic Secretary of State candidate Adrian Fontes said to an eruption of cheers. “You are the power.”
Abortion was a key focus of each candidate that spoke Wednesday night, each time drawing a major reaction from the crowd, which appeared fired up by the issue. Nearly every candidate mentioned abortion and the right to choose, each time drawing louder and louder reactions.
The main draw for many in attendance Wednesday night, though, was former President Obama, who has been rallying for Democratic candidates across the country ahead of the midterm elections.
The former president spent his time encouraging those in attendance to get involved and vote, not to be discouraged by the news they see or read. He also called out Hobbs’ opponent directly, even bringing up a 2016 interview the former Fox 10 anchor did with him when he was still president, saying he didn’t remember the interview.
“We know what she will focus on, because Donald Trump told us so,” Obama said of Lake’s priorities.
Obama also zeroed in on Masters.
“If you were trying to create in a lab a wacky Republican politician, it’d look a lot like this guy,” Obama said, before pivoting to attack Masters’ stance on Social Security and abortion.
The former president also tried to make a plea directly to Republicans and those who may be voting for candidates like Masters and Lake.
“I wanna talk to people who aren’t in this auditorium,” Obama said after discussing the election denialism claims pushed by Arizona GOP candidates. “Why would you want to vote for someone who isn’t telling the truth about something?”
Obama’s words were similar to another speaker who took the stage that night, Mesa Mayor John Giles, a Republican who has publicly endorsed several Democrats this year, including Kelly and Hobbs.
“You don’t owe a political party a damn thing,” Giles told the crowd, speaking directly to Independent and Republican voters. “Vote for the best candidates, period.”
Giles joked Wednesday night that he was out of place at a Democratic event and that he hoped one day to be able to vote for Republican candidates, but he worried that his party had lost itself in the era of Trump.
“Kari Lake is playing to an audience of one,” Giles said. “I promise you, she will spend more time traveling to Mar-A-Lago than to Mesa.”
Among the speakers was former Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords, who spoke briefly about the importance of the election before introducing her husband, Kelly.
The crowd Wednesday night was energetic and volunteers shuffled around the crowd, handing out slips to help sign people up for door knocks and ensure those present had voted.
“We need to win in November,” Fontes said to the crowd Wednesday night. “Are you with me?”
The gym began to shake as the people gathered began stomping their feet, followed by chants of “yes we can!”
Trump ‘rallies’ with Lake and Masters by phone
By Gloria Rebecca Gomez
A couple of hours before Barack Obama took the stage in Laveen to stump for Democrats, Kari Lake’s campaign held a tele-rally with former President Donald Trump and other Republican candidates.
Trump, Lake and U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters focused largely on border security and the economy.
Masters took aim at President Joe Biden for stopping the construction of the border wall, blaming the decision for the influx of immigrants. From Oct. 2021 through Sept. 2022, the latest available data, there have been 2.4 million border encounters.
“They halted the border wall — President Trump’s big beautiful wall. Biden stopped construction,” Masters said. “They disempowered our Border Patrol. They reversed Trump’s policies, like Remain in Mexico. It was working, and Joe Biden and (U.S. Sen.) Mark Kelly actively incentivized four million illegal aliens to come here.”
When Biden announced the elimination of the Remain in Mexico policy, which forced asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico while their claims were processed, Kelly called for the decision to be delayed. Another Trump-era policy, Title 42, remains in effect and is attributed, in part, to the higher numbers at the southern border, which are themselves a result of multiple crossings by migrants, not a spike in actual encounters.
While the construction of Trump’s border wall was initially halted, the Biden administration has announced plans to install mesh fencing and vehicle gates next year.
Democrats and the Biden administration were blamed for the rise in gas prices and inflation.
“Two years ago, $1.87 gasoline. Now, today, they just announced in certain parts of California — and you’ll be catching up very soon — $7.77,” Trump warned.
Masters blamed Democrats for turning away from gas and oil industries and said the administration printing $6 trillion caused the current skyrocketing inflation rate of 13% in Arizona. The Biden administration approved a $6 trillion dollar budget for the year in May. The rise in inflation which is at 8.3% nationally and 13% in the Phoenix metro area has been worsened by supply and demand issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump touted the GOP candidates as the best choice for voters looking for an answer to concerns about the LGBTQ community and critical race theory, both focal points of the Republican culture war.
“We will ban critical race theory in our children’s schools. We’ll keep men out of women’s sports. They say, ‘Oh, please don’t say that, it’s not politically correct.’ No, we will keep men out of women’s sports and we will defend school choice in Arizona,” he said. “We’ll protect the Second Amendment, we’ll protect free speech and we’ll preserve the Judeo-Christian principles of our nation’s founding.”
Trump also congratulated Masters and Lake for their supposed large leads in polling, saying he had seen surveys which showed Masters and Lake overtaking their opponents by large margins.
In reality, both races are incredibly close: Masters has made gains on Kelly and is narrowly behind him in most available polling, while polling has consistently shown Lake with a small lead over Democrat Katie Hobbs, though often in a statistical dead heat.
Masters himself acknowledged this in his closing remarks, urging listeners to vote as his race is currently “neck and neck”.
The only mentions of election fraud came from gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake.
“We’re (going) to secure our elections and bring back honest elections that are transparent. Every Democrat, Republican and Independent in Arizona will know when they go to bed on election night. They’ll know the winner, they won’t be waiting 10 days for it, and they will know it was a fair and honest election,” she said.
While most ballots are counted and reported on election night, many thousands are tallied later. The vast majority of those are early ballots dropped off at polling places on Election Day. While early ballots returned prior to that can be verified and tabulated before voters head to the polls, the so-called “late earlies” aren’t processed until the following day.
Additionally, Arizona law requires counties to give voters five days to confirm their ballot if there is a problem verifying signatures on early ballots.
Lake vowed to take on border security as her first priority if elected, and to continue the building of Trump’s border wall. But, she said, her office would need the support of like-minded Republicans across the state.
“The things that I want to do for Arizona include securing that border, stopping the flow of fentanyl and building President Trump’s wall. I gotta have people like Abe Hamadeh as AG in order to make that happen,” she said. “Securing our elections so your one legal vote counts and we know who won on election night. I gotta have Mark Finchem as secretary of state to make that happen. And we’ve gotta have Blake Masters and all of our congressional folks be Republican to go back to Washington and fight for us there.”