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Guest opinion

Despite her history of helping Dems, party walks away from Kelly Fryer's gov run

A conservative activist takes a look at Fryer's gubernatorial campaign

This weekend, I attended a meet and greet for gubernatorial candidate Kelly Fryer at the American Eat Company in South Tucson. The event was hosted by longtime Democratic Party activist Raul Aguirre.

As I got my sliders from The Bite and my mocha latte frappe from Cafe con Leche, I found the community table reserved for the event and began chatting with the other guests. I of course made full disclosure of who I am in my introduction just to ease their minds I was not there to be a provocateur but to ask serious questions about her platform.

Kelly Fryer is a former Lutheran pastor, CEO of The Southern Arizona YWCA, accomplished corporate trainer, educator, mother, grandmother, and lesbian. The LGBTQ community was well represented in her audience as were some Red for Ed activists. I learned some interesting things about the lack of pay raises for the support staff at the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind. It appears since they are a state grant school and not part of the regular public school system within a district, they are not getting raises, according to the Board of Regents appointed by the governor.

Considering this three-way race for the Democratic Party nomination for governor, I asked Fryer, "What makes you a better choice for Democrats as governor than David Garcia?" She began her answer attacking Doug Ducey and I interrupted to remind her that isn't my question: "I'll ask that question after the primary. Right now, in the primary, what makes you a better choice for Democrats than David Garcia?" She did turn back to at least talking about why she is the better choice. Her answer to this and follow up questions were her stock positions stated on her website.

The star of this campaign is her communications director daughter, Emma Fryer. Emma is running an almost Libertarian-style campaign with DIY download kits to make your own signs and swag in support of Kelly Fryer for Governor. She is good, very good and with more money she would have been better. Kelly Fryer has a far better social media presence than Farley or Garcia.

Here is the rub, according to the last campaign finance report: Fryer only raised $160,000 to David Garcia's $846,000 and Steve Farley's $1.1 million. That $160K doesn't buy air time. To try and rely on free or nearly free media is still not enough to get out of single-digit polling. A nonpartisan not-paid-for-by-the-candidates poll will be released on Tuesday, but that is the conservative guesstimate for Kelly Fryer now.

Fryer is well-known to the usual political groups and activists of Pima and Cochise counties. The broader recognition she would need to threaten the Arizona Democratic Party organizations status quo isn't there and quite frankly she got sold out by her own friends in the party. She has enough money to put certain pet issues in the mix and of course bow to the basic platforms of the party. But to get in front of their "whales" and get their money? No. Political donor whales are a protected class amongst themselves and those small few who have influence over how and where the candidate can spend money, are strictly controlled by them. Even though Fryer herself has probably raised mucho dinero for many Democratic Party candidates in Southern Arizona, delivered volunteer armies, and whole voting blocks to them, they appear to have abandoned her this time around.

Jim Kelley is a longtime Republican activist and consultant, and former blogger known as The Cholla Jumps.

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