Photos: Sanders in Tucson for Garcia gov campaign
With just two weeks before the election, Sen. Bernie Sanders returned to Tucson to stump for David Garcia, the Democrat who is struggling to close a major polling gap and a massive disparity in campaign spending against incumbent Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.
As thunderstorms rolled in, around 450 people gathered on the wet grass close to McKale Center and stood in periodic rain showers to hear Garcia and Sanders, along with U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva and others speak.
The event was hosted by Young Democrats at the University of Arizona, as one of two back-to-back events at the UA and Arizona State University.
Along with Sanders' celebrity, the event focused on the opening of a new early voting location at the university, on the third floor of the Student Union in the ASUA office.
Before the event began, Billy Kovacs, the political director for the Garcia campaign, came out to tell the audience that the rally would continue despite the rain and possibility of lightning. After saying that people might be staying out on the lawn at their own risk, he declared that the speakers would come out and speak, like "politicians for the people."
As the event began, Grijalva said he was proud "to support Arizona’s next governor, David Garcia," and that he was happy to be there with "my homes, Bernie Sanders, who is visiting Arizona once again."
Garcia came on to the stage and owing to the location mostly stuck with his message on education, and he nodded to the rain storms, which had delivered hail earlier that morning.
"Too many people do not exercise their privilege," said Garcia. "And, that's what they want, they are hoping you get tired, you get discouraged, or rained out."
Garcia said he was a product of the Arizona's educational system, and would seek to fix the cost of education for college students, noting that the state's constitution says that instruction "shall be as nearly free as possible."
Sanders came out to raucous cheers from the growing crowd, and said, "They say the sun always shines in Arizona. They say Arizona is a red state. Both are wrong."
Backed by occasional flashes of lightning, and a growing storm from the south, Sanders blasted the Trump administration for separating families and reminded the audience of his "revolution" and out-layed a series of progressive ideas, including Medicare for all, and free college would seek a progressive
Following the event, Sanders traveled to Arizona State University to speak with U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego.
Earlier this month, the campaign announced that Sanders was endorsing Garcia.
"I am proud to support David Garcia for governor of Arizona. He’s exactly the kind of leader the state of Arizona and our country needs right now," Sanders said. "As a first generation college graduate, who went to school on the G.I. Bill, David knows what it means to have access to an affordable education. The Arizona Constitution says college should be ‘as nearly free as possible’ and David has a plan to make that a reality."
This is the fourth time that Sanders has traveled to Tucson for a political event since 2015. The first two times Sanders was in the midst of his campaign for the 2016 Democratic nomination, and the last time, Sanders came to the Ua campus to push for Hillary Clinton's failed run for president.
The back-to-back events come as as Garcia struggles to mount a successful challenge against Republican incumbent Doug Ducey, who has a 17-point lead over his challenger, according to a poll by Arizona Capitol Times and OH Predictive Insights. About 7 percent of people remain undecided according to the poll.
A more recent poll produced by Change Research and published by the campaign showed that Ducey's support is under 50 percent, and that the incumbent governor's lead has narrowed to 7.6 percent;
In 2014, Ducey beat Democrat Fred DuVal by 11.8 points.
Ducey's substantial lead owes in part to his massive campaign spending. New campaign finance reports show that Ducey's campaign has nearly doubled the spending spending for Garcia, burning through $2.4 million to protect the Republican's seat, reported Howard Fischer via the Arizona Daily Star.
And, Ducey still has an additional $3.5 million to use, while the Republican Governor's Association has marshaled $8.8 million in attack ads against Garcia, wrote Fischer.
Monday, Garcia's political director, former CD2 congressional candidate Kovacs, attempted to gin up some attention for the Democratic gubernatorial effort by tweeting at pop star Taylor Swift.