Rallying with Obama, Arizona Democrats strike hopeful tone ahead of midterms
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.”
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!”
This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.