I just got back from walking my dog, the one that survived the africanized bee attack a few weeks ago. I walk her after dark as in Tucson it takes a few hours to cool off enough in the evening for me to want to take a quick jog around the neighborhood. It is 9 pm and 91 degrees.
UMC is just down the street and a helicopter took off from the helipad on the roof while we were walking. I cannot see that sight, even a year and a half later, without thinking of that January day when Tucson changed forever. Tonight that memory was very close to the surface with today’s special election to fill Gabby Giffords’ seat for the rest of her term until this fall and the regular Congressional election.
The two major party contenders and a green party candidate vied for her old seat.
Ron Barber, the Democratic candidate, who was also shot twice on January 8,2011, is ahead as I write this, 53 to 45 percent with half of the votes in. This percentage has held fairly steady for the last hour. I’m breathing a bit easier. Jesse Kelly, the Republican candidate, is to the right of even most Tea Bag Types. He ran against Gabby in 2010 in what was a very, very close election. He hosted the target practice with automatic weaponry that “targeted” Gabby in what I still believe was one of the ugly acts that tainted the atmosphere and energy in Tucson that a very disturbed young man picked up on and interpreted as encouragement to act that horrible Winter day. I attended debates where there were Kelly supporters in Nazi attire.
The white supremacist in Arizona politics is, unfortunately, common enough to bring many individuals and groups to mind at its mention. J. T. Reading, an avowed Neo-Nazi, was running for Pinal County Sheriff when he killed his family and himself earlier this year. Reading was Russell Pearce’s buddy, before Pearce was recalled as Arizona Senate member and president. The border militias that have much in common with the Tea Party, have Nazi and Aryan connections as the trials for murders of a family in Arivaca showed. And of course there is the northern Arizona connection with Tim McVeigh. This shit is real. In this state the border militias, neo-nazis, ultra-conservatives, mingle with the conservatives in what I find to be a very disturbing manner. RNC money was backing Jesse Kelly like he was a good Republican.
Ron Barber has been declared the winner, Kelly has conceded, and Barber has given his acceptance speech. Gabby is right on stage with Ron. There is chanting of “Gabby” from the audience. It signals a bit of closure for us here.
I have made no bones about not being aligned with the Blue Dog Democrat that Gabby was in Congress. But she was my representative. There was an assassination attempt on her life. I was at the UMC vigil the day of the shooting. Tucson came together in a way that was amazing, for her and all the injured, and for those we lost. The event changed us all and political nuances became completely unimportant. Citizens came together to support a public servant who had nearly given her life.
For me, this election has been an extension of the journey we Tucsonans and Southern Arizonans all began 18 months ago. Gabby next to Ron on that stage tonight was the best closing of this particular circle within Arizona history that could have happened.
I’m breathing so much easier tonight than I have since it became obvious that national money, Rove and the RNC, was coming in early on to support the extremist right wing candidate Kelly, complete with his High School diploma and construction experience in his father’s company.
But the November elections are fast approaching and Kelly will probably run again. The redistricting changes the districts for this fall’s elections a bit.