“At the end of the day, this is about people and making sure people in Arizona are thriving across all counties (including the Rural ones.)”
Arizona Democratic Party Chair and State Senator Raquel Teran.
“I love Rural Arizona. It is the Democratic Candidates that will fight and protect Rural Arizona.”
Arizona Democratic Attorney General Candidate Kris Mayes.
“It is vital we protect our Democracy…We have to make sure to vote across the ballot. The school board race is just as important as Senator Kelly’s”
Jay Ruby, Yavapai Democrats
“It will not be enough to have an urban blue with a rural red divide. We need investments in areas like Payson, Prescott, and Kingman to help transform political culture.”
Yavapai Democratic Party County Chair John Lutes.
People in the world of political punditry who feel that Democrats have virtually no chance of being competitive or even thriving in rural parts of the country may come away with a different perspective if they had attended the Rural Action Summit on June 11 2022, at Mile High Middle School (a product of infrastructure spending from the Works Progress Administration during the New Deal Era) in Prescott, Arizona sponsored by the Yavapai Democratic Party, Save Our Schools Arizona, Arizona Indivisible, and Civic Engagement Beyond Voting.
At the eight hour event, approximately 100 activists and several statewide candidates from across Arizona came to listen to speaker after speaker echo these powerful themes; Rural Arizona is in play, all candidates for all offices are important, and Democrats are the political party that can best protect Democracy, lift people up, and move the state and nation forward.
The activists, many of whom recently became Precinct Committeemen for the Yavapai County Democratic Party also participated in training seminars designed to improve reaching out to local communities through direct voter canvassing.
Arizona Democratic Party Chairperson Raquel Teran Kicks off the Summit.
After introductory remarks by event organizers Jay Ruby and John Lutes, Arizona Democratic Party Chairperson Raquel Teran gave the keynote address of the one day summit.
Reminding the audience that she is a product of Rural Arizona, the Chairperson said “we’re here to win it all. At the end of the day it is about building community…for this election cycle and the one after and the one after that.”
She also highlighted that Democrats would work to:
- Protect Democracy.
- Uplift rural communities.
- Help everyone across Arizona.
Using the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law as an example, Chairperson Teran noted the hundreds of millions of dollars Arizona Democrats (with no support from Grand Canyon State Republicans) secured for Arizona’s rural community to areas like water infrastructure, high speed internet, fighting wildfires, and aiding tribal communities. She said “this is what can be accomplished when Democrats are elected. Our best option is to vote Republicans out so we can focus on real solutions that will help rural communities and families across Arizona.”
Activists Attend Messaging, Reaching Out, Canvassing, and Goal Setting Workshops.
Following Chairperson Teran’s address, the activists were divided into three groups designed to prepare them for direct voter or texting voter canvassing by attending three half hour seminars focused on message discipline, how to successfully reach out to voters when canvassing at their home or through social media, and setting achievable goals.
As a side note, these seminars were held in classrooms that still had furniture purchased in the 1970’s. According to Save our Schools leader and Summit organizer Nicky Indicavitch, the only reason the school has smart boards is because parents donated them. Some of the facilities like the bathrooms showed they were seriously worn down (please see picture to the right.) Indicavitch advised that the voters had voted down a budget override that would have addressed many of the needs at Mile High Middle School.
What message should be clear from this example. The state needs to fully fund all public schools.
Back to the seminars.
The presenters (Nicky Indicavitch, Rachel Clawson, Jay Ruby, Ian Haimp, Cathy Sigmon, and Kari Hull) were very instrumental in conveying:
- The key goal is to build trust and develop positive relationships with the voters.
- Democrats are not isolated or alone in the community. There are more out there than residents think.
- How to communicate with voters either through direct contact, texting, or over the phone. For example, canvassers should be personable, project positivity, sincerity, and empathy, focus on persuading the voter to support the local issue or candidate the canvasser is advocating for, and not be confrontational or be swayed to get in an argument over fringe issues like Critical Race Theory
- The goal for this election cycle (in this area)should be to knock on 200,000 doors and make 50,000 phone calls.
- How good direct voter contact can positively increase voter turnout three to seven percent.
- Nothing will happen if the activist does not show up to be a central part of the political equation of building Democratic influence in the rural community from the ground up.
Congressional and Statewide Candidates Speak.
After lunch, the attendees were treated to guest speeches from Representative Tom O’Halleran (who is running to represent Prescott in the new CD Two,) Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, Corporation Commission Candidate (and former Tempe Vice Mayor) Lauren Kuby, Attorney General Candidate (and former Corporation Commissioner) Kris Mayes, and State Treasurer Candidate (and State Senator) Martin Quezada.
In his comments, Representative Tom O’Halleran emphasized his willingness to work with others and find common ground, saying:
“…We have to work with people and not against people…I am not working away from people but with them. I am not going to try to make enemies but bring people together…”
Superintendent Kathy Hoffman highlighted that she spent her first year in office (before the COVID 19 pandemic) visiting schools across the state, including those in rural communities, continually reinforcing her theme “the future of Arizona starts in our schools.” The Superintendent also reminded attendees of the assistance her department has steered towards the rural community like the Donors Choose partnership where teachers across the state were able to apply for $1,000 grants for school supplies and the Final Mile Project where a rural district like the Paloma one was able to bring high speed internet to the local community.
Attorney General Candidate Kris Mayes, a graduate of Mile High Middle School, relayed that “we are going to protect Democracy and that runs through the door of Arizona.” Pledging to uphold the Arizona Constitution, she also effectively countered the perception that Democrats have no chance in rural communities by pointing out that Democrats are the ones fighting to protect rural communities, local water supplies, local control, and personal liberty like a woman’s right to choose.
Corporation Commission Candidate Lauren Kuby echoed some of Mayes themes, telling the audience that the Commission (an office virtually no one outside the political community has heard of) has a duty to protect consumers and the environment and that her election will mean greater attention toward the climate and water crisis as well as more investment in renewable energies like solar.
State Senator and Treasurer Candidate Martin Quezada told the audience that as the state’s chief financial, banking and investment officer, he would protect the taxpayers money and steer investments toward priorities for the future.
Canvassing in the Neighborhood
After the speeches by the candidates, the attendees attended a mock canvassing preparation session and journeyed to the local neighborhood to connect with voters. Here are is a picture of the team I was with.
Reaction to the 2022 Rural Action Summit.
Three attendees of the Rural Action Summit expressed their support and gratitude for what the organizers were attempting to accomplish.
Jane Doyle, a Prescott Democrat and member of Prescott Indivisible, said:
“It is really nice to have an event like this where people can meet each other and become engaged and learn about real activities that will help make sure all people are heard and their views appreciated.”
Jacqui Bauer, a member of the new Legislative District 21 (which includes parts of Tucson and the area leading to Nogales) commented that:
“These sessions have been great. In my home legislative district, I really want to learn about how to do better outreach into the rural areas of Arizona. So when I heard about this happening, I wanted to make sure I was here.”
Yavapai Democrat P.C. and state committee member Glenn Miller offered:
“Good opening with state chairs speech. The workshops are really good. You can always learn stuff and get new perspective on how to be effective.”