It was only 161 votes which separated Ron Barber, Democrat and fellow January 8th shootee, from his opponent in November's election, Martha McSally. That's two hundred doorbells rung or not, 200 family members and friends who remained unconvinced, a block or two of un-contacted voters. That's what happens when a Congressional District is gerrymandered into equal thirds - Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.
My little piece of heaven, Arizona's Legislative District 9, is sending two Democrats to Phoenix for the next session of the House. Ethan Orr lost by 132 votes to Dr. Randall Friese, another January 8th friend. He'll join Victoria Steele in trying to make Arizona a more human-friendly place, one that cares about education and gun safety; he's already crafting legislation, or so his wife told me last week when we met at Pilates.
I am trading a personal relationship in Washington, D.C. for one in Arizona's State House. If, as Tip O'Neill pointed out, all politics is local, this should be a good thing. Instead of knowing one of 435 Representatives, I'll know one of 60. This should fill me with a small sense of power. Instead, I can't get past the ache of losing my connection to Washington.
When TBG and I talked about leaving the comfortably liberal confines of Marin County, we encountered skepticism. We were moving to the Wild West. Were we sure we were thinking clearly? I had a ready answer: My Senator would be The Maverick, John McCain, my governor a Democratic woman, and my Congressman was a Jewish girl whose centrist position in the Democratic Party fit both TBG and me quite nicely. California was in the midst of an economic crisis, and residents were fleeing north to Oregon (which mounted a campaign against immigrants from other states) and east to Arizona. The Copper State was trending purple, and we would be adding more blue to the mix.
Then, President Obama tapped Janet Napolitano for Homeland Security and her Secretary of State, Jan Brewer, moved up to the governor's mansion. We traded down, in my opinion.
Then, John McCain chose Sara Palin as his running mate, insulting the electorate and diminishing his stature in our house..... and many others. I was glad she could see Russia from her front porch; I just wish that Senator McCain had asked her a question or two before deciding she would be appropriate to lead our nation should he die in office. Given the loss of Gov. Napolitano and the rise of a trained hair dresser in her place, this was not an outre concern.
Then, Gabby's brain intersected with a bullet. Ron Barber took her place in Congress, winning by the same kind of slim margin which removed him from office today. Gabby spoke across the aisle. She touched ranchers and sheriffs and teachers and police officers alike. She was on the rise.
Her seat will be occupied in January by a woman who flew fighter jets and argued with her military superiors demanding equal treatment as she served in the Middle East but who chose to remove any mention of her beliefs or plans from her campaigning. She softened her image, appearing in soft blouses instead of her Air Force uniform. She got her hair cut. The changes were cosmetic; her positions have not changed since the last time she challenged Congressman Barber.
And so, here I sit on Douglas, admiring my tree and the sunshine and the music and wondering where Arizona and America are going. Should Dreamer kids receive drivers' licenses? Will the Medicaid expansion Governor Brewer approved continue to provide services to our most needy? Will sensible gun legislation ever have a chance in Washington?
I voted. My friends voted. I made my opinions known, tried to convince others of the validity of my views, made phone bank calls and wrote checks. In the end, I won one and lost most. The Arizona that enticed me in 2006 is a memory. It's the end of an era and I am sad.