The path to turning rural counties blue runs through local parades, county fairs, and community affairs, according to LD9 Democrats Chair Susan Bickel.

She spoke at the Democrats of Greater Tucson meeting on February 8, 2021. LD9 had a 90.4% Democratic turnout in the 2020 elections, so Susan knows what she’s talking about.

Susan Bickel lived in Douglas, AZ, from 2000-2013 and successfully motivated rural voters.

In contrast, the turnout in nearby rural counties was less:

  • Cochise County: 78.6% of Democrats voted.
  • Greenlee County: 77.5% of Democrats voted.
  • Graham County: 73.2% of Democrats voted.

It wasn’t always that way. When Susan grew up in Douglas, AZ – 14 blocks from the border – her grandfather Albert R. “A.R.” Spikes was a Democratic state senator and representative for 17 years from Cochise County.

Best practices to reach rural voters – then and now — include:

  • Marching in parades. “This is where you find people,” Susan said.
  • Attending community events, like Arizona Centennial events.
  • Registering voters at county fairs.
  • Joining local groups, like the local chamber of commerce.
  • Forming Democratic clubs and opening local Democratic offices. Susan helped open a satellite Democratic office in Douglas, where she was the MC and welcomed local elected offices, then-Governor Raúl Héctor Castro, and local voters.

These practices include get-out-the-vote tactics like making phone calls with bilingual callers, sending texts, and mailing letters and postcards.

“I never thought I would be political, but I couldn’t stay silent anymore,” she said, recalling how Border Patrol helicopters would roar by her home. “I cannot be quiet.”

She said that Democrats need to talk to rural voters about what they want. “We need to have boots on the ground and tell people about voting for county supervisors and school board,” she said.

Democrats can volunteer in red counties:

Graham County Democrats: contact County Chair Nicholas Tellez

Cochise County Democrats: contact County Chair Elisabeth Tyndall

Greenlee County Democrats: contact County Chair Susan Breen