Democrats have long dominated political races in Tucson, but that isn’t the case in surrounding areas. “Once you leave the city limits of Tucson, we’re outnumbered,” said Catalina Hall, a longtime Picture Rocks resident and chair of LD11 Democrats.

Hall described the struggles of living in a legislative district that includes Marana, Oro Valley, Saddlebrooke, and Casa Grande in Pinal County and Maricopa City outside of Phoenix.

“What we’re working on is growing as much as we can during the pandemic,” Hall told members of Democrats of Greater Tucson on April 5.

Even without a pandemic, canvassing in rural areas is tough. “Most people who are out here are here because they don’t want to be near government. There is a general distrust,” she said. “They don’t really want to be bothered.” Homes are often gated, have dogs guarding them, or aren’t numbered properly.

Postcards and other mailings are often the most effective at reaching rural voters, Hall said. LD11 Dems have hosted events that are well attended when they’re promoted with mailings.

“We may be outnumbered,” Hall said, “but we have more fun, and we do stuff.” The Democratic Field Team Six recognized Gil Wier (LD11, DOV) and Richard ‘Doc’ Gooding (AZBlue2020), giving them 2020 Volunteer of the Year awards. The first annual Awards Show can be viewed on FT6’s YouTube channel.

Campaigning in rural AZ

LD11 Democrats have to reach out to independents, which has its risks, she said.

“We are looking at left-leaning independents who may come over to us and looking at people who are not registered at all, who are even harder to find,” she said. 

“They can be hostile. Most of those in the hostile group are ones who are not registered at all and want to fight with you,” Hall said. “The ones that are not registered at all, I’m kind of glad they’re not.”

Rural Republicans can be persuaded to vote for a Democrat at the top of the ticket, Hall said, but they are devoted to keeping the down-ballot deep red. “They aren’t looking at issues so much as keeping their majority in the Arizona House and the Arizona Senate,” she said. “They’re also looking to retain the governorship.”

“The only issue I see that has most of their interest is the fact that they thought the (presidential) election was stolen,” Hall said.

Rural Republicans have rallied around LD11 state Rep. Mark Finchem of Oro Valley, who has announced he is running for Secretary of State following a controversial “stop the steal” visit to the U.S. Capitol.

Rep. Mark Finchem, a member of the Oath Keepers hate group, played a role in the January 6th attacks on our nation’s Capitol. Finchem has failed to support the Constitutions of the United States and Arizona.

“When Finchem went to D.C. on January 6, which caused a lot of us voters in LD11 to start to recall him, he was given quite a bit of support from a lot of the voters in LD11 because they were supporting the president (Trump),” Hall said.

When Hall talks about Finchem, she often uses a double-entendre nickname, MF.

“MF describes him perfectly,” she said.

Hall urged LD11 voters to visit the website recallfinchem.com, set up by Rural Arizonans for Accountability, to learn where to sign a recall petition or volunteer. While signing a petition requires being an LD11 voter, anyone can volunteer to help.

LD11 has eight active clubs: Democrats of Oro Valley, Saddlebrooke Democrats, Sun City OV Democratic Club, Marana Dems and Friends, Dems for Picture Rocks, Democrats of Casa Grande, Copa City Dems, and Highlands/Dove Mountain Dems.

Some of the races in Casa Grande have become competitive for Democrats, Hall said, thanks to Ralph Atchue, who is well known among Pima County Democrats.