People like me who avidly opposed Donald Trump have had a tough couple of days facing reality.
Tuesday night: Almost no sleep. Covers on, covers off. Sitting up on the side of the bed. Getting up for water. Back to the pillow, mind exploding.
Wednesday: Mopey unreality. I brought a lunch to work, forgot about it, then went out and bought lunch. Did I smile all day?
Wednesday night: Went to bed reading a book about Putin’s Russia: “The Less You Know, The Better You Sleep.” Sleep came hard and I never wanted to wake up.
Thursday: Political Notebook deadline day. Nothing to do but get cranking.
Shock TUSD winner
The biggest surprise of the election for me was not Donald Trump winning the presidency.
I started to feel that result coming as I toured the Tucson area Tuesday interviewing voters.
No, the big surprise was the apparent election of Rachael Sedgwick to the Tucson Unified School District board. With ballots still to be counted, she had a likely invulnerable 1,000-vote lead on her nearest opponent, Betts Putnam-Hidalgo.
This is a race in which I judged that there were three strong challengers and three incumbents out of a total of seven candidates running for three seats. Sedgwick was the seventh.
I didn’t think she lacked the brains or ability to do the job, but just that she was an outlier: a former teacher who is now a law student, doesn’t have any children and didn’t display intimate knowledge of the district.
The others all have or had children in TUSD or were incumbents and know the district deeply. Sedgwick, 37, didn’t. She decided to join the race after doing a law-school paper related to TUSD’s Mexican American Studies conflict.
When I watched one of the many candidate forums, I found Sedgwick’s biography interesting — she’s been a teacher, has lived in Colombia and Italy as well as being a law student — but her knowledge lacking.
But credit her with this: Sedgwick spent a tiny amount of money on her campaign, $3,357 according to the last report. She put out campaign signs, made a few radio appearances, and won — something even she didn’t expect.
“There was a very slim chance I was going to win,” Sedgwick told me and my colleague Alexis Huicochea on Thursday. “It was a total upset.”
Sedgwick won over some Republican support by appearing on conservative-leaning radio shows on KVOI, 1030 AM. She also may have benefited from being an outsider.
An outside group called TUSD Kids First, which opposed incumbents Kristel Foster and Cam Juarez, spent an unprecedented $41,746, much of it on signs supporting incumbent Mark Stegeman, as well as challengers Brett Rustand and Putnam Hidalgo.
Another outside group, Protect Our Schools, formed to support Juarez and Foster and spent at least $20,419. Much of that money went to attacking Stegeman, which may have had the reverse of the intended impact by raising Stegeman’s name ID. He was the top vote-getter, with Foster second.
Sedgwick had another possible explanation that she heard from a variety of supporters.
“People figured I wouldn’t win, but they liked me as a candidate,” she said. “They put me as a No. 2 or No. 3 favorite.”
My instinct led me to Big Heart Coffee on Wednesday morning, where I shared a hug with general manager Diana Acosta-Bacon and settled in to work a bit. I ended up chatting with a fellow customer who is a naturalized citizen from Ecuador, a country where I spent almost a year over trips in 1989 and 1992.
Despite being a naturalized citizen, she worried that immigration enforcement or other police activities might affect her or her family in the Trump administration. Talking with her brought to mind some of Trump’s similarities to one of her home country’s strongman presidents — Abdala Bucaram.
Bucaram is the rich son of wealthy Lebanese immigrants, but he ran for president as a populist candidate of the poor. Sound familiar? I looked up video of his 1996 victory speech, and he was wildly entertaining as always, singing and shouting to a throng of poor supporters.
“We are all united against the Ecuadorean oligarchy,” he said. What I heard him saying, though, was “Drain the swamp.”
Arizona voters gave a mixed verdict Tuesday to the border fears and nativism that have run strong in state politics for more than a decade.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was voted out of office, and Congressional District 1 voters rejected Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu. Both have built their brands on raising alarms about border insecurity and about foreigners among us. But then, of course, the state voted for Trump, whose most intense appeals were on fears of an insecure border, refugees and violent illegal immigrants.
So, what does it all say about the state’s views on these issues? It probably simply means that each race was individual.
Arpaio lost, most likely, because of his continuing legal troubles, now criminal, and what they’re costing the county. Babeu simply didn’t have much appeal beyond his border rhetoric, which is a harder sell in a district that spreads across northern Arizona. So far, Babeu is winning the part of CD 1 in Pima County by more than 4,000 votes but losing Coconino County by almost 12,000 votes.
Trump — well, he ended up winning over the Republicans in a GOP-dominated state. I don’t think it’s much more complicated than that.
My bedtime reading reminds me of the Russia connection, which worries me as much as anything about president-elect Trump. I’ve never been to Russia but have known people from there, and I read book after book about the place. The last one, “It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway,” makes the point that Russia never has come to terms with the crimes of its Soviet past.
In fact, under Vladimir Putin, the country has done the opposite: It has embraced the Soviet era as an expression of the Russian state’s natural greatness. “Make Russia Great Again” is a slogan that would fit perfectly there.
Trump supporters downplay the significance of his appreciation of Putin and the Russian efforts to interfere against Hillary Clinton. They shouldn’t: These are deadly serious flaws that represent an un-American tendency toward totalitarianism.
The unprecedented spending on the Pima County Board of Supervisors’ race meant that money would win the board no matter who won.
A dark-money group led by land investor Don Diamond formed to defend Sharon Bronson and the Democratic majority. Their budget: $175,000. A PAC led by car dealer Jim Click and friends formed to elect a Republican majority. Their initial filing showed they raised $122,750.
Add to that nearly $300,000 total the amazing $231,468 Bronson raised for her own campaign. And add to that the $109,021 challenger Kim DeMarco raised for her campaign. Total with the outside spending: About $638,000 — and control of the board stayed the same.
Poe Kem is enigmatic. He and his wife, Nina, are Cambodian refugees who run a shop, Alvernon Donuts, that harks back to the United States of the 1950s, an era before they even arrived. Swing and pre-rock pop play on the radio, sweet creations sit lined up under glass, patrons lounge on the hard, orange seats of a line of booths, drinking coffee out of informal mugs.
I visited Wednesday morning because I was thinking about Poe during the campaign, when Trump trash-talked refugees as a threat to American society. Poe had good news. Not only was his youngest daughter, Tavy, celebrating her 2nd birthday, but he is about to buy the property he has leased for 13 years.
Poe would never talk politics in his shop. Undoubtedly, his customers include many supporters of both Trump and Clinton. But the place itself is a rejection of the pessimistic view of immigration and foreigners. This is a refugee who has built an archetypal American refuge for Americans of all types.