Turnout for the second annual fall Tucson Tea Party gathering was smaller than last year's, and the focus more directly on border issues.
But the underlying message remained the same: November is coming.
The parking lots surrounding Hi Corbett Field were full by 9 a.m., but the far left and right field bleachers in the 8,500-seat arena were empty. Much of the scene was standard tea party fare: The red T-shirts, the Sarah Palin buttons, the boos for any reference to former Gov. Janet Napolitano, the occasional sign that says, "You can't fix stupid, but you can vote it out."
The border hawks were new.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who swatted President Obama for "always badmouthing Arizona and putting his nose in our business," said he had an answer for the border. "Let's put our Border Patrol on that side of the border." If it's too dangerous, he said, "OK. Let's send our Army."
"I'll tell you one thing. We send the Border Patrol and the Army across the border, we'll clean that up in 30 days."
He joked that he planned to run for office again out of spite, adding he was disappointed there weren't protesters there to meet him.
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu blasted the federal government for putting up billboard signs in English along Arizona roadways warning travelers to use caution because of drug and human smuggling - "instead of in Spanish, facing south, saying, 'Stay out.' Not that that would have worked, but at least that would have been better. It wouldn't have insulted the American people."
In the local races, while Congressional District 7 candidate Ruth McClung told the crowd America is losing its freedoms at an alarming rate, it was Congressional District 8 Republican candidate Jesse Kelly who got the crowd stomping on the bleachers. Pledging to "take some names and kick some rear-ends" in November, he predicted attendees would watch the news on election night "and cry tears of joy seeing the tyrants have been thrown out."
"These people who think they're better than us and look down on us - they tell us what kind of health care to buy, they take over industries," he said. "And if you dare to stand up to government, they call us the mob? We're about to show them what the mob looks like on Nov. 2."
The crowd hooted in agreement when Kelly said leaders never talk about the greatness of America anymore. "We get apologized for overseas. We have a president who bows to foreign monarchs," he said. "We are Americans, and we don't bow to anybody. Our government bows to us."
U.S. Sen. John McCain, joined by Babeu, came out to a standing ovation from the bulk of the crowd, with only a few protesters holding derogatory signs.
McCain led the crowd in a round of chanting, "Goodbye Gabby" and "So long Raul" and promised the first thing on the agenda will be to "repeal and replace Obamacare." Saying he was donating $1,000 each to McClung and Kelly, he urged the crowd to help the candidates buy TV ads.
For the second time in a week, he warned the crowd against complacency, despite pundits saying Republicans can wrest control of the House and predicting Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting next month than Democrats.
"There is a wave of enthusiasm the likes of which I have not seen in my political life (but) take nothing for granted. Remember, it isn't over 'til it's over."
Steven Moss, a 62-year-old maintenance worker and registered independent, carried a sign equating big government with bad government. "Our government is out of control," he said, citing health-care overhaul as a major concern.
Erin Bican, a 30-year-old in insurance sales, held a sign saying, "Found in Dumpster Behind the Capitol: The U.S. Constitution."
Many of her friends voted for the "hope and change" Obama promised, she said, but added "Obamacare" motivated her to become more active. She said her health-insurance premium went up $30, and she's fearful that rising costs eventually will take away her choices.
Bill Kniffen, a 67-year-old quality control manager, carried a sign with a broom attached to it, advocating a clean sweep of incumbents. "People in government right now have messed things up pretty badly," Kniffen said, noting he changed his registration from Democrat to Independent for the first time this year since he turned 18. "I would like to give a whole new group of people a chance to see if they can fix it."
His 61-year-old wife, Dianne, a Republican for the past three years, was recently laid off from her job as an office manager, exacerbating her concerns about the economy. "There's a big misconception out there about what the tea party is," she said. "It's nothing more than people who are just fed up."
Contact reporter Rhonda Bodfield at 573-4243 or email@example.com