First of all, I'm far from an expert on local or even national elections. I know what I know, I have my own experiences, I try to read as much as I have time to read, and I think and discuss about the issues. Its my hobby, definitely a bit of an obsession. But I don't claim to know that much about the local political leaders.
I supported Harry Mitchell's campaign a tiny bit: spent some time making calls for him one evening, got up at 5am on election day to put fliers on door knobs of likely Democratic voters with information about their polling locations. I wish I could have done more, I would be surprised if I moved even one voter over to Mitchell, but you never know.
Let me be clear. I'm incredibly impressed with him as a person. I met him briefly once. Its clear that he's a man of substance. He was mayor of Tempe from 1980 until 1994 and its my understanding that he transformed Tempe's downtown. There's even a statue there made in his honor.
He's a pragmatist - believing in low taxes for small businesses but also believing in schools. Look at the bills he's sponsored or co-sponsored here. A long and substantive list.
Ultimately, he was voted out because of the economy and because of his health care vote. He was one of the last holdouts on this vote and expressed strong concerns over the bill, but he ultimately voted for it and ultimately lost his seat because of this vote.
I owed him some of my time. I wrote him a letter encouraging him to vote for the health care bill, and he did (I'm doubtful it was because of my letter - but still).
Let me though give him some parting criticisms. I mentioned that I made some phone calls for him during his campaign. When I got to his headquarters to do this, I was told by one of his staff to avoid mentioning the health care bill because they needed to win and this bill and that vote was not popular. Indeed Schweikert ran almost exclusively on that vote and in all probability won because of it.
But how could I do it. It was frustrating making phone calls to strangers when I had to defend Mitchell because of some obscure "GI" bill of the 21st century bill he authored (which sounded good to me by the way) a bill I knew very little about. It was disingenuous and it sucked all of the passion right out of me.
I watched their debate and Schweikert hammered Mitchell on the health care issue, Mitchell defended it pretty well in the debate, but not nearly far enough. Look, it probably wouldn't matter how Mitchell ran his campaign, and it probably wouldn't have mattered how he voted on the health care bill. The wave against Democrats was probably too massive to overcome.
But I just wish the Democrats would have put up a better fight. Listen to last week's "This American Life episode here. The first forty minutes they talk about the Republicans and its interesting. But skip that for now, get to about the forty minute mark to listen to the Democrats.
They make the point that they should have ran hard on letting the tax cuts expire for the rich (an issue they win 2 to 1 among voters) or did you know that most people support almost everything that's in Obamacare, they inexplicably just don't support Obamacare. Maybe instead of running away from the bill, they should have defended it hard, like this for example:
"You want to see a death panel? I will take you to a death panel. Take the media to the door of an insurance company and tell the story of the little girl who was denied her care and she died. That's a real death panel and it happens every day in the private insurance system. That's the real answer."
Or the Ohio Congressman, John Boccieri, an Iraq war veteran who won a district in 2006 that had previously been Republican for 60 years who when asked about his health care vote by a reporter said this:
"I used to think I was brave and I used to think I was tough and I've flown into enemy fire and I've flown in four combat missions. I'm just not tough enough to look this lady in the eye who has breast cancer and tell her I'm going to deny her health care. If you want someone whose that tough, you've gotta vote Republican."
And these stories abound and the Republicans have no answer. My own daughter is a type 1 diabetic. She needs something like this health care bill in place so she doesn't have to cling to a big company insurance plan. So, she has the freedom to innovate, to run a small business or to work for one or whatever.
We need a real two party system. The Republican party has talking points and easily expressed slogans. The Democratic party is a muddled mess.
So, yes, I'm sad that Harry Mitchell lost, he's a man of substance with a long, distinguished career of public service. But it was just difficult for me to get excited about someone who did not have any energy to defend his vote on one of the most significant bills in our modern history.