I also pushed for televised debates and embarked on a statewide tour to generate coverage. I called for the end of the expensive debacle called the War on Drugs and urged Arizona to bolster its economy by becoming the world's leader in solar energy technology. And I promised to bring a team of investigative journalists to Washington, D.C., to weed out corruption from inside the Senate.
In a truly grueling process, I attended Democratic legislative district meetings scattered across the nation's sixth-largest state. These "LD" meetings can draw anywhere from a half-dozen people to a packed house of 50 or more. Attending them can literally mean a three-hour drive to make a three-minute speech.
The work got harder as summer extended its paralyzing grip on the Sonoran Desert. Many people just burrowed inside their homes and cars or fled the desert entirely, making direct contact with voters all the more difficult. Running a summertime campaign in central and southern Arizona is akin to stumping in Anchorage in the dead of winter.
In the Tucson area -- the heart and soul of Arizona's Democratic Party -- my progressive stance and straightforward approach were embraced by a handful of well-connected people, and I was immersed in a round of speaking events and fund-raisers. Meanwhile, in the Phoenix area, which has far more Democrats but considerably less cohesion, I put together a team made up mostly of former journalists and old friends. They helped develop my statements on the issues, handled press contacts, built my website, kept the books, scheduled events, shared driving duties, put up campaign signs and provided moral support.
Party leaders advised me to spend many hours a day on the phone begging for campaign contributions to fund direct-mail pitches and other predictable advertising blasts. I rejected that advice. Unlike the other candidates, I had no natural allies to call on. I had spent my entire career pissing off the establishment, exposing corrupt politicians and business practices. I was in no position to call in favors. And I couldn't rely on special interests, such as unions, to round up cash and volunteers.
Instead, I tried to be creative. I called Tom Robertson, an old friend who did political cartoons for a small weekly paper I'd owned in Flagstaff back in the early 1990s. I convinced him to sharpen his pencils for my campaign, and he whipped out a series of cartoons that we used in ads in alternative weeklies. In one of them, Robertson mimicked "Little Orphan Annie" to depict the front-runner, Glassman, as a carpet-bagging interloper who relied on his daddy's big bucks to finance his campaign.
At the first hour-long televised debate, all four of us lined up at podiums under harsh lights. It felt like a firing squad. By all accounts, Glassman won the debate; I came off as a fact-driven hard-ass who lacked "warmth" but seemed determined. In all, we held three TV debates and another on public radio. By the final debate, I felt like I'd settled into a more relaxed, reassuring presence and was able to deliver thoughtful responses. But the debates still didn't get much attention.
Instead of reporting how we addressed (or dodged) the issues, the news coverage focused on fund raising as if that defined the whole race. I raised $93,865 from contributors, most of whom were Tucsonans giving $200 or less. That was enough for some radio ads on progressive stations in Phoenix and Tucson, 100,000 postcards featuring a Robertson cartoon and a dozen large ads in the alternative weeklies. Ten days before the primary, I purchased time on two electronic billboards near downtown Phoenix. In retrospect, I wish I had done this much earlier. Those billboards projected an image of power and success. I shared the rotation on one of them with Gov. Brewer's campaign.
But I couldn't match Glassman's onslaught of direct mail, phone banks and TV ads during Phoenix and Tucson newscasts. I thought his message was vapid, but he reached a huge number of voters, spending close to $1 million during the home stretch.