Editor's Note: Ahead of Tuesday's Arizona special election for Gabrielle Giffords' seat, I interviewed Athena Bakris, former communications director for Nomiki Konst, who ran for Giffords' seat in Congress. Here are her responses.
Jake Horowitz (JH): Has Giffords' bipartisan message come to fruition in Arizona, or is it politics as usual?
Athena Bakris (AB): While everyone is talking about civil discourse and bipartisanship, the reality is that it's very much a right vs. left race, and emotions are high. To win, as usual, you must play to the middle. But even Gabby, who was able to cross party lines, had a tough time winning in 2010. This time around, with the Democratic base pushing Barber, he slants more left than she did. And, there are more independents. So, the race, in my opinion, is even more partisan. Especially since both sides want this seat so much.
AB: To what extent does immigration play a role in this election?
AB: Not as much as 2010. The entire race seems to be about Medicare and Social Security. This is because Latinos are low turnout voters. And, seniors are the most consistent. Seniors, especially during a special election, are valuable voters. It's all about Medicare.
JH: Are there any other local factors that could play a role about how many people vote, like the weather or traffic?
AB: The biggest local factor is that most voters in AZ are mail in early ballot voters. There's a slight edge of Republicans, almost even Democrats and Independents. The Independent voters are conservative leaning (making it more important to have a bipartisan leader). Another local factor is that the Democratic party infrastructure is in shambles. There is very little youth energy and involvement, there's an old boys network (albeit small) and not much talent running campaigns. While there are more Dems that people would imagine, the state party has alienated the bright talent that would organize these inactive Dems and liberal independents.
JH: Describe the radio, television, and web ads that are playing
AB: All Medicare all the time. ALL THE TIME. It's really sick. Even the DCCC has distorted a quote from 2010 from Jessie Kelly saying he thinks Gabby was a bad leader. They've made it about Gabby's seat, but it's the people's seat. The ads are really distasteful and misleading on both sides.