Monday Sept. 10th, Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett announced the completed results from the Aug. 28th primaries in all but one race: Congressional District 4’s Democratic primary between poet-teacher-activist Mikel Weisser from Mohave County and former Congressional aide Johnnie Robinson of Pinal County. With more than 20,000 votes cast in the primary the difference is less than one tenth of one percent, a mere 19 votes.
Weisser laughed and shook his head, while talking to reporters and wandering about the downtown capitol complex following the announcement. “Nineteen votes. I could tell you 20 reasons I should have had those 19 votes, or two dozen things I should-a, would-a, could-a done different. But it isn’t a time for going back and beating myself up. Win, lose, or draw, now we’ve got to stay fired up and get going, spreading the message that we have to turn away from the failed economic policies of the GOP. That’s why I started running in the first place and why I’m still here.”
Weisser was on hand in the crowded seventh floor Secretary of State boardroom for Bennett’s announcement. A junior high social studies teacher with a dozen years in the classroom, Weisser claims the experience has been one large civics lesson for his students as well as for himself. “I want to get every morsel of knowledge I can from this experience so I can take that knowledge back to my seventh graders at White Cliffs Middle School. Kids love my class because they know I’m not just talking about growing up to try to change the world, I am actually living it.”
Among other lessons Weisser has experienced thanks to his congressional run, Mikel and his wife, LD 5 state senate candidate, Beth Weisser, spent last week in Charlotte, North Carolina with the Arizona delegation to the Democratic National Convention. “It was way better than Disneyland! Beth was the delegate, I was the arm-candy.” Weisser exclaimed. Throughout the week the Weissers attended conferences and caucuses throughout the day and the convention by night. An honored guest of the AZ delegation, he sat with the delegation each night and enthusiastically cheered on speeches by Democratic luminaries such as Luis Gutierrez, Cory Booker, Duval Patrick, Sandra Fluke and Brian Schweitzer. “I’m still studying transcripts of those speeches. They are amazing. I wish all Americans could watch the video of Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm. That woman’s speech is so evocative, so physical you can watch it with the sound off and still be moved to tears.”
When asked about the reasons for the close vote, the usually comic Weisser turns serious. “I’m afraid the biggest problem was, in the age of Citizens United and unlimited corporate political spending, both my opponent and I ran cash poor campaigns, which means low information campaigns. For example, I spent most of my campaign time last month hand painting and placing about 170 double sided signs around this seven county district. It seems like quite an accomplishment until you realize this district is the size of the state of Illinois. Then my 170 signs seem more like a drop in the ocean.”
“Couple that with low information voters and I imagine there were thousands of voters who hadn’t heard of either of us before they walked into that voting booth on the 28th. I mean look at the result. You could expect the same results from flipping a coin 20,000 times. I imagine some voters made their choice in exactly that way. ‘Let’s see here. Got this one guy, I can’t even pronounce his name and this other guy, Robinson. Sounds All-American enough for me.’”
In the end voting patterns reflected the two candidates’ spheres of influence across the giant district. With Weisser already on the radar as a writer, educator, activist, and entertainer in Mohave and Yavapai Counties, he won handily there. With Robinson, a resident of San Tan Valley and son of a Pinal County political family, it came as no surprise; Robinson did well in the southern end of the district.
State election laws call for a recount in races under 25,000 votes if the difference is less than 50 votes. The final results were Weisser 10,166 votes, Robinson 10,185 votes. Meanwhile Republicans cast more than 78,000 votes in their primary, so whoever wins will face a steep uphill battle against Paul Gosar, in a race that has been widely labeled “quixotic.” “I believe the official term of art is ‘sacrificial lamb,” Weisser laughs.
Though the unofficial election results had been collected earlier in the week, the Secretary of State’s office notified the seven county offices in the congressional district that a recount was called for on Friday Sept. 7th, following the official county by county canvass that morning. A mandatory recalibration of the voting and vote tabulating machinery is required and an inventory of all election supplies and equipment is required in preparation of the recount. Already these preparations have had an impact on the final outcome. According to Pinal County elections officer Steve Kizer, when the Pinal County elections office began inventorying their election supplies, they discovered more than 40 ballots which had been misplaced and sat uncounted, including 6 in the CD Democratic primary. Unfortunately for Weisser and Robinson the six were split evenly, three for Weisser, three for Robinson. “It’s yet another comic detail in this ongoing outlandish saga,” Weisser quips. “It’s like the trials of Job.”
Following the mandatory recalibration and inventories, each county will begin their individual recounts. Some, such as Pinal, will begin their count on Tuesday, Sept 11th. Maricopa County will conduct theirs on Wednesday the 12th and some like Yuma County won’t even get started until Thursday. The counties will present their final reports on the morning of Monday Sept. 17 and the state is hoping to certify the election that afternoon. The ballots need to be finalized by the 22nd so they can be shipped to overseas and military voters in time for the Nov. 6th election.
For more info contact:
4490 Sundown Drive
So-Hi, AZ 86413