Arizona and the Siege of the Rangers

Cheer and flag clothing on the campaign trail, 1998

Problem is, he hasn't got much. The latest Federal Election Commission figures, from March 31, say Ranger had $168,000 on hand, compared to McCain's $1.2 million. But Ed Ranger's real deficit isn't in the bank. It may be in his head. Since the beginning of the year, when he began to talk about running against McCain, reporters have been challenging Ranger to cough up his platform, his ideas. So far, he's steered clear of taking any decipherable stands, except for his fuzzy support of abortion rights.

Talking to Ed Ranger about public policy issues is like discussing ethics with Jerry Springer. He has a vague notion that they exist, but the details don't seem to have penetrated his thinking.

Ranger has a bachelor's degree in Spanish from the University of Arizona, a master's from the American Graduate School of International Management (a.k.a. Thunderbird), a law degree from Arizona State University and another law degree from the National University of Mexico. All his life, every time he's wanted to do something new, Ranger's gone out and gotten himself a degree to prepare for it.

Short of a three-day crash course offered by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in Washington, D.C.--and he's already taken that--there's no degree Ranger can get that will prepare him to run for the United States Senate. And it shows.

Old Main, Tucson, 8:30 a.m.

Jackie Ranger Flood concludes her introduction of Ed, her voice shaking. "My brother is full of energy, goodness and strength." The family erupts in cheers, and it's Ed's turn. The Candidate stands stiffly at the podium, and, hands clasped behind his back, begins to read.

"Today, I announce my candidacy for the United States Senate. Oy," pause, pause.

Wait. It's "Hoy," he's saying, as in Hoy anuncio mi candidatura para ser el senador federal del estado librer y soberano de Arizona, the same sentence, repeated in Spanish. He's fluent in Spanish, but every time Ranger gives the speech today, he's so stilted and nervous it sounds as though he's about to interject the Yiddish "Oy vey."

The family doesn't notice. They cheer when it seems appropriate, like whenever Ed pauses for a breath.

"For the course of 21st-century public policy, I offer a clear contrast to Senator McCain:

"I will support public education. He has not.

"I will support clean air and water. He has not.

"I will support middle-class families. He has not.

"I will support senior citizens. He has not.

"I will support choice. He has not.

"And as our next U.S. senator, I will support all Arizonans."

Toward the end of his remarks, Ranger picks up some steam, enjoying this in spite of himself.

"Remember," he says, "upsets are an Arizona tradition," mentioning Barry Goldwater's surprise defeat of Ernest McFarland in 1952.

Cheers! Pleased, Ranger pauses, then dangerously veers from the script, recalling the 1998 Super Bowl game.

"And," he says, "we've had the Broncos defeat the Green Bay Packers!"

Huh? Ed's father, Ned, guffaws loudly and yells, "Whatever that means!" Everyone laughs. Then Grace Ann, Ed's 6-year-old niece, runs up to her uncle for a hug. End of speech.

Pete crams Video Guy, most of the family and all of the campaign paraphernalia back into the Suburban, and the campaign team is off in search of the Tucson airport's executive terminal, to drop off Ed, Ned, Jackie and Mark Fleisher for a flight to Yuma and Ed's 11 a.m. announcement there.

Conversation ranges from Tucson Mayor Tom Volgy's chances at defeating Republican Congressman Jim Kolbe (good) to the hygiene of the Dairy Queen at Picacho Peak, where Jackie stopped for a snack yesterday (she says she's calling the health department).

After much debate in the manner of National Lampoon's Vacation, the Rangers stop at Dunkin' Donuts to refill thermoses, then take a few queasy turns around the airport perimeter as Pete and his dad argue about directions.

At last--after a flurry of cheek-kissing--Ed and his entourage wing off to Yuma, and Pete, Video Guy and company drive back to Phoenix to set up for the afternoon's event at the Ranger for U.S. Senate's new headquarters at the Mercado.

No one speaks as Pete turns onto I-10, heading west. Video Guy takes an overripe pear from his camera bag, examines it, aims his camera out the window. Finally, someone asks: Who are you? Turns out he's Sloane McFarland (no relation to Ernest), a former high school buddy of Pete's.

What do you do? "I edit movies." What kind of movies? "Movies I shoot." Sloane says he intends to tape the day's activities, and present the Ranger campaign with a montage.

The Rangers are big on trivia. Like, did you know that Marty Robbins, who sings "The Lone Ranger," was raised in Glendale? Or that Larry Pike, John McCain's campaign manager, grew up around the corner from the Ranger family in Michigan? Or that it's exactly eight months to the day, from today--the day of Ed's announcement--until the election?!

From patriarch Ned down to 3-year-old Jack, the Rangers are sweet and funny and personable. Lots of hugs and teasing.

Growing up in Grosse Pointe, there wasn't much talk of politics around the dinner table, says Ed, the eldest of five. Baseball was a more likely topic.

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