Arizona and the Siege of the Rangers

Cheer and flag clothing on the campaign trail, 1998

In the late '70s, Ned and Sandy were looking for a change. Ned had recently been to Arizona on business and liked it, so the Rangers moved their clan to Paradise Valley. Ranger transferred from Michigan's Oakland University to the UofA to be closer to the family. He changed his major from English to Spanish, figuring he'd need to be bilingual, living so close to the border.

After college, Ranger enrolled at the American Graduate School of International Management in Glendale. He left a few credits shy of a master's; he says he couldn't afford the private tuition. After a brief and unenlightening stint as a mortgage broker, Ranger was back in school, this time studying law at ASU. After graduation in 1987, he finished the final credits for his Thunderbird master's degree at ASU.

Three diplomas later, it was finally time, at age 26, to look for work. But instead of settling for a job in Phoenix, Ranger decided he wanted to practice law in Mexico City. He copied the Mexico section of the Martindale Hubble lawyer directory, bought a plane ticket and walked the city until a small firm called Laffan and Mues hired him. Because he wasn't licensed to practice in Mexico, Ranger was classified as a "foreign legal expert." So, per his style, he went back to school to get his Mexican law degree; he was licensed to practice law in Mexico in 1994. Pete came down and helped his brother set up his office.

Ranger's official campaign biography lists his hobbies as "boxing, hiking, skiing, tennis, motorcycle riding and spending time with his family." He has fond memories of the time he and Pete rode their Harleys home for Christmas, all the way from Mexico. Aside from his family, he doesn't speak of his private life at all. His only discussion of romance is a wistful comment on the topic of his parents: "I can see the attraction, seeing the old pictures."

He's single, never married, has always maintained close contact with his family. Even from Mexico, it wasn't unusual for him to speak to his parents once or twice a day.

By last year, Ranger had his own small practice, specializing in environmental regulation, and counted Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, General Electric and Cooper Industries among his clients.

Ceil Price, a senior counsel to Cooper Industries, based in Houston, an auto-parts manufacturing company with annual revenues around $4 billion, hired Ranger as outside counsel; he helped to negotiate the expansion of one of her company's facilities and researched environmental issues.

"I found him to be a delight to work with," Price says. "He is not only . . . charming and articulate, but he's also quite competent. He is very knowledgeable about his field . . . and more importantly he would deliver what I asked him to deliver on time and at a fair price."

And now, after nine years, Ed Ranger has tossed it all aside, giving up his thriving law practice and his stature as an up-and-coming American in Mexico to try to become a U.S. senator.

Ranger had met former Arizona Secretary of State Dick Mahoney at Thunderbird, where Mahoney teaches, and the two kept in touch. As Ranger recalls it, in early 1997 Mahoney told him he had recommended Ranger to Arizona Democratic party officials as a possible candidate against McCain. (Mahoney didn't return calls seeking comment.)

Mahoney's suggestion dovetailed with Ranger's sense that he'd been an expatriate too long. After talking it over with his family and some Democratic party elders, Ranger sold his practice, moved home and dumped all his money into the campaign.

Although he'd never shown an interest at home, Ranger had dabbled in Democratic politics in Mexico. Even then, he admits, he didn't always bother to vote in American elections. He was, however, a member of Democrats Abroad, and a nonvoting delegate to the 1992 Democratic convention.

"I represented the biggest land mass--the entire Western Hemisphere--and had the least amount of input," he says, with a rare tinge of irony, and no recognition at all that Mexico is not a state.

Back to Earnest Ed: "I became more and more involved in the 1992 presidential campaign," he says, "and that's where I saw Bill Clinton take on George Bush when all the other Democratic contenders decided that President Bush couldn't be beaten, and I admired that spirit. So I tried to volunteer. I even flew to Little Rock a couple times."

Not surprisingly, James Carville didn't come sprinting out of the War Room to greet Ranger. "They were pretty self-sufficient," Ranger says, declining to elaborate. He went back to Mexico.

Ed Ranger's trip to Little Rock, and his Senate candidacy, illustrate his standard procedure, dating all the way back to high school, the only other time he's run for office. He goes for the top. Ranger wasn't active in high school student government, but he ran for office: student body president. He lost.

Phoenix lawyer Joe Duarte, who met Ranger at ASU, recalls being astonished at his friend's chutzpah when Ranger entered a contest designed to test the skills of third- and precocious second-year law students. Ranger was a first-year student. Ranger didn't win, but he did very well, Duarte says. "I remember being impressed as hell."

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