Arizona and the Siege of the Rangers

Cheer and flag clothing on the campaign trail, 1998

Duarte also recalls that Ranger arranged for a handful of judges from Mexico and Central America to visit ASU; law students got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sit around the pool at Ranger's apartment building and chat with foreign supreme court justices.

"[Ranger] did this as a law student," Duarte says. "Now, you're going to be hard-pressed to find people in Congress who are going to be able to do that the way he did it."

His friend always takes the more challenging, but often more rewarding, route, Duarte says. Once, he says, he told Ranger he couldn't make a trip down to see him in Mexico because he was going whale watching on a boat in California. "Ed goes, 'Are you kidding me? I was out swimming with the whales last week. I do it all the time in Ensenada.' He goes out there and he's not on a boat. He's in a raft. He gets into the water with them and he's swimming with them, petting the whales. That is Ed."

Ed Ranger's got Joe Duarte's vote.

"I think [Ranger's] got something different, and I don't know what you call it," Duarte says. "Some people call it heart, some people call it guts, some people intestinal fortitude, some people call it chutzpah. . . . In Spanish they call it no se raja, and that means, 'He doesn't hesitate; he doesn't flinch.'"

The Mercado, Phoenix, 2:15 p.m.

The sun is shining, there's a cool breeze, and the Rangers have rounded up a couple dozen non-family members for Ed's Phoenix announcement outside the doorway of his campaign headquarters. Trouble is, no one noticed that the Mercado is directly beneath a flight path out of Sky Harbor International Airport. Every few minutes, a jet roars overhead, ruining TV and radio sound--not to mention the sound on Video Guy's tape.

But it's not the TV and radio reporters Ed Ranger needs to worry about. Clustered nearby, in a study of cool disdain and sunglasses, stand Phoenix's political savants of print: Michael Murphy (political reporter, Arizona Republic); David Leibowitz (Republic columnist); and Mark Flatten (political reporter, Tribune Newspapers). (Republic political columnist John Kolbe took a pass; he'd already picked Ranger apart in an earlier column.)

Jackie reads her, by now, pat introduction. The Candidate makes his speech: "Hoy," pause, pause. Then the cameras and the tape recorders and the notebooks and the reporters descend. A few feet from the podium, the midafternoon sun twinkles on the blond locks of the Ranger grandchildren as they eat Fun Dip. Meanwhile, Leibowitz and Flatten close in on Ranger, giving him a taste of what he can expect from the next eight months. The reporters set him up and knock him down with amazing ease.

Leibowitz: Why run for such a high office your first time out?

Ranger: "In the United States Senate, we can do the greatest amount of good."

Specifics, please? Ranger says he supports education. He thinks the financing is screwed up. For some reason, someone asks, what does he think about the school finance bill in the Arizona State Legislature?

Ranger: "I'm studying the proposal right now."

Flatten: Why study that? It's a state bill. You're running for the United States Senate.

Ranger smiles. Sort of. "You guys are tough--I'm just out of the box here."

Flatten doesn't smile. At all. "It's a small box," he says.

Sweat is forming on Ranger's forehead. Does he think there will be an independent expenditure campaign as part of his election?

Ranger: "I haven't been approached by the unions."

Flatten: "Well, if they approach you, it's illegal."

After 20 minutes or so of the same, satiated, the media disperse. Ranger's still standing there, sort of stunned.

So, how was it? Ranger shrugs, looks away, plays with a button on his jacket. He disappears into the headquarters, which at this point is still an empty room with dirty carpet and a few falling-apart desks.

The Rangers still have to drive up to Flagstaff, for this evening's announcement.

Mark Fleisher, chairman of the Arizona Democratic party, has been bragging about Ed Ranger for months now. Fleisher's party is in a shambles, and there's the very real possibility that, come November, the Democrats will lose their lone statewide office. Corporation Commissioner Renz Jennings is stepping down in January.

Fleisher needs a horse. So he's hopped upon Ed Ranger, despite Ranger's lack of experience, organization and the fact that the guy hasn't even lived in Arizona for almost a decade.

"I think McCain is in for a surprise," Fleisher says. "[Ranger's] got a good group of people; he's working hard at it. You know, he's got two law degrees. . . . I expect your article's going to be very much that he doesn't have a prayer, but I think he'll surprise a lot of people."

What about the fact that Ranger has never held public office?

"You get someone running with political experience, and then you've got a political hack, you know? I don't think people are ever satisfied," Fleisher says.

"You have to have mental attitude that you can win. And Ed Ranger has that attitude, that he can beat McCain. And everyone else that was interested in running had the attitude of, well, they'd never have a chance of beating him but they'd run a good race. Well, I like the idea that Ed thinks he can beat him."

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