There may be ballots yet to be tallied for the 2016 election, but some in Arizona are already talking about 2018. Among them are Kelli Ward, who said late last month that she'd challenge for Senator Jeff Flake's U.S. Senate seat, and Robert Sedona, Arizona's favorite satirical politician, who officially announced his 2018 bid for governor this week.
Sedona's declaration was the silver lining at the end of a heartfelt letter to his fans — a.k.a. Sedonapporters — in which he conceded the CD 1 race to Tom O'Halleran.
"We gave it a dang good try, broncos! But it ain't meant to be this year. Just cuz I ain't got no politico experience, formal education or ethics, I ain't think that means me couldn't have won CongressMAN. Nonetheless I huzzah the Irish guy and wish 'em well in Congress representin' Arizonia and Ameriaca CD1-style," he writes.
"We'll see y'all in 2018 when Rob Sedona be runnin' for Governor of Arizonia. Yeeeee-haw!"
To be clear, Robert Sedona, used-car salesman turned Arizona politico, is just a character. Contrary to the belief of (apparently) many, his name did not appear on the ballot, and he's not a real person.
New Times sat down with the man behind Robert Sedona — he asked that we not print his name because he works in politics — to discuss the genesis of the character and why he believes a dude like Sedona is important in today's world.
The concept for Sedona came after years of "working on the inside" of politics and seeing the dysfunction and frustratingly slow pace at which positive change occurs, he says. He was tired of watching elected officials put on an act and pander to certain constituents by touting ultra-right-wing views, and he thought it would be funny to mock some of those political sentiments by creating a fake campaign video for a character who takes them to extremes.
Sedona, he says, isn't based on any one particular Arizona politician but rather a generic, "old-timey" stereotype. In other words, he asked himself what the world thinks of when they think of Arizona, and boom, Robert Sedona was born — cowboy hat, boots, bolo tie, and all. (Asked about the influence of Donald Trump, Sedona's creator admits there's a bit of our president-elect in the mix.)
It took him a few weeks to perfect the character and write the script for the campaign video, and then he worked with a very small production team (i.e., his closest friends) to shoot it. The video debuted on YouTube in June and immediately was a hit.
Most got the joke, he says, but there were a few people – particularly Bernie Sanders supporters, oddly – who responded poorly.
One of Sedona's most defining character traits, his creator says, is his inability to get mad. When people tweet nasty things at him, Sedona replies, "Thank you very much. Don't forget to vote Sedona 2016!" People who picked Twitter battles with him would wind up frustrated because he'd just repeat his boilerplate response.
"Yeah, he's a dumbass, but he's not provocative," the man behind the character says. "The whole idea is that he's so oblivious to the whole world …He doesn't know he's an idiot. He thinks he's doing it for the good of the state."
From the start, Sedona was a weird amalgam of political views. He's pro gun, pro war, and pro private prisons, but he's also pro marijuana (and later came out as pro meth and pro cocaine). He eschews inclusivity and diversity, doesn't believe in climate change, and was modeled after those in the political world who are "more concerned with themselves than the greater good," his creator says.
Sedona rode the Trump wave and at times posted pro-Trump tweets or Facebook messages, but he never called himself a Republican.
"He's a diehard Arizonan, and he calls himself an Arizpublican," his creator says.
In the end, in another shocking twist to an already crazy campaign season, Robert Sedona endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.
"After much moonshine, pot weed and dilberationing, she be Rob Sedona's endorsement for president of America states," he declared on Facebook. "As a lifelong Arizpublican I can't believe I'm done this but I reckon a bronco's gotta do what bronco's gotta do…President Trump might be good fer private universities, fine cuts of beef, and top-rated reality television. But I done come to realizin' he ain't no good fer no politics. Ain't no one more old timey and close-minded than Rob Sedona. But I ain't stupidly. Don Trump had us fooled from the escalator, claiming patriotism and constimatution. Even these 20/40 eyes can clearly see he ain't nothing but an orange self-promotion megalomaniac dictator dic out fer his own wealth, power, and cat grabbing."
Cracking a smile, Sedona's creator says, "Even Robert Sedona could see Clinton was the only one who had the experience to be president."
Asked why he kept up the shtick for months – taking the time to create memes and Vines and all sorts of Photoshop projects – Sedona's creator describes it as being almost cathartic.
"If I watch CNN and Fox News, it's depressing because all these people saying ridiculous things are treated like they're [legitimate]. It takes shows like The Daily Show to point out it's ridiculous," he says. "It's sad the best comedians, they pay attention to big national races. We don't have comedic or satirical commentators on a local level, [but] we need to laugh at the stupid shit that Arizona has done."
Arizona is always the butt of the joke, and part of the goal with Robert Sedona was to point out that there's more to the state than SB 1070 and guns.
"I think it helps to open up discussion and harmony," he says. "One of the most dangerous things that can happen in society is if people lose their sense of humor."
And it's for that reason, he assures New Times, that Robert Sedona isn't going anywhere.
"He'll take some time off to decide what his priorities are moving forward, and in 2018, he'll launch his next campaign ad. He intends to make Arizona as great as it can be, because if he can't win as a congressman, maybe he can win as governor. And if he can't win as governor, maybe he can win as mayor. He'll always be there."