Not even 10 minutes into our time at J.D. Hayworth's election night festivities -- at the posh Marriott Mountain View Hotel in north Scottsdale -- did we run into an old friend.
We were walking down the stairs into the less-than-packed ballroom when a man passed us. We instantly said "holy shit! Is that Arthur?"
And it was.
Arthur Olivas Jr., a small but feisty Hispanic tea-bagger, protested New Times last week claiming we were a "communistic newspaper" and our writers had no "ittelligence [sic]."
Arthur's spelling woes aside, he's a nice guy and an avid Hayworth supporter, who was more than happy to give us his take on the campaign prior to learning of Hayworth's defeat.
"Polls are bullshit," Arthur says in response to our asking him if he was worried Hayworth wasn't going to pull out a W. "Nobody's going to vote today. The Tea Partiers are voting, though, which I hear is good for J.D."
Arthur, however, wasn't entirely confident that his - pardon the pun - horse would be able to pull it out tonight. And neither was anyone else.
The ballroom was suspiciously quiet for supporters of a guy who claimed he was about to pull out the biggest political upset in history. There were only about 80 people hovering around bar tables covered in Hayworth campaign buttons. The music was turned down low if there was any playing at all.
Another Hayworth supporter, Joel Berger, who volunteered at the Hayworth campaign for the past six months, was hoping for the best but didn't give us the commanding "he's gonna win!" we'd expect from a guy who says working Hayworth's campaign was "the best six months of [his] life."
"[J.D.] is a great guy who speaks the truth and means what he says," Berger says. "What has John McCain ever done for Arizona? J.D. made his mistakes but he apologized. When has McCain ever apologized for anything he's done."
Around 8:30 p.m. the initial numbers came in and were met with a collective gasp from the crowd -- one lady even screamed -- when they showed Hayworth trailing by about 100,000 votes.
The doom and gloom, that seemed to be secretly expected by everyone in the room, was starting to set in.
A little after 9 p.m., the mug of the man Hayworth supporters loath, McCain, was being broadcast on two large screens at either end of the room.
As McCain took to the mic to give his victory speech the room turned sour.
"No way!" a woman shrieked before a "rhino" chant -- followed promptly by a "liar" chant -- took shape. The woman next to us called McCain a "loser," a "mafioso," and a "disgrace," all in one breath.
Considering our less-than-favorable coverage of Hayworth over the last several months, we felt as though we were in the lion's den and it was only a matter of time before our cover was blown -- which it was, right before Hayworth emerged from a doorway to concede.
An older woman noticed our camera and asked what news outlet we were with. We told her New Times and were instantly taught an impromptu lesson in journalism 101.
"You guys hate Joe Arpaio," she scolded. She went on to chastise us over how we covered the race and told us even though Hayworth lost she wouldn't be voting for McCain in the general election.
The anti-McCain sentiment didn't end there. Everyone we asked -- all, we assume, were uber-conservatives -- said they wouldn't vote for McCain in November.
Around 9:25 p.m., Hayworth emerged with his family to concede and, for the first time we can remember, sounded like a human being and not a robot stuck in candidate-mode.
Hayworth thanked his supporters, told a relatively funny joke, and urged his supporters to continue to fight for the principles he laid out over the course of his campaign.
Not an incredibly moving speech -- he took small jabs at McCain over how much money he spent on the campaign, all while trying to appear gracious -- but people cried. That is, some people cried -- some people continued to curse McCain well after Hayworth left the stage.
Supporters quickly shuffled off to the parking lot where we heard one man yell "better luck next time ol' boy."
Seemed a fitting ending to a one-time promising campaign to unseat the elusive "Maverick."
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