by Jimmy Boegle
Last night, I was fortunate enough to attend a mixer for Gov. Janet Napolitano at Terra Cotta. (Full disclosure: Terra Cotta owners Michael and Maya Luria are friends of mine.) Gabrielle Giffords and Jim Pederson were also present, as were LD26 House candidate Lena Saradnik and LD26 Senate candidate Charlene Pesquiera.
It was a nice event, although Napolitano and Giffords made relatively brief appearances. It was good to see Saradnik and Pesquiera working the crowd; they're clearly going all-out in a tough district for Dems.
Napolitano, Giffords and Pederson all spoke briefly, with Napolitano leading the way and introducing the other two. (There is NO doubt who the Democratic leader is in this state, nosiree.) Napolitano was polished and folksy as ever, and Giffords was very charismatic. Pederson, on the other hand ... not so much.
Maybe this is an unfair criticism, because Napolitano and Giffords have extensive campaigning experience, whereas Pederson does not. But ... yikes, he came off as kind of robotic and maybe even a little creepy. The weirdest moment came when Pederson mentioned sending Giffords to Washington, D.C., and Pima County District Attorney Barbara LaWall shouted out from the audience something to the effect of: "We're going to be sending you, too, Jim!" (I wasn't taking notes, so I may be off slightly.)
As the crowd hooted and hollered, Pederson looked at LaWall and said, in a tone that reminded me of an exasperated husband, "I was getting there, Barbara" He then noted who LaWall was ("Pima county's excellent district attorney," he said. Um, OK.), and went on with his speech about how his race was close and he had a chance.
I am sure Pederson meant the whole "I was getting there, Barbara" in a loving, funny way. Seriously. Didn't come off like that.
I really, really hope Pederson wins. Jon Kyl's lost all credibility with me by pushing Iraq, helping run up the deficit and scapegoating the LGBT community for political purposes. I hope Pederson gets six years to work on his charm and charisma. But if he loses a close race—and he very well may—then his lackluster campaigning skills may shoulder much of the blame.