Congressman Rick Renzi wanted to be sure he reached all the rural voters in his district. The Republican candidate’s strategy was to meet voters where they shop, and in rural America, that’s Wal-Mart.
Renzi was passing out pamphlets and stickers outside the Winslow Wal-Mart last Wednesday. In the final six days before the election, Renzi campaigned in 17 towns and cities using a Wal-Mart as a backdrop in nine of them.
“If you’re willing to go to rural Arizona, you’ve got to be willing to go to Wal-Mart,” he said.
Arizona’s First Congressional District includes a little more than 641,000 people stretched out over 58,000 square miles from the Navajo Nation and Flagstaff in the north to Casa Grande and Florence south of Phoenix. That works out to about 11 people per square mile.
Renzi, 46, was elected in 2002 to serve as the first congressman from the rural Arizona district, which was created following the 2000 Census.
A Northern Arizona University poll in mid-October showed Renzi had 53 percent of the vote while his Democratic opponent Paul Babbitt had 30 percent. Libertarian candidate John Crockett had 3 percent.
Although he was enjoying the 23-point lead, Renzi said the race could be affected by the presidential contest.
The Navajo Tribal Council unanimously endorsed Renzi for re-election and rejected Babbitt, then changed its position by voting in favor of Babbitt a day later. The council supports both candidates, although Renzi had a unanimous vote and Babbitt’s endorsement passed by a 40-36 vote. However, the council endorsed Democratic candidate John Kerry for president.
“If the Navajo Nation turns out to vote, it could really tighten on me,” Renzi said.
Renzi said Winslow residents and civic leaders have raised several issues to him for local importance. Renzi met with Mayor Jim Boles about finding a way to remove the municipal golf course off the city rolls and find a public use for it.
Renzi also said he’s been asked to look at finding more money for a new facility for the Winslow Memorial Hospital combine it with the Indian Health Service center.