Kristin Urquiza was one of the many new but unannounced faces at the virtual Democratic National Congress in August.
Then she dropped the hammer.
Her father, Mark Anthony Urquiza, had confidence in President Donald Trump, she said. He voted for Trump and listened to him talk about how the corona virus is under control and will disappear, and that it is okay to end the rules of social distancing.
After a night of karaoke, he became ill weeks later, suffered five “agonizing days” of COVID-19 and died alone in an intensive care unit while a nurse held his hand.
“My father was a healthy 65-year-old,” Urquiza said, her eyes glassy and her voice full of emotion. “His only previous illness was his trust in Donald Trump, and he paid for it with his life.
Urquiza became one of the stars of Congress and then did something under the radar: she set to work to turn her home state of Arizona blue and spoke to Washington Newsday after helping to fulfill that mission, something the Democrats have not done since 1996.
“This is the rise of democracy,” Urquiza said. “The people who experienced the loss of COVID deep in our hearts wanted a landslide victory because 230,000 people did not get a vote. But the next decade in Arizona will be a completely different landscape for which no one at the national level has prepared.
My father was a healthy 65 year old. His only prerequisite was trust in Donald Trump, and he paid for it with his life.
There was a lot of talk about the Latino vote early in the process after Joe Biden stumbled in Miami-Dade County, Florida, but Democrats like Urquiza stressed that this was not the big picture. A poll of actual voters in Arizona on the eve of the Latino Decisions election showed that Latin American voters supported Biden by 71 to 26 percent. Biden’s senior advisor, Cristobal Alex, tweeted that the campaign was supported by about 70 to 30 percent of Hispanics in the state.
“Arizona was a predictor of the country, we first saw the Tea Party here, we saw extreme right-wing politics here, then our organization prevailed,” she said of the burgeoning Latino and immigrant electorate in the state, which was targeted a decade ago by a tough immigration law called SB1070. “As we move toward a diverse country full of colored people, this sleeping giant no longer sleeps.
Then Urquiza screamed and let out her pent-up emotions and joy.
An important change in Arizona since the 2016 Trump victory is the impact of immigration on voters. What was once a red rag for a Republican base that elevated former Sheriff Joe Arpaio to national fame has resigned. Arpaio was thrown out of office four years ago, and the pandemic and the resulting economic catastrophe have taken precedence in the minds of the state’s voters.
“The Latino community is not a monolith and you can’t assume that immigration is the most important issue,” Urquiza said. “Immigrants come to the country to get a chance, and if you scratch the surface, the chance is an economic problem.
Since the election is still uncertain, Urquiza hopes for a Biden victory that would help COVID-19 and the economy. She recalled that on Sunday they were at an event for Mi Familia Vota, a national grassroots group, which consisted mainly of Latin American volunteers, and asked the organizers to raise their hand if they knew someone who had contracted the corona virus.
“Every single person raised their hand,” she said.
It is this connection to the community that makes Urquiza hope that Biden will win and openly challenge him to help Latinos who helped to color Arizona blue. She said that if asked, she would join a COVID task force in his future government.
“I don’t think Joe Biden or the Democratic Party is a panacea for our needs,” she said, “The truth is that the Latino community has been left behind and has not been prioritized or understood. But I will be the first person to knock on the door to ensure that these promises are kept and that Latinos get a place at this table.