Democratic National Convention: Arizona Democrats gather at drive-in movie theater for Biden acceptance speech

By: Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Ronald J. Hansen Arizona Republic

With the final act of the Democratic National Convention underway Thursday evening, many of Arizona’s 80-member delegation and their Democratic friends are ditching their computers and Zoom invitations for the big screen.

Dozens of Democrats are expected to gather at Arizona Digital Drive-In AZ! in Mesa to watch Joe Biden formally accept the party’s nomination for president.

Biden’s acceptance remarks will cap four days of speeches and testimonials for the state’s Democrats, who have tuned into the convention’s programming day and night for caucus meetings, campaign organizing sessions and to celebrate their newfound status as a presidential battleground.

Biden’s prime-time speech will be the former vice president’s opportunity to lay out his vision for a nation gripped by a deadly pandemic and economic crisis and facing an uncertain future.

Biden is expected to lean heavily on his biography, focusing on his decades of experience in the Senate representing Delaware and eight years in the White House serving alongside President Barack Obama. He will offer himself as a contrast to President Donald Trump as an experienced, effective leader who has already been battle-tested by recessions, global conflicts and divisive politics.

Biden is expected to recount his boyhood stutter and how he coped in the days and years after the deaths of his first wife and infant daughter in a car crash and later, his adult son.

State Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, a co-chair of Arizona’s delegation, is scheduled to open the night’s local festivities with a video-taped welcome video.

Ahead of the convention’s official programming, Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., and Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans rallied members of the Arizona’s delegation during a virtual pre-gavel show. Some inside their cars, pulling into the drive-in theater while others tuned in from their living rooms and dens, wearing bright blue “Make the White House Great Again” hats that were inside delegates’ swag bags.

Bass, head of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Trump’s tenure has got to come to an end. At the same time, Arizona is key in helping the party take the Senate and expand its majority in the House of Representatives, she said.

“Seventy-five days away, can you believe that,” Bass said of the approaching Nov. 3 election. “After three-and-a-half years of daily trauma, it has got to come to an end, and the only way that’s going to happen is for all of us to be organized.”

Evans encouraged Democrats to not be “extremists” of fear and hate but of liberalism and empathy.

“I’m going to go on record, right here tonight as to what type of extremist I am,” she said. “I am a serious, hell-bent, determined, straight-up hard-core, unapologetic liberal. Flaming, Democratic patriot. … I’m asking each of you to be all in with me on that.”

During a pre-speech party dubbed “Todos Con Biden,” several Hispanic surrogates, including Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., made their pitch for the Democratic ticket.

Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif., said Biden has personally promised to support comprehensive immigration reforms and showed he is true to his word when he followed through on a promise to choose a female running mate.

“This is a dream-come-true so that every little girl in America can realize the truth, and that is: I can be the president of the United States,” Cardenas said. “This is an opportunity long overdue, but you’ve got to give it up to Joe Biden. Vice President Joe Biden said on the record months ago, ‘I’m going to pick a woman to be my running mate.’”

Gallego urged people to consider what a second Trump administration would mean.

“What I worry about is what is this man going to do if he doesn’t have an election to hold him in place?” he said. “Clearly, we don’t have a Republican Senate that will actually keep him accountable, and to what extreme are they willing to go? Let me tell you right now, I don’t believe there’s anything that stops him. … We need to stop where we can.”

Janet Murguia, president of UnidosUS, a Hispanic advocacy organization, echoed a sentiment from former first lady Michelle Obama.

“We need to vote like our lives depend on it because they do. Latinos and Latinas have borne the brunt of COVID-19,” she said. “For us, we’re seeing the direct impact of an administration that does not protect us, looked out for us.”

Ahead of Biden’s speech, several of those who ran against him in the Democratic presidential primary were scheduled to make the case for Biden.

That list includes Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, tech executive Andrew Yang and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Their support is in addition to the endorsement already provided earlier in the convention from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris.

Each night of the DNC, Arizonans have played prominently in the evening’s prime-time programming.

Cindy McCain, the widow of the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., helped to narrate a video showcasing her husband’s friendship with Biden. A woman who wrote a scathing obituary that blamed her father’s death from complications from COVID-19 on Gov. Doug Ducey and other leaders spoke on the opening night. And on Wednesday, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords appeared in a powerful video to endorse Biden and highlight the issue of gun violence.


Creosote Partners is an Arizona firm focused on legislative advocacy, coalition building, and strategic communications.

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Creosote Partners

Creosote Partners is an Arizona firm focused on legislative advocacy, coalition building, and strategic communications.