Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Party Time

Mitt Romney supporters celebrate the announcement that candidate Romney had easily won the Arizona Republican Presidential primary. Romney's election watch party was in a ballroom at a downtown Phoenix hotel. 

Mitt Romney had a big night Tuesday. In Michigan, his home state, he scored a tight win against Rick Santorum, but a win is a win so he took it. In Arizona, a far more conservative state, Romney coasted to an easy double digit win. 

Romney celebrated his wins in Michigan, but his campaign rented a ballroom at a downtown hotel and partied like it was 1969. (Seriously, the house band performed a long list of 60's covers like Louie, Louie and Wooly Bully and Born To Be Wild.)

I really enjoy covering the political process. I had some time during the last week to cover the debate in Mesa and campaign stops by Romney, Santorum and Ron Paul. For me, it was a good week. 

I tend to over shoot at events like this and last night was no exception. I ended up shooting almost four full eight gigabyte cards. Partly is was because the room was really dark, so there were a lot of photos that were just not usable. They were soft, either from being out of focus or soft from motion blur - either camera or subject movement. So I didn't end up archiving anywhere near 32 gigabytes worth of images (4 X 8 = 32). Still, it did take several hours to edit and archive all of the photos. 

One of the reasons there were so many out of focus pictures is that I like working on the thin edge. My most used lenses are Canon's 24mm f1.4 and 50mm f1.2 and I like to use them wide open when there is very little depth of field. Both are great lenses but at f1.4 or f1.2 there's no wiggle room. A photograph is either in focus, in which case it looks great. Or out of focus in which case it looks terrible. With the 50, moving forward or back as little as an inch is the difference between a photo that's in focus and a photo that's completely out of focus. Like I said, no wiggle room. 

There are more photos from the Romney party in my archive or available from ZUMA Press

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Great Debate

Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich on stage at the beginning of the Arizona Republicans' Presidential Primary debate in Mesa Wednesday. 

The long awaited Presidential Primary debate finally happened Wednesday, the 20th of this long running primary season. The four remaining candidates sat down with CNN anchor John King (unlike previous debates which saw candidates standing behind a lectern, this debate was a sit down affair) for two hours of give and take. 

Mitt Romney, the presumed front runner, took aim at Rick Santorum, calling him a big spending Washington insider. Later, Ron Paul also called out Santorum for being an insider and a "fake." The Romney/Paul attacks on Santorum were so constant that a Santorum supporter called Paul out for secretly aiding Romney. For his part, Newt didn't call for the colonization of the moon this time, but he did say it would be easy to secure the border with a fence. Clearly Newt has never actually seen the border in southern Arizona. 

The candidates stayed on the well practiced GOP talking points all night: taxes are too high (personal taxes are actually at a historic low), health care reform is a budget buster that will result in rationed care (OMB statistics suggest health care reform will contain costs over time and health care is already rationed by being priced out of reach of most Americans) and that President Obama is coddling terrorists (who was it that got bin Laden? Oh right, that was President Obama, who has also used drones to kill hundreds of Taliban and al Qaeda operatives in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan). 

The crowd in the debate hall though, all members of the Arizona Republican party, ate it up, cheering through the night. It wasn't as boisterous as some debates (no one cheered the death penalty, or child labor or allowing the uninsured to just die this time) but it was an undeniably conservative, Red State crowd. 

I worked debate related stories all day, starting with a Ron Paul fundraiser in Mesa early in the morning and ending with Rick Santorum in the "spin room" after the debate. There are lots of photos from the day's activities in my archive and available from ZUMA Press

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ready For the Debate

Ron Paul supporters rally in front of the Mesa Arts Center before the CNN sponsored Arizona Republican Presidential Debate. There are hundreds of people around the MAC, more than a thousand people are expected to attend the debate, which starts at 6PM Mountain Time.

I've been filing photos from the debate site all day to my archive and to ZUMA Press. The slideshow is a few photos from a Ron Paul fundraiser this morning.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I'm Rick Santorum, Damned Glad to Meet You

Rick Santorum greets supporters at the Maricopa County Republicans Lincoln lunch in Phoenix Tuesday. 

The Republican cavalcade of stars continued to pass through Phoenix this week. Last week it was Willard "Mitt" Romney. Today it's former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who came out of nowhere on February 7 to win the beauty contests, because all three were non-binding and awarded no delegates, in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado. Romney won them in the 2008 campaign and Santorum's surprise showing caught a lot of people off guard. Tomorrow, Ron Paul is pressing the flesh in Mesa.

The big CNN debate is tomorrow night. This is the debate that almost didn't happen. It was originally scheduled for November but CNN said there were too many debates early in the cycle (the first vote didn't take place till Iowa in January) so they forced the Arizona GOP to push it back. At the time we (in the media) all complained that February was too late. That the race would be over and Mitt Romney would be on his victory tour. 

That was then and this is now. 

Mitt's still the front runner but everyone has had their time at the top of the pyramid. Newt's won some and Santorum's won some. Debates scheduled for the next couple of weeks, before Super Tuesday, have been cancelled because Santorum and Romney pulled out. All of a sudden the little debate that nearly didn't happen has become the most important debate so far. 

I've been busy photographing the candidates as they pass through town. 

Herman Cain? Check.

Michele Bachmann? Check. (twice)

Mitt Romney? Check. (three times)

Ron Paul? He's tomorrow. 

There are more photos from Santorum's luncheon appearance in my archive and available from ZUMA Press

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Wedding to finish off a Birthday Bash

A girl waits for the mass wedding to start at the Arizona Supreme Court during the state's centennial bash around the capitol. Her mother was one of the people getting married. 

 Arizona's birthday bash concluded on Valentine's Day with, appropriately, a mass wedding for 96 couples. It was a good day at the Capitol. Native American and Mexican folklorico dancers performed. There were historic exhibits and lots of music. Rex Allen Jr, son of the late cowboy star Rex Allen, classical violinist Itzhak Perlman and Las Vegas legend Wayne Newton all put on free shows. Newton's was a spirited concert more than an hour long. While Perlman performed with a Mesa school group in the state senate. At the end of his performance he implored the Legislature not to cut arts funding during what is certain to be a budget cutting extravaganza during the session. Democrats in the Senate applauded enthusiastically while Republican Senators pretty much sat on their hands. 

There are more photos from the Centennial in my archive or available from ZUMA Press

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mitt's Back!

Romney campaign workers, Mesa politicians and the public wander into a Mitt Romney get out the vote rally in Mesa Monday night. 

Mitt Romney speaks at his campaign rally in Mesa. 

Republican Presidential front runner Mitt Romney brought his traveling road show to Mesa Monday night for a get out the vote rally. It was at least his third stop in Phoenix in six months, more than any other GOP primary candidate. Thousands of people came to the Mesa Amphitheatre to hear the richest Presidential candidate in history talk about how he would help the middle class regain the momentum that's been lost since the late 70's. He touted his experience in private business as a corporate buyout mogul as a qualification to be president. 

The crowd, which was overwhelmingly white, cheered for Romney but the loudest roar of approval came when Romney, a Mormon, talked about his faith. Phoenix's East Valley suburbs, especially Mesa, are overwhelmingly Mormon and Romney was on friendly ground. 

Romney's speech didn't break any new ground and was short on specifics. He would make life better for all of us, but didn't say how he would do it. Like all the Republicans on the campaign trail this year, he ridiculed the European Democrat Socialist model of governing, one that favors social safety nets over the corporate hooliganism so prevalent in the US now.

There are more photos of the Mesa rally in my archive and available from ZUMA Press.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

This is not a gun safety class

Arizona is marking its centennial with a big party on the mall in front of the State Capitol just west of downtown Phoenix. There are rides, fried foods, food trucks, beer gardens, entertainers and lots of guns. 

Guns are Arizona are inexorably linked. There's the state's "Old West" heritage - the "Gunfight at the OK Corral" is reenacted every day in Tombstone. Tourist trains going to the Grand Canyon are regularly "robbed" by desperadoes, Tucson (where a gunman killed six and wounded 13 in 2011) annually celebrates Dillinger Days with a giant shoot out downtown.

We even have an official state handgun, the .45 Colt Single Action Army, the "gun that won the west." (A choice that puzzled some of the state's native peoples since it's also the gun used in the genocide against Native Americans, but that's another issue.) 

The state also likes to celebrate its ties to the military. The famed "Buffalo Soldiers" helped tame the Arizona frontier. The "Code Talkers" were recruited on Arizona (and New Mexico) Indian reservations. Every F16 pilot in the US Air Force gets their initial training at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale.

So the state's centennial seems like a perfect opportunity to combine some of our favorite things. Guns, military and kids. These kids were handling nonfunctioning replicas of M16 assault rifles. The replica rifles were provided by the Naval Sea Cadets, an organization that teaches young people about naval life. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Living to be 100

Meet Elizabeth Lawton, one of Arizona's centenarians. She and her husband live in Sun Lakes, about 40 miles southeast of Phoenix, and they haven't let changing centuries slow them down one bit. 

The state is marking its centennial with a special party for Arizonans who are also at least 100. While I photographed Mrs. Lawton, she joked about outliving three husbands and that her current husband, at a mere 95, was much younger than she. It seems fitting that the state is honoring its residents who are at least as old as the state is. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Putting on Arizona's Party Hat

Workers put the finishing touches on the new copper dome at the old state capitol in Phoenix. The old capitol is now the Arizona Capitol Museum

Arizona celebrates its centennial next week. On February 14 we mark 100 years in the union. From the Grand Canyon to the Mexican border, parties and fetes are planned statewide. Some of the festivities have already happened - Buckeye marked the state's centennial with a parade and rodeo two weeks ago - but el gran fiesta happens this weekend at the state capitol with the Arizona Best Fest

So happy birthday Arizona.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Bring Your Gun to School Day

Arizona State Sen Steve Gallardo (D-Phoenix) talks about his opposition to allowing guns on Arizona's college campuses during a press conference at the State Capitol this afternoon. 

Americans love their guns and nowhere is that more evident than in Arizona. This state has some of the loosest gun laws in the country, including very permissive concealed carry laws and no laws at all against "open" carry. It's not unusual to see people carrying guns at public functions around town. A couple of years ago, I photographed a man carrying an AR-15 knock off at a Tea Party rally against President Obama. While President Obama was talking to veterans in the building next to the rally. After the nation was shocked by a mass shooting in Tucson, where 18 people, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, were shot and six of those people killed, our legislature responded by naming the Colt Single Action Army .45 the state's official handgun. Last year, after the Giffords shooting, during the same legislative session that named the SAA our state handgun, legislators passed a bill allowing people to carry guns on college campuses, including in classrooms. Although there is no statistical evidence to support their view, Republicans said the bill might prevent Virginia Tech like mass shootings. In a rare show of Republican disharmony, Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill. 

That was then and this is now. The State Senate Republicans brought the guns on campus bill back this year. 

Predictably, the Democrats oppose the bill. But it's also opposed by police (including campus police), parents of university students, university administrators, university students and victims of gun violence. All of whom lined up to speak against the bill at this afternoon's press conference and during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill.  

Predictably, the Republicans support the bill. Even though they claim to be in favor of law and order and support law enforcement, in this matter they evidently know better and brushed aside police concerns that the bill could lead to incidents of "friendly fire" and accidental shootings (because just as there is no statistical evidence to support claims that more guns will make colleges safer, there is no statistical evidence to support the claim that more guns will make colleges more dangerous). 

After a couple of hours of discussion, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 5-3 to allow guns on campus. Now the bill goes to the full Senate where it will likely pass. 

There are more photos from the hearing in my archive and available from ZUMA Press.