This past Thursday, I had the unique opportunity to attend an event sponsored by the "Startup Statesmen," an Arizona group of younger conservatives in the east valley (for those of you who do not live in Arizona, that would be the eastern part of the Phoenix metro area encompassing the Gilbert-Mesa-Chandler-Fountain Hills sort of area; also Congressional District 6). Their mission, according to their Facebook page, is "to encourage young conservatives to use their voice and send their vote." Presumably for conservative candidates, I would guess.
Anyway, this event - Politics by the Pool - was to be for young conservatives to gather and network for the purpose of getting my generation of political leaders engaged for the 2012 election season. There was a live band, Rocketeer, from the local area, some snacks, a television playing the first GOP presidential candidate debate, and a pool for anyone who wanted to swim, all at a very nice house belonging to the guy who set the event up. Congressman Jeff Flake, the current Congressional District 6 Republican running for the seat soon to be vacated by Senator Jon Kyl, and Kirk Adams, the former Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives who resigned to run for Congressman Flake's seat, were both in attendance to give speeches and mingle with the crowds. Also there, providing support to the candidates and encouraging people to "like" the candidates on Facebook, were Alan Soelberg, the current 1st Vice Chairman of the LD-19 GOP, and Chad Heywood, who has worked for both candidates.
I arrived at the house just after 7:30pm and there were plenty of cars lining the street for the people who were already there. I was wearing my NAU College Republicans t-shirt, and to my sad dismay, no one else was wearing anything GOP-related. Because I've been out of politics for a while now, save my going to a meeting now and then, I really didn't know anyone. However, I did arrange to meet a couple friends there, so I waited for them to get there so I wouldn't be the odd man out. In the meantime, I chatted with Alan, who was working the crowds getting them "signed in" for the event - code for getting names and email addresses for future listservs - and encouraging them to "like" Facebook pages.
Shortly thereafter, I met one of Alan's associates who was working the crowds outside on the patio: Dave Johnson, the man I formerly mentioned as Plaid Jacket Man in THIS POST about the LD-19 GOP election meeting. He had, at that time, been shouting about the rules and voting procedures that he felt had been violated by the establishment leadership at the meeting. It was nice to finally officially meet him, although I am not too sure he was happy when I told him I was the blogger who had written about the incident. He is a very vocal supporter of Kirk Adams, however, and I ended up discussing my views about the candidates and some issues for a few minutes before he got pulled away by another matter.
After that, the band started up, and while they sounded good, they were also very loud, so I went back into the house with my friends Nate and Kevin, who had shown up by then to chat and catch up. One of their mutual friends, Jeff, a government teacher in Mesa, also got into the conversation and we really did end up having a good time for a while (despite having a hard time hearing one another over the din). When Congressman Flake arrived, he remembered me and said hello. I asked him how my sister's artwork looked in his DC office, and he said it was great and that she is very talented. Kirk Adams also recognized me and we exchanged hellos as I introduced him to my friends.
Around 9:00 or 9:30pm, everyone was asked to gather out in the backyard for speeches by Congressman Flake and Fmr. Speaker Adams. I was really expecting a little more - kind of an overview of the political landscape and some views on how young people could actually work on being involved in significant capacities in 2012. I suppose I was expecting too much, though. Congressman Flake was up first, and thanked everyone for being there, making a joke about being asked to take off his shirt to go swimming ("It didn't work out too well for Anthony Weiner," he quipped), and then made some quick remarks about how the country's debt and spending levels will be the burden of our generation and that's why it's important for us to get more involved. Congressman Flake gave way to Kirk Adams, who also made some very brief remarks about 2012. All the "speeches" were over in under 10 minutes.
Afterward, Kevin had to go, so Jeff, Nate, and I went back indoors and chatted for a while again about baseball and politics. Just after 10:30pm, we realized that we were among the last stragglers there, so we broke up our little party and returned to our cars and home.
I suppose in retrospect most of the people there already knew one another through church or through political channels. I would guess most of them attend the same Mormon churches or are precinct committeemen. I did feel like an outsider there; no one volunteered to introduce themselves to me or to see who I was. Not that I'm all that worried, because I'm moving out of LD-19 in a week, so I'll be in a new district and not interacting with LD-19 people on a regular basis any longer (though I still intend to keep in touch when possible).