Published 8:03 PM EDT Aug 11, 2020
Vice President Mike Pence is visiting Arizona on Tuesday as part of a campaign stop as the state is more and more seen as a battleground this November.
He first visited Tucson and then Mesa, with two events focused on police and religious voters.
Follow along with Pence’s latest Arizona visit.
4:45 p.m.: Pence meeting with Ducey
Pence is currently meeting with Gov. Doug Ducey inside the Lincoln J. Ragsdale Executive Terminal at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport, according to pool reports.
The meeting is not open to the media. Pence has not done any interviews since Biden announced Kamala Harris as his running mate.
Pence is then expected to board Air Force Two and return to Washington, D.C.
4:15 p.m.: Attendees react to Pence remarks
After Pence’s remarks to the Latter-day Saints for Trump coalition event, attendees said they connected with the message.
Dillard Kelley from Scottsdale said he loved the approach to the event because it was less negative toward Democrats and focused instead on GOP accomplishments.
He said the event today was “historic” because this is a pivotal election.
Attendees also reacted to the announcement from the Biden campaign that Kamala Harris had been chosen as the Democratic candidate’s running mate.
The Rev. Dr. Lady Bishop said that she thinks picking Harris will push people to vote for Biden because Harris is Black, as she said people did with Obama.
She said she is a die-hard Republican, but she did vote for Obama. She became a Republican because she “didn’t want to pay for other people’s babies.”
Outside the venue, people who couldn’t get in because it had reached capacity awaited Pence’s departure.
Linda Archambeau was waiting to watch Pence drive away.
She and several other woman from Apache Junction Ladies for Trump were rallying for Pence before the event started at 1 p.m., she said.
Archambeau said Trump may be a person people don’t like, but she said people should look at his accomplishments and ignore who they think he is.
Amanda Schlichting, a former Chandler police officer, came to the event with her father, John Schlichting, to show support for Trump and Pence.
Along with Archambeau, they waited outside in 108-degree temperatures to see Pence drive away, but did not arrive early enough to get into the event.
“It’s about showing the president and vice president and the entire administration that we support them and that I don’t look at Trump supporters as the silent majority, I look at them as the quiet majority. We’re not loud, but we’re not silent,” Amanda Schlichting said.
Several people at the event, including Amanda, said they believe this is one of the most critical elections in history.
“There are so many diverse people that support what they’re doing and they support the administration,” she said. “The battle that we’re fighting is not Black versus white, conservative versus liberal. This election is about whether you love America or you don’t.”
— Audrey Jensen and Cleo Krejci
3:45 p.m.: People treated for heat issues
Two people were taken to the hospital for heat-related illnesses outside the Mesa hotel where Pence spoke, according to Mesa Fire Department Deputy Chief Forrest Smith.
It’s not immediately known if they were part of the Pence event.
It is 108 degrees on Tuesday.
— Audrey Jensen
3:30 p.m.: Pence concludes speech
After about 40 minutes, Pence wrapped up his speech to the Latter-day Saints for Trump coalition, launched Tuesday to support the president’s reelection campaign.
Pence’s speech focused on red-meat Republican issues, including conservative judges, support for police, religious freedom and free speech.
He took some hits at Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, though made the bulk of the speech about freedom and religion. He detailed President Donald Trump’s record in the White House and hammered on points that were likely to resonate with the religious right.
“The sweetest words we ever hear while traveling around the country is, ‘We’re praying for you,’” Pence said.
He said he has heard and feel those prayers. He encouraged the crowd to pray for America, not for any particular political party or candidate.
— Rachel Leingang and Cleo Krejci
2:50 p.m.: Pence acknowledges Harris pick
Before Pence spoke at the LDS event, U.S. Sen. Martha McSally and Gov. Doug Ducey spoke, touting the Trump Administration to the newly formed Latter-day Saints for Trump coalition.
“You guys are the key to make sure we have victory here in November,” McSally told the crowd.
Ducey said the Trump Administration has always been available to help as the state needs it.
Pence shared the love, thanking Ducey, McSally and Arizona’s Republican congressional members.
He praised Ducey, saying the governor has led Arizona “to prosperity” and “through these challenging times.”
After thanking Arizonans and the state’s GOP elected officials, Pence acknowledged that Biden had announced Tuesday that he’d chosen Kamala Harris as his running mate.
The crowd booed.
“As you all know, Joe Biden and the Democratic Party have been overtaken by the radical left,” he said. “So given their promises of higher taxes, open borders, socialized medicine, and abortion on demand, it’s no surprise that he chose Senator Harris.”
He noted that the vice presidential debate was set for Oct. 7 in Utah.
His message to Harris: “Congratulations, I’ll see you in Salt Lake City.”
During his remarks, Pence said the November election wasn’t a choice between red or blue, but a choice about the future of America and its ideals.
“The choice in this election is whether America remains America,” he said.
He said that voting for Democrats in the next election will hamper religious values, a key point for this group of LDS voters.
“Our economic recovery is on the ballot, but also there are things on the ballot that are more fundamental.”
— Rachel Leingang and Cleo Krejci
2:10 p.m.: Man escorted out for not wearing a mask
People in the hotel ballroom in Mesa were somewhat spread out and largely wearing masks ahead of Pence’s expected remarks.
Arizona and U.S. flags lined the stage, alongside blue “Latter-day Saints for Trump” signs.
Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs, who represents Mesa and is a member of the LDS church, told the crowd that Donald Trump was the only choice for president.
“I stand proudly as someone who knows what family is, what life is, what faith is, and what it means to me, ‘faith freedom family,'” Biggs said.
A voice on the loudspeaker at one point reminded attendees they needed to wear their masks at all times.
One man was escorted out of the ballroom by campaign security after not wearing a mask.
A sign greeted arriving attendees informing them that by entering the event, they assumed any risk it could carry.
“You understand and expressly acknowledge that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present,” the sign read. “By entering this event, you … discharge Donald J. Trump for President … from any and all liability.”
— Cleo Krejci
1:15 p.m.: Pence lands in Phoenix
Air Force Two landed at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport at 1:15 p.m. carrying Pence, McSally and Ducey. At 1:28 p.m., Pence disembarked and waved. He greeted supporters, including Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward, by bumping elbows — not shaking hands.
Pence, Ducey, and McSally all are scheduled to speak at a Latter-day Saints for Trump coalition event at a Mesa hotel. There, he will preach the accomplishments of the Trump administration and how they have benefited the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints community.
The church is not affiliated with the Trump campaign’s LDS coalition, according to spokesperson Jennifer Wheeler, and has a strict political neutrality policy.
Pence touched down as news broke that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has chosen California Sen. Kamala Harris as his vice presidential running mate for the 2020 election. Harris becomes the first Black woman and first Asian American person on a major party’s presidential ticket.
— Emily Wilder and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez
1 p.m.: Trump supporters gather for Pence
More than 100 people lined up at the Delta Hotels by Marriott Phoenix Mesa, slowly moving inside the building where Pence is set to speak.
People have to get their temperatures taken before entering. About 70% of the people in line were wearing masks.
About 12 people who identified themselves as Christian were trying to talk with voters outside the venue. They had a pamphlet saying that “the Mormon church teaches a message that sounds so similar to Christianity, but is fundamentally a different Gospel that cannot save.”
People selling political merchandise were also outside the venue.
Ryan Saysinger follows political campaigns around the country. He was selling goods, including buttons he hand-pressed that show support for Trump and Pence.
He said he can make $1,200 to $2,000 a day selling campaign merchandise. He has sold for both Democratic and Republican events. He said he made $1,700 at a Bernie Sanders event in Arizona.
In the line, some people wore masks, while others did not. Some wore Trump memorabilia.
Mike Tully, a Mesa resident wearing a shirt with a picture of Trump that said “Finally someone with balls,” said Biden should “enjoy his golden years” and is not qualified for president. He said he had been wishing Trump would run for office “long before” 2016 and likes his foreign trade policies.
Ernie Williams, 77, lives in Avondale. He was not wearing a mask but was wearing a red Make America Great Again hat.
He said he supports Trump for three main reasons: He’s a businessman, he’s “not part of the swamp,” and he didn’t need to run for office to make money.
Williams said he is worried about the media spreading false information and thinks they take everything out of context and make Trump look bad.
LDS church member Gordon Ray, a 70-year-old volunteer for the Trump campaign, said he and his 11 children all love Trump.
Ray said doesn’t think there’s a single thing Trump has done that he disagrees with. He’s particularly happy that Trump is undoing Obama-era policies, and specifically mentioned immigration policies.
He thinks Trump “sees a problem and he goes after it.”
— Cleo Krejci
12:30 p.m.: Pence next heads to Mesa
Pence is expected to head to the Phoenix area next. He will arrive at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, then go to an event geared toward LDS voters in Mesa.
Pence’s visit comes the week after Arizona’s primary election, which in many ways was a battle between moderates and hardliners from each party.
Where did voters land? And what, if anything, could this tell us about November’s election?
State Legislature reporter Andrew Oxford joined hosts Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Ronald J. Hansen to break down the election results in an episode of The Gaggle, an Arizona politics podcast that provides context for Arizona’s political moment.
— Rachel Leingang
11:45 a.m.: Pence accepts endorsement of police group
During the Tucson event, McSally spoke prior to Pence, saying there should be increased funding for police. She took jabs at Mark Kelly, her Democratic opponent.
“Who do you trust to keep us safe?” she asked, saying it was Trump, Ducey and her. “We have your backs.”
Ducey took to the stage next and spoke against the movement to defund the police.
“It’s time that some starts defending the police,” he said, adding that the choice is “crystal clear” in the upcoming election.
“There’s only one ticket that believes in law and order,” Ducey said.
Pence officially accepted the endorsement of the Arizona Police Association for the Trump campaign.
Just as he walked on stage, a man in the crowd yelled “F*ck Pence, f*ck conversion therapy” and was escorted out of the ballroom where the rally was taking place.
The crowd booed as the man was escorted out.
In his remarks, Pence praised McSally and Ducey’s leadership and support for law enforcement.
“With this president, this senator and that governor, we’ll always back the blue,” he said.
Pence took swings at Biden, repeating claims that are being run in Trump ads against Biden.
“The truth is you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America … Joe Biden would double down on the very policies that are leading to violence,” he said.
What’s at stake is “law and order” and “peace of mind for our children,” Pence added.
Fact checkers at multiple outlets have called these ads and claims by the Trump campaign that Biden wants to defund police false or misleading.
Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said he does not support defunding the police. He has said that police departments should be funded to help mend relationships between law enforcement and communities that feel they have been overpoliced.
— Rafael Carranza
11 a.m.: Ducey, Pence exchange welcomes
Ducey posted two photos of himself and Pence greeting each other today in Tucson outside Air Force Two.
The men, both masked, exchanged elbow bumps as a greeting.
“Welcome back to Arizona, @VP,” Ducey wrote on Twitter.
On his Twitter feed, @Mike_Pence, Pence wrote: Hello Arizona! Happy to be here in the Grand Canyon State with Governor @dougducey and @MarthaMcSally as we continue our support for our incredible law enforcement officers across this Nation. We are not going to defund the police —n ot now, not ever.”
— Rachel Leingang
10:50 a.m.: Police event kicks off
The U.S. Secret Service and organizers of the Cops for Trump rally in Tucson on Tuesday enforced guidelines meant to protect attendees during one of the first in-person rallies of the campaign season in battleground Arizona.
As participants arrived at the Westin La Paloma resort, every person was required to enter the building with a mask on. Organizers had a table next to the line of guests containing masks and hand sanitizer.
Several people checked attendees’ forehead temperatures.
In the large ballroom, chairs were distanced about six feet apart. But some participants moved their chairs together, and others mingled in small groups.
The official program began about an hour before Pence’s scheduled arrival. It kicked off with the Pledge of Allegiance, an invocation dedicated to law enforcement officers and a speech by Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb.
Lamb thanked Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier, who is also in attendance.
His remarks about “the ridiculous notion to defund the police” drew widespread applause from the hundreds of participants.
How about defend the police?” he said to cheers.
Lamb said more officers were needed to help fight child trafficking, and that Trump and Pence were the best candidates to take on border security and other law enforcement concerns in the country.
“This election will come down to whether you believe in the rule of law or not,” Lamb said.
A break in the program followed Lamb’s remarks, as attendees waited for Pence’s arrival.
When the vice president arrives at Westin La Paloma, he will be greeted small groups of supporters and protesters.
— Rafael Carranza
10:30 a.m.: Biden supporters discuss faith ahead of Pence event
Ahead of Pence’s LDS coalition event, Arizona Democrats and Biden supporters said the vice president’s policies would be shaped in part by the tenants of his faith.
They said Biden, who is Catholic, would advocate for a culture of inclusiveness that encourages people to celebrate their faith openly, while approaching the issues of immigration, health care and anti-Semitism from a faith-based perspective.
Rob Taber, who serves as national co-chairman of Latter-day Saint Democrats of America, said Biden would protect religious freedom.
“Donald Trump’s actions as president time and again have gone against these most basic tenants of our faith: caring for the poor and less fortunate, leading with compassion and empathy, and helping families and individuals thrive and build self-reliance,” Taber said on a virtual call. “We’ve seen the ways that he’s cheapend Christianity. Throughout his presidency, Trump has used the Bible as a political prop while attacking American values by tearing apart immigrant families, targeting the most vulnerable among us, recklessly attempting to rip away health care.”
Taber and others said Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis has underscored his lack of moral leadership.
Democratic state Rep. Reginald Bolding said that every day Trump is in charge, he is endangering the health of students, families and teachers.
“He is risking our children and our teachers and our families’ health by demanding that schools reopen without the tools that they need to keep communities safe,” he said. “While students, teachers and families agonize over these next few weeks over what to do, Trump has continued to downplay this threat. In fact, he even said young people are virtually immune to the coronavirus.”
In the last two weeks of July alone, at least 97,000 children tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a new review of state-level data by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Children’s Hospital Association.
— Yvonne Wingett Sanchez
10:13 a.m.: Pence lands in Arizona
Pence landed in Arizona at 10:13 a.m. after a mostly uneventful four-hour flight, according to pool reports.
During the flight, Pence was spotted briefly in the aisle of the upper cabin, but he didn’t come back to pool. TVs stayed on Fox News with reports on speculation over Joe Biden’s VP pick and unrest and looting in Chicago.
Pence was greeted by Ducey, McSally; Republican candidate for the First Congressional District Tiffany Shedd; Col. Joseph Turnham, Commander 335th Wing, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base; and Chief Master Sergeant James Lyda, Command Chief 335th Wing, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
— pool reports
9:45 a.m.: Who is Pence meeting?
Pence’s Arizona visit on Tuesday is aimed at two groups the Trump campaign sees as key constituencies going into November: police and religious voters, specifically Latter-day Saints.
Pence will be accepting an endorsement on behalf of Trump from the Arizona Police Association.
The association has 12,000 members and represents 47 police unions across the state, including the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, Maricopa County Law Enforcement Association and Tucson Police Officer Association.
The Arizona Police Association advocates for police officers at the city, state and federal levels.
As of 9:45 a.m., guests were arriving at the Cops for Trump rally at the Westin La Paloma resort in Tucson, where Pence is set to speak. All seats inside the ballroom are spaced about six feet apart. Nearly everyone is wearing a face mask.
In Mesa, Pence will be meeting with a newly-formed group called Latter-day Saints for Trump, which is not affiliated with the church itself.
According to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints website, Arizona is home to about 436,500 members of the church — making up about 6% of the state’s population. Arizona is among the states with the most church members, but pales compared with Utah, which is home to 1.2 million members.
LDS voters tend to vote Republican but hold values that clash with some of the president’s. Some of Trump’s most vocal, high-profile critics are both Republican and Mormon, including Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and former Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.
— Uriel Garcia, Cleo Krejci, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Rafael Carranza
8:30 a.m.: Supporters and protesters
A small group of mostly young and diverse protesters with Black Lives Matter shirts and flags set up at the entrance to Tucson’s Westin La Paloma resort and drew honks from cars passing by.
Inside the resort area, a similarly small group of supporters, largely older and white, waved Trump campaign and U.S. flags to passing cars along the main road leading to the resort.
— Rafael Carranza
8 a.m. Biden statement: ‘Trump and Pence failed Arizonans’
In advance of Pence’s trip, Kate Bedingfield, Biden for President communications director, released a statement critical of the administration’s efforts to control the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Arizonans aren’t better off or safer today than they were four years ago,” the statement said.
“Now, as our kids and educators head back to school, President Trump and Vice President Pence have again failed by not offering a concrete plan for a safe reopening, risking the safety of Arizona families. Trump and Pence failed Arizonans when they needed Presidential leadership the most. Joe Biden has led our country during a crisis before and has a clear road map on how we can get the coronavirus under control.”
Last week, state officials rolled out benchmarks schools could use to decide when to reopen in person. The benchmarks are optional, and counties don’t have to meet them before schools can open.
7 a.m.: Pence’s last Arizona visit in different COVID-19 context
Pence’s visit Tuesday is focused on the November election, but his last visit to Arizona was official business.
Pence last visited Arizona on July 1, as Arizona was in the midst of a COVID-19 surge that made it a national hotspot for the virus and threatened to overwhelm hospitals.
During that visit, Pence said the federal government would provide 500 medical personnel to assist the state.
“Help is on the way and we’re going to spare no expense to provide the kind of reinforcements that you will need across the state,” Pence said at that time.
Tuesday’s visit comes soon after Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey visited Trump in the White House to tout Arizona’s response to COVID-19.
Pence is visiting Arizona under improved COVID-19 circumstances, though thousands have died. Hospitalizations have continued to decline for the past month, and cases have begun to decline.
The use of masks, not mandated statewide but by local authorities in the majority of the state; closures of certain businesses; and more vigilance from the public seem to have flattened case increases here.
But those moves came after caseloads spiraled out of control in June, not before.
— Rachel Leingang, Maria Polletta and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez
6 a.m.: What is Pence doing in Arizona?
Pence is returning to Arizona on Tuesday, further indication that the state is considered a battleground this November.
Air Force Two was scheduled to depart Joint Base Andrews outside Washington, D.C., at 5:30 a.m. Arizona time and arrive in Tucson at 9:50 a.m. He first will visit Tucson, then fly north, where he will participate in a Latter-day Saints for Trump Coalition event in Mesa.
The Tuesday visit, as part of Trump’s reelection campaign, includes accepting the endorsement of the Arizona Police Association and to reinforce the Trump administration’s support of law enforcement amid calls for defunding police.
In an announcement of the visit, the Trump campaign said Pence will accept the endorsement at a “Cops for Trump” event in Tucson.
“The Vice President will highlight the Trump Administration’s strong actions to support law enforcement and defend religious liberty,” the announcement said.
The Office of the Vice President noted that Pence’s remarks to the “Cops for Trump” event will involve the Trump administration’s “unwavering commitment to never defund the police.”
He is expected to arrive via Air Force Two to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson in the morning. After the Cops for Trump event, he will fly to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, then go to the Mesa coalition event.
— Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Rachel Leingang
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