The chants and sign slogans appeared to have come straight out of the Democratic playbook — “Bush Bee Gone” and “Bush = Bee.”
About 100 people showed up at the corner of Ina and Oracle roads before 7 a.m. last Friday to protest President Bush’s arrival at a Northwest fund-raiser for congressional hopeful Tim Bee, which seemed to highlight just how heated the 8th District race has become.
Training the GOP’s national gaze on the local congressional race, Bush sought to rally the troops around Bee, who seeks to unseat first-term Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
About 400 paid $1,000 to attend the breakfast event at the sprawling Ina Road home of Jackie and William Bell. Others paid $10,000 to pose for pictures with the president.
For more than an hour last Friday morning, a portion of Ina Road — from Swan Road to First Avenue — was shut down to accommodate the coming and going of the presidential motorcade.
To the east, protestors choked all four corners of the intersection, waving signs and applauding the honks they received from passing motorists.
The turnout “speaks volumes about how much people don’t want to see a Bush protégé” in Congress, said Democratic operative Emily DeRose, who helped organize the show of opposition.
Bee’s campaign spokesman Tom Dunn scoffed at the partisans’ attempt to link the state senate president with Bush.
“He’s running on his record,” Dunn said of his boss. “He’s had to be independent of his party. If a Congressman Bee is in the minority, he’ll have to work with the majority.”
Unworried that Bush’s low approval ratings would taint his candidate, Dunn said last Friday’s fund-raiser went a long way to help bring Bee enough money “to get his message out to voters.”
An adept fund-raiser, Giffords began the month of July with nearly $2.1 million on hand, according to the latest campaign finance data provided by the Federal Elections Commission. And for her part, the Democrat held a private fund-raiser in Tucson with Gov. Janet Napolitano on Monday, charging attendees about $25 a head, according to her campaign manager, Zach Wineburg.
Bee likely raised more than $500,000 with Bush’s appearance last week, adding to his start-of-July total of $688,000.
The Bee campaign used last week’s fund-raiser to tout a poll it commissioned that showed the Republican down 40 percent to 47 percent in the race, with about 13 percent of voters undecided.
Margaret Kenski, a longtime pollster for former Reps. Jim Kolbe and Mo Udall, surveyed more than 500 voters in mid- and late-May for the Bee campaign. She found that tax and immigration issues ranked among the highest in the Eighth Congressional District, a district in which “people vote the individual,” not the party.
“These are two good people with very different approaches on the role of government,” Kenski said of her poll.
But, a poll pointed to by Giffords’ campaign manager — one done in mid-June by the Democratic group Greenberg Quinlan Rosner — showed Giffords leading Bee by 24 points among likely voters, 58 percent to 32 percent.
The disparities between the two partisan polls seemed to bolster the differences of opinion between Judith Blair and the rest of the Bush-Bee protestors last week.
Blair, a Northwest resident, staked out a lonely corner off Oracle and waved her sign in support of President Bush.
“I’m here to support the president … and the troops,” Blair said, shrugging off some less-than-cordial comments from a couple of protestors. “I’ve gotten more thumbs than fingers.”
Still, Bee seeks to tread a fine line between accepting the president’s fundraising support and not alluding to his policies on the campaign trail. In his debut ad, Bee touts his record of bipartisanship, while never mentioning the fact that he’s a Republican.
“Tim Bee’s Tim Bee,” Dunn said of the message behind the ad. “He’s not President Bush. He’s not a divisive politician.”