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An Arizona Voter Answers The Question: What Keeps You Up At Night?

DAVID GREENE, BYLINE: Politics is personal. People's hopes, their fears, their experiences really drive their political choices. And we heard that firsthand from a diverse group of families we met during a recent road trip through New Mexico and Arizona. Today, we make our final stop just outside Phoenix.



MARY JEAN: Hi. I'm Mary Jean, with our masks (laughter).

GREENE: How are you? I know.

MARY JEAN: I'm good, I'm good. Come on in.

GREENE: This is Mary Jean. She asked us to use only her first name because she fears retribution for her political views in this partisan climate. We have been meeting families in backyards or on porches to keep a safe distance. But on this 117-degree afternoon, outside was definitely not an option. So we settled into her living room, many feet apart with our masks on. Mary Jean said her home feels more empty than it was meant to be.

MARY JEAN: My husband passed away a couple weeks ago. Like, so...

GREENE: A couple weeks ago?

MARY JEAN: Yeah, like a month.

GREENE: I'm so sorry.

MARY JEAN: And we had downsized. We had this big house, and we downsized to here. And he dropped dead, so (laughter).

GREENE: God, I'm so sorry.

MARY JEAN: I know. It's a hard thing to go through. But I have two stepchildren and a son in Chicago suburbs. And they're having their first baby in September.

GREENE: Oh, that's exciting.

MARY JEAN: So two weeks, I'm leaving to go be grandma there. So that's kind of nice.

GREENE: That's great.

MARY JEAN: So the true circle of life (laughter). One leaves, and a new one comes, so...

GREENE: Really, that's a nice way to look at it.

MARY JEAN: Yeah. And you have to, you know, 'cause it's sad, you know? And 39 years we were married.


MARY JEAN: So it's a long time.

GREENE: Can I ask what happened?

MARY JEAN: He had a blood clot.

GREENE: Oh, wow.

MARY JEAN: And he died instantly. So if you had to go, it was the perfect way to go (laughter). And here I am, a widow. But as my one friend said, no, you're unhusband (ph) now (laughter), which I'd like - I like better than widow.

GREENE: So Mary Jean grew up outside New York City. She worked in media and marketing, and she lived in several big cities, including Los Angeles. She and her husband then retired here in Scottsdale, Ariz.

We've been asking everyone the same question to kind of start, which is, what's been keeping you up at night?

MARY JEAN: Yeah. I hate to see our cities where they are today. I lived in Manhattan. That's where I started my career. I grew up outside of Manhattan, love New York City. I'm hearing from friends how, you know, everything's boarded up in the streets. I mean, besides COVID, but the boarding up and the looting and the rioting - and I hate to see that. Portland - my stepdaughter lives in - outside of Portland. They haven't been to downtown Portland in six months. And she said it's not COVID. It's just not safe down there. So I hate to see our cities going.

GREENE: Do you know for sure that our cities are becoming more full of violence? Or is some of it perception and...

MARY JEAN: I don't know. I'm not there. I have friends who are in real estate in New Jersey. They're going crazy with people coming from the city to the suburbs.

GREENE: Moving out to Jersey. Yeah, what is it - why is that the thing that's sort of really...

MARY JEAN: Well...

GREENE: ...On your mind and troubling you right now?

MARY JEAN: Because I love these places. I love going. You know, we went back to New York every year for a couple days and walked the streets and shopped and dined and go to shows. And when my husband was alive, we even said, I don't know if we'll ever get back there.

GREENE: You know, it's interesting. We had - we interviewed the mayor of Seattle on our show, Jenny Durkan. And she said that she could look at evidence that when President Trump started tweeting and talking about that there was chaos in American cities, that that would actually make things worse. Some would say that the...

MARY JEAN: Well, they kind of feel that it's Trump. You know, whenever there is a problem in our country, it's Donald Trump's fault, if you notice that (laughter). It's always his fault. So I'm surprised they're not blaming it for the 117-degree weather we're having, you know? I mean, oh, it's, you know, his EPA guy, his - that's the reason why we're hot. And to be honest, I think as a Trump supporter, am I active? No. Do I give money? A little bit. But my husband - he gave money.

GREENE: To the Trump campaign?


GREENE: So you both voted for him last time?

MARY JEAN: Yeah, we did.


MARY JEAN: We were very much for him.

GREENE: What draws you to him? Like, if you were to talk about why you were going to cast a vote...

MARY JEAN: Well, he's a New Yorker. And he pisses people off, like, to no end. And...

GREENE: And you like that?

MARY JEAN: Yeah. I find him hysterical. My husband and I would sit here and laugh at him. They don't get his jokes. And people, like, go, oh, he said this. No. He was joking. It's like he kind of goes - he has a crassness about him that I kind of like, being a New Jersey girl (laughter). So I kind of like that.

GREENE: So when he calls someone like Kamala Harris nasty, and people get very...

MARY JEAN: Yeah, and she is. After you look at what - I couldn't believe she's a senator and how she treated and how, I feel, she degraded being a senator when she questioned Kavanaugh. Her behavior - her questions were OK, but she went - and she was nasty.

GREENE: And you - because there are a lot of women who would hear that and think that nasty is like a - I mean, it's very offensive to - specifically to women.

MARY JEAN: I know. Like, I don't - I'm too old. I've been called a lot worse than nasty (laughter), so...

GREENE: So you and your husband would sit here and sort of see the humor in Trump as an entertainer?

MARY JEAN: Oh, my God, yes. He's an entertainer. He's - and he's a marketer - like, unbelievable.

GREENE: And what would you tell voters who are troubled by that, who feel like...

MARY JEAN: Well, don't vote for him. Don't vote. Don't vote for him.

GREENE: ...Especially at a moment when the country is so - when the country is, like, at such a pivotal moment that you don't want someone who's an entertainer, that you want...

MARY JEAN: Yeah, no. But I think he - you know, anybody who's a billionaire - he's a builder. And I think he looks at the country as building it, too.

GREENE: Mary Jean is a registered Democrat, but she, like her husband, voted for President Trump last time. For years, though, her husband would vote Republican, and she would go for Democrats.

MARY JEAN: We always split our votes for president all those years, so (laughter) we canceled each other out. But...

GREENE: Have you been thinking about your husband as you've been thinking about this election and...

MARY JEAN: Oh, yeah. And as our one friend said, if Donald Trump loses by one vote, I'm going to be so pissed at him that he's not here to vote for him (laughter), so - which is kind of funny. So - but it's - there is an underlying majority of people, like here, of our social circle that are Trump supporters. I mean, and you wouldn't think that. Rural, college educated, you know, upper-middle class - we're not supposed to be that (laughter). And there's tons here (laughter). It's, like, a lot of people.


GREENE: Mary Jean of Scottsdale, Ariz. These conversations, asking voters what keeps them up at night, were edited by Arezou Rezvani and produced by Danny Hajek. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
Arezou Rezvani is a senior editor for NPR's Morning Edition and founding editor of Up First, NPR's daily news podcast.