Kristin Urquiza's Father Died From COVID, Feeling Betrayed by Trump, and Then She Helped Turn Arizona Blue

Kristin Urquiza was one of the many new but unheralded faces at the virtual Democratic National Convention in August.

Then she dropped the hammer.

Her father, Mark Anthony Urquiza, had faith in President Donald Trump, she said. He voted for Trump and listened to him about how the coronavirus was under control and going to disappear, and that it was OK to end social distancing rules.

After a night of karaoke, he got sick weeks later, suffered from COVID-19 for five "agonizing days" and died alone in an ICU with a nurse holding his hand.

"My dad was a healthy 65-year-old," Urquiza said, her eyes glassy, and voice full of emotion. "His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that he paid with his life."

Urquiza became one of the stars of the convention and then did something under the radar: She got to work on turning her home state of Arizona blue and spoke to Newsweek after helping to accomplish that mission, something Democrats haven't done since 1996.

My dad was a healthy 65-year-old. His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that he paid with his life.
Kristin Urquiza

"This is democracy rising," Urquiza said. "People who experienced COVID-loss deep in our heart wanted a landslide because 230,000 people didn't get to have their voices heard. But the next decade in Arizona will be a completely different landscape than anyone on the national level was preparing for."

Much was made about the Latino vote very early in the process after Joe Biden stumbled in Miami-Dade County in Florida, but Democrats like Urquiza stressed that it wasn't the full picture. A Latino Decisions election eve poll of actual voters in Arizona found that Latino voters supported Biden 71 percent to 26 percent. Biden senior adviser Cristobal Alex tweeted that the campaign was seeing roughly 70 percent to 30 percent support in the state from Hispanics.

"Arizona has been a predictor of the country, we saw the Tea Party here first, we saw extreme right-wing policies, then our organizing took hold," she said of the burgeoning Latino and immigrant vote in the state that was targeted by a hardline immigration law known as SB1070 a decade ago. "As we move towards a diverse country full of people of color, this sleeping giant is sleeping no more."

Then Urquiza screamed, letting out her pent-up emotions and joy.

A major way Arizona has changed since Trump won in 2016 is the influence of immigration on voters. What once was a red-meat issue for a Republican base that elevated former Sheriff Joe Arpaio to national prominence, has receded. Arpaio was cast out of office four years ago, and the pandemic and ensuing economic calamity has taken precedence in the minds of voters in the state.

"The Latino community is not a monolith and you can't assume immigration is the top issue," Urquiza said. "Immigrants come to the country for opportunity, and if you scratch below the surface, opportunity is an economic issue."

With the election still in doubt, Urquiza hopes for a Biden win that would help with COVID-19 and the economy. She recalled being at a largely Latino volunteer kickoff event on Sunday for Mi Familia Vota, a national grassroots group, and asking organizers to raise their hands if they knew someone who had contracted the coronavirus.

"Every single person raised their hand," she said.

It's this connection to the community that leads Urquiza to hope Biden will win and openly challenge him to help Latinos who helped turn Arizona blue. She said that, if asked, she would join a COVID task force in his prospective administration.

"I don't believe that Joe Biden nor the Democratic Party is a panacea to our needs," she said. "The truth is the Latino community has been left behind and not prioritized or understood. But I'll be the first person banging down the door to make sure these promises are kept and Latinos have a seat at that table."

Kristin urquiza
In this screenshot from the DNCC’s livestream of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Kristin Urquiza, whose father died of coronavirus, addresses the virtual convention on August 17, 2020. The convention, which was once expected to draw 50,000 people to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is now taking place virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. Handout/DNCC/Getty