A new retiree organization officially formed an Arizona chapter of about 30,000 members Wednesday, vowing to capitalize on the state’s growing senior population and its influence in the November presidential election.
"Arizona is at the top of everyone’s list," said Edward Coyle, executive director of the nationwide Alliance for Retired Americans.
"Politics in this country is never going to be the same because of the power of the senior movement."
At the founding convention at Wyndham Hotel in Phoenix, Coyle described Arizona as a critical swing state. The group has also focused on building chapters in Florida, Ohio and Missouri.
The Alliance for Retired Americans is trying to be an organizing force in the senior movement, billing itself as a grass-roots alternative to AARP that is not afraid to organize public demonstrations, including picketing congressional offices.
Members of the nowformed Arizona chapter already protested the Medicare prescription drug bill last summer and fall outside congressional offices in Arizona. They attracted national attention when five were arrested for trespassing July 23. The protesters refused to leave the office of Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., until they were granted a meeting with him.
"I really think we’re going to do the best we can to get our message out to seniors and let elected officials know our issues," said Duane Baird of Mesa, a member of the alliance and chairman of the Phoenix United Auto Workers Retiree Counsel.
The two-day convention continues today with speakers Gert Clark, wife of Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark; and actor Ted Danson, who is stumping for Clark.