PHOENIX, ARIZONA —
Mardi Benedict oversees a medical office in Fort Mohave, Arizona, where her husband, Richard, has a successful practice as an obstetrician and gynecologist. She’s a conservative activist, part of the informal movement known as the Tea Party.
“I was in tears on inauguration day for the first time in eight years; happy tears, because there’s been a lot of unhappy tears” under President Barack Obama, Benedict said.
Watch: Arizona’s Conservative Activists Look to Trump for Help
One of the reasons for tears were the small reimbursements the Benedicts’ medical practice received under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also called Obamacare, the government’s health insurance program. Sometimes Benedict’s husband worked for nothing. She points to insurance company checks for zero dollars and zero cents to demonstrate her point.
The very first executive order that President Donald Trump signed on inauguration day was one directing government agencies to scale back as much of the ACA as possible.
Trump supporters in Arizona are applauding that and other Trump executive orders, from border security to illegal immigration.
Targeting ‘Republicans in name only’
Out of a small office in Phoenix, another Trump supporter, physician Kelli Ward, is running her campaign for the U.S. Senate. Ward is a former Arizona state senator who challenged U.S. Senator John McCain in the 2016 Republican primary election.
She lost a hard-fought race, but has embarked on another run, this time against Arizona’s junior senator, Republican Jeff Flake. She says both McCain and Flake are Republican in name, but are not conservative — or real Trump supporters — on a range of important issues, such as illegal immigration.
“I see the effects ... on our health care system,” she said, endorsing the president’s crackdown on unauthorized migrants.
She looks to Trump to reverse the ACA, to cut taxes and to make more cautious use of the U.S. military. Her husband, Michael, has spent more than 30 years in the U.S. military, either on active duty or as a reservist.
“We shouldn’t be doing nation-building,” she said. “We shouldn’t be doing expensive, endless occupations around the world.”
She also believes that Trump will provide better support for military veterans than Democrats have.
Supporter: ‘Trump is fighting’
A supporter of Kelli Ward, and Donald Trump, Frank Lister of Phoenix got involved in politics because of his Catholic faith and issues like abortion, which he opposes.
“It’s been frustrating to a conservative that we send people to Washington and they don’t really do anything,” Lister said. “I don’t care if they lose, but they have to put up a fight.” He says that Trump is fighting.
Lister opposes same-sex marriage, saying that “people can do what they want, but ... redefining what marriage is, I think that’s a problem.”
Arizonans are divided on Trump. A recent poll shows that just more than half of the state’s voters from all parties oppose a key Trump promise to build a wall along the U.S. southern border with Mexico. Republicans support the president on that and other issues, however.
The poll did not ask about Trump’s temporary ban on refugees and people from seven largely Muslim countries, an executive order placed on hold by the courts, but the Republicans who spoke with VOA strongly support it.
Still, Ward’s husband, physician Michael Ward, says conservatives will make a mistake if they always agree with the president.
Fears about Trump overusing his powers
“And I would have liked to have seen the (travel ban) executive order roll out a little bit differently,” he said. “However, I support what he’s trying to do. I believe that what he’s doing is constitutional, within his powers. The fear is that he’s going to overstep his powers, and I think that we have to be the check on that as well.”
Kelli Ward says that Trump, a businessman, is doing what he needs to.
“He knows how to come in and do a corporate takeover,” Ward said, “and really, that’s what he’s had to do after eight years of Obama.”
The Wards welcome Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” of Washington politics.
“There are the guys in there with all the money trying to get their way,” said Michael Ward, “and there are the politicians willing to listen to one lobbyist over the hundreds of thousands of people, or millions of people, that they represent.”
He is hopeful that will change under the new president.