Cheers, tears from Arizona delegation as Clinton gives historic acceptance speech

PHILADELPHIA – Tucson resident Joseline Mata, a Hillary Clinton delegate from the beginning, was crying in the stands of the Democratic National Convention Thursday as Clinton accepted the party’s nomination, the first woman in history to do so.

“It was amazing,” Mata said. “Every single issue that she touched on is important to me and she just really reflects what we as Americans care about. And it just, still in shock.”

For Clinton, it was the end of a road that began eight years ago with a loss to then-Sen. Barack Obama.

But Clinton was endorsed Wednesday by Obama and the night before that by her dogged challenger in this campaign, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose diehard supporters threatened to disrupt this convention.

By Thursday, Clinton was able to stride on stage to a two-minute standing ovation as the crowd waved American flags and chants of “Hillary! Hillary!”

She wrapped up the sometimes-contentious four-day convention with an hour-long acceptance speech that pushed an agenda focused on unity – in the Democratic Party, the United States and the world – as she slammed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for creating division and fear.

Clinton even left some Sanders supporters emotional and excited to support her candidacy heading into the general election in November. Arizona delegate Jeffrey Tucker said Clinton’s speech was his “favorite part of the night” by far.

“I am a Bernie Sanders delegate but I am thrilled to have Hillary Clinton going to be our next president of the United States,” Tucker said.

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Clinton’s speech followed hours of introductory speeches by scores of elected officials from around the country.

Arizona delegate and former Rep. Ron Barber had said before the speech started that he hoped to hear a concrete plan from the Democratic nominee.

“I hope she would lay out her presidency for the next four years so we know exactly what she has in mind,” Barber said.

“We didn’t hear that at the Republican convention at all. We heard a lot of insults,” Barber said. “Tonight, I believe we will hear an actual plan for the betterment of our people and our country.”

Clinton gave Barber just that, hitting on issues of climate change, immigration reform, gun violence and economic recovery – encouraging everyone who believes in her stances on these to join her.

“Whatever party to belong to, or if you belong to no party at all, if you share these beliefs, this is your campaign,” Clinton said.

She reminded the crowd that she is not new to the podium and hit on her experience as first lady, New York senator and secretary of state. But the said that the service part of “public service” has always come easier to her than the public.

She took on some of the issues central to the Sanders movement – income inequality, free college and overturning Citizens United, the Supreme Court case that opened the door to unlimited campaign spending – as she pushed for unity and thanked Sanders for inspiring youth with his campaign.

None of the week’s earlier contention among Sanders delegates was present in the Arizona delegation, whose members were on their feet waving signs with images of Clinton’s face on sticks.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, was one of Sanders’ earliest supporters in Congress, but he said Thursday that he was very impressed with the case Clinton made for party unity.

“I thought it was excellent,” Grijalva said. “She made the cause for unity even stronger than it’s been all of these three days. So, unabashedly very good speech and I’m proud to be helping her.”

The crowd was largely receptive of Clinton’s speech, as chants of “Hillary!” and “USA!” filled the arena at times during the speech that Arizona delegates described as “history-making.”

Despite the shock and emotion, Clinton supporters also looked forward to the work ahead to ensure that Clinton wins in the November election.

“I thought it was fantastic and I’m pumped and we’re going to get out there and we’re going to work,” said Arizona delegate Doug Ballard. “There’s just too much at stake.”

Overall, the speech left Arizonans at the convention optimistic for the chances of a future with a Clinton White House.

“There were plans, we have a plan, we know what her vision is and it’s filled with hope for our future and not just our future but our children’s future and our grandchildren’s future,” said delegate Charlene Fernandez. “I am very happy.”

– Lily Altavena, Keisha Butts and Kelsey DeGideo contributed to this report.