Old police memorabilia — badges, patches and medals — line the south wall of Gordon “Buzz” Hackett Jr.’s garage.
The retired U.S. Park Policeman has built himself a veritable law enforcement museum — a shrine — on his quiet stretch of SaddleBrooke.
“Patches … I got ’em all,” Hackett said, using a retractable pointer to detail each and every portion of his collection.
Seemingly as equally prized as his police trinkets, though, was a collection of Republican Party mementos — signed pictures mostly, from the likes of George W. Bush and John McCain, thanking him for his contributions to the campaigns.
Hackett opened his garage on a recent Friday afternoon — stocked it with soft drinks, finger foods, wine and beer — to celebrate a pair of local GOP election wins.
You heard that right.
The GOP managed to win a few key races last month, picking up an Arizona Senate seat in Legislative District 26 and the Pinal County Sheriff’s seat, among some others.
Newly minted state Sen. Al Melvin and Pinal Sheriff-elect Paul Babeu were the guests of honor in Hackett’s garage. About 30 or so turned out for the soiree.
Melvin and Babeu handily won both precincts in SaddleBrooke, running up nearly 2-to-1 margins of victory. Other Republicans performed nearly as well in the neighborhood.
The numbers bolster suggestions by many that SaddleBrooke is fast becoming a force in local and state politics, according to Arizona Republic Party Secretary Linda White.
White this year served as the GOP field organizer for Southern Arizona, and she saw the beginnings of a vaunted political operation in the form of the SaddleBrooke Republican Club.
In 2006, the outfit had just 25 members. This year, it has about 625 members, making it the largest GOP club west of the Mississippi River, according to White.
It’s a point of pride for Melvin.
“We’re organized,” he said Nov. 21.
And, from that base of support, Melvin, who narrowly lost the LD26 Senate race in 2006, built his campaign.
He knocked on enough doors to win even in Pima County, albeit by a slim margin, defeating Democrat Cheryl Cage.
Statewide, the GOP strengthened its legislative majorities in the House and Senate.
“I’m hoping we can strike while the iron is hot with a conservative governor and Legislature,” Melvin told the gathering.
He spoke of Secretary of State Jan Brewer’s likely ascension to the governor’s mansion once Janet Napolitano leaves for a cabinet post in Obama’s fledgling administration.
“If someone’s looking for a boilerplate way to run a campaign, then Al Melvin’s the guy to give it to them,” said Fred MacKenzie, one of SaddleBrooke’s nearly 30 GOP precinct committeemen. “He worked hard.”
Analyzing Melvin’s victory, White suggested that it was his go-getter nature that ultimately paid dividends.
He lost narrowly in 2006, by about 450 votes.
He immediately informed folks in SaddleBrooke, especially those who had worked tirelessly to elect him, that he would run again, White said.
This time around, Melvin trolled for more and more votes, especially in the Pima County portion of the LD26.
He locked in support in Dove Mountain and Rancho Vistoso, White said. But, his ascension began in SaddleBrooke.
Babeu attended several meetings in SaddleBrooke during his upstart bid to unseat Democratic incumbent Sheriff Chris Vasquez. And, in a sweeping countywide victory, he doubled up Vasquez in SaddleBrooke.
“I’m going to be very active in SaddleBrooke,” Babeu told the crowd in Hackett’s garage, as if paying a sort of political tribute.
None seemed more proud to receive it than Hackett himself, who, for a time, had blared patriotic tunes from the stereo of his car parked in the driveway.
How they did
SaddleBrooke has just two of Pinal County’s 88 precincts, but the community delivered big margins for Sheriff-elect Paul Babeu and state Sen.-elect Al Melvin, both Republicans.
Precinct 8 (SaddleBrooke West)
Senate District 26
Melvin — 58%
Cage — 41%
Babeu — 60%
Vasquez — 39%
Precinct 15 (SaddleBrooke East)
Senate District 26
Melvin — 61%
Cage — 39%
Babeu — 59%
Vasquez — 41%