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Does Hillary’s biggest fan live in Bisbee?

Artist started Hillary Clinton Army; met politician after town raised money to send her to Tucson event

Gretchen Baer, who runs the El-Change-O! Gallery in Bisbee, is the organizer of the Hillary Clinton Army. She is standing in front of a banner of her painting of Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Gretchen Baer, who runs the El-Change-O! Gallery in Bisbee, is the organizer of the Hillary Clinton Army. She is standing in front of a banner of her painting of Sen. Hillary Clinton.

SIERRA VISTA – When it comes to Hillary Rodham Clinton supporters, Gretchen Baer tops the list.

As founder of the Hillary Clinton Army, the Bisbee artist has been actively recruiting troops for Clinton’s campaign. Baer has been throwing parties in her El-Change-O! Bisbee art studio in Clinton’s honor, the latest a 60th birthday party held Oct. 26.

“When we started this, the goal was to put the ‘party’ back into the Democratic Party,” Baer said. “Our concept from the very beginning was to run a Hillary campaign and have a lot of fun doing it.”

For years now – even before Bill Clinton was president – Baer has been a huge Clinton fan. When the former first lady announced her candidacy, Baer came up with the idea of starting the Hillary Clinton Army, a campaign that not only generated support in Bisbee, but also caught on in other areas.

“Because we throw the best parties in town, people want to belong to the Army,” Baer said, jokingly. “Joining the Army is an automatic invite to all the parties.”

The Army, which started with a small group of Bisbee supporters, has grown to about 150 people locally and 250 people online.

“There are a couple of subchapters that have signed on,” Baer said. “We now have groups in Tucson, San Diego, San Francisco and other areas of the country.”

In keeping with the group’s good-time theme, the local chapter throws parties once a month.

“We have Hillary Happy Hour, Cocktails for Clinton and Debate Watch Parties.”

Baer’s efforts have not gone unnoticed.

“I got a phone call from a woman in Tucson who was a member of Arizonans for Hillary,” Baer said. “She put me on her e-mail list and I suggested that they come down here and see what we’re doing in Bisbee. And they did.”

Four women from Tucson traveled to Bisbee for a dinner party at the Loma Linda, a historic mansion owned by Mo McCoy, one of the Army’s core members. McCoy hosted the dinner party, an event that Baer describes as “an absolutely magical evening.”

“The women wanted to meet our members and see what kinds of things we were doing in Bisbee,” Baer said.

Baer had painted a portrait of Clinton, which was on display in her studio.

“They really seemed impressed by all the support Hillary was getting in Bisbee,” she said.

So it only seemed right that on Oct. 2, when Clinton was scheduled to stop in Tucson for an exclusive fundraiser luncheon at $2,300 a ticket, Baer should be there.

“We got together as a community and raised the money to send Gretchen to the luncheon,” said Dana Johnson, a Bisbee resident and Hillary Army member.

Determined to send Baer to the event, the Bisbee group held a Debate Watch Party at Johnson’s house with a cover charge of $50. In addition, Baer sold two pieces of her artwork and the community rallied to help raise the rest of the $2,300.

Eighty people attended Clinton’s luncheon fundraiser.

“I was so excited when we raised the money, and I knew I was really going,” Baer said. “I took the portrait with me, hoping I could get Hillary to sign it, but wasn’t sure if that would happen.”

Armed with a marker and the painting of Hillary, Baer drove to Tucson for the exclusive event.

“I was the only person there that had a whole community of people behind me,” Baer said.

There was such a flurry of activity after Clinton’s arrival, that Baer thought she would be in the background. To her surprise, the women who had made the trip to Bisbee told Clinton how the town had raised the money to send Baer to the luncheon.

They described the support she was receiving from Bisbee, told her about the Army and pointed out the portrait that Baer had painted.

“I was absolutely amazed,” Baer said. “When I asked Hillary to sign the painting, she took the marker and signed her name down low, right across the front of the picture. It was great.”

Baer, who says she really isn’t politically minded, believes Clinton’s influence touches on several cultural areas that have helped spark her political side.

“I’ve managed to take the things that I’m really good at, like art, music and throwing parties, and turn it into something fun and political. And it’s worked for me.”

New projects that Baer hopes to start include a “Traveling Hillary Clinton Art Show,” and maybe a “Hillary Clinton Art Car.”

“I just do silly things that work,” she said.

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