PHOENIX –Kristin Urquiza, whose father died in June after a weeks-long battle against complications caused by COVID-19, blamed President Donald Trump and a failure of leadership for his death during her national, prime-time remarks on the first day of the Democratic National Convention on Monday.
Urquiza, 39, who lives in San Francisco and studied public policy, also has blamed Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey for the loss of her father.
In a brief but powerful straight-to-camera appearance, with family photos interspersed throughout, Urquiza spoke for fewer than three minutes, offering a searing rebuke of the Trump administration.
“The coronavirus has made it clear that there are two Americas, the America that Donald Trump lives in, and the America that my father died in,” she said. “Enough is enough. Donald Trump may not have caused the coronavirus, but his dishonesty and irresponsible actions made it so much worse.”
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Urquiza said the U.S. needs a leader who approaches the pandemic from a data-driven, science-based perspective.
Earlier this summer, in a blistering obituary for her father, Mark Anthony Urquiza, Urquiza blamed his death on the “carelessness of the politicians who continue to jeopardize the health of brown bodies” by failing to provide clear leadership and acknowledgment of the pandemic’s severity.
The obituary went viral. She invited Ducey to the funeral, but he did not take her up on the invitation. Weeks later, a letter from presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden showed up in her home mailbox.
In the letter, shared with The Arizona Republic, Biden expresses sympathies for her father’s loss.
Americans, he wrote, are having to comfort each other to absorb the pain.
“The family bonds that Mark spent his life strengthening are meant for times like these,” Biden’s July 21 letter said. “They’re meant for you to lean on to share some of those burdens that are terribly difficult to bear alone. And they’re meant to continue to grow in your love and care for one another, no matter the adversity.
“The day will come when the memory of your dad will bring a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. My prayer for you and your family is that day comes sooner rather than later.”
Urquiza joined a line-up of Democratic Party luminaries — and some Republicans — scheduled to speak Monday night, which had the theme of “We the People.” She delivered her speech immediately after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and well before former First Lady Michelle Obama was set to close the first night of the convention.
The event, initially planned to take place in Milwaukee, is being held by video from satellite locations across the country.
Urquiza spoke from her dining room.
Her remarks were powered by grief and anger, two sentiments that have helped her come to terms with the loss of her father, who, like many Arizonans, struggled to reconcile the seriousness of the novel virus with the messaging that was coming from the president and Ducey, who allowed his initial stay-in-shelter order to expire.
Her father heeded the initial order but, after it ended, she said he was under the impression that it was safe to resume his normal life.
Her dad, she said, had faith in Trump.
“He voted for him, listened to him, believed him and his mouthpieces when they said that coronavirus was under control and going to disappear,” she said.
So in late May, after Arizona’s stay-at-home order ended, she said, her father went to a karaoke bar with his friends.
A day after falling ill June 11, he tested positive for COVID-19. His condition declined even after spending days on a high-oxygen treatment. He was put on a ventilator. The effects of the virus sapped from him his boundless energy for his family and zest for life. He died on June 30 at the age of 65.
“He died alone, in the ICU, with a nurse holding his hand,” she said. “My dad was a healthy 65-year-old. His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump and for that, he paid with his life.”
One of the last things the father said to her, she said, was that he “felt betrayed by the likes of Donald Trump. And so, when I cast my vote for Joe Biden, I will do it for my dad.”
Since his death, Urquiza has been outspoken in calling out what she deems a leadership vacuum at the federal, state and local levels.
Dozens of people, particularly people of color, have turned to her for advice as they navigate their families’ own situations, she said.
“Whether it’s people who have lost a loved one, or teachers going back to school who are nervous about the reopening plans or lack thereof in their area,” she said during a phone interview on Monday ahead of her speech. “While I’m honored and have been trying my best to be able to provide as much support as possible, I think that just demonstrates further that people in the U.S. are scared. They need more direction, clear advice and direction on how to mitigate risk and the coronavirus. People are so desperate that they’re reaching out to me.
“I’m not a doctor, I’m not an epidemiologist. I’m just a daughter who is missing her dad and decided to not be quiet about why he passed.”
Over the course of her life, her politics have shifted, she said.
In high school, she was part of her school’s Republican club. She said she has been a registered independent and is now a registered Democrat. These days, she identifies with the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
She supports candidates who are focused on “helping those who need the most help,” particularly on the issues of health care and the environment.
Urquiza works at a nonprofit that advocates for the protection of the environment. She just graduated from the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.
To prepare for her big moment, Urquiza spent the past few weeks writing down her feelings and thoughts in a journal, talking to her partner, Christine Keeves, and reflecting on why she is excited to vote for Biden.
For her family, the moment is a defining one.
Her mom, she said, has never been all that political.
“For her, she sees me as continuing to fight for my dad when others failed him,” she said. “She couldn’t be more proud and she keeps telling me every day that my dad is just over-the-moon proud of me. It’s not the same as hearing it from him, but I do know that’s true.”
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