Libby Cathey is one of seven ABC News campaign reporters embedded in battleground states ahead of the November midterms.
Cathey is based in Arizona. Below, she recaps the closing days on the trail.
See more of Cathey's work with the embed team and anchor George Stephanopoulos on Hulu's "Power Trip: Those Who Seek Power and Those Who Chase Them."
The final week on the midterm campaign trail saw major political star power in swing states including Arizona.
Both Democratic and Republican candidates brought out big names -- from former President Barack Obama to former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon -- to wring out every single vote in the final stretch of razor-thin races which will determine the control of Congress and President Joe Biden's ability to further his legislative goals.
"Arizona has a rendezvous with destiny next Tuesday," Bannon told hundreds at a Nov. 1 rally in Chandler with GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake.
A day later, Obama warned hundreds more in South Phoenix, "Democracy, as we know it, may not survive in Arizona."
For me, this week was a test in using my news judgment -- and maintaining bravery while doing my job in front of some who cast me as the enemy.
With candidates ramping up their schedules -- "no sleep until Election Day," as my fellow embed Paulina Tam put it on a recent episode of "Power Trip: Those Who Seek Power and Those Who Chase Them" -- we are forced to make tough choices, especially in the final days, because we can't be in two places at once. Although we try!
Sometimes, I'll livestream one candidate's rally while at a roundtable for another. (One trick I've learned to keep up with potential headlines is to turn on Twitter notifications for all of the candidates I'm covering and for other reporters on the trail who are juggling just like me.)
Having to make tough cuts last weekend, I decided to travel to Tucson on Sunday, my fourth and likely last chance to visit the city before I leave my Arizona assignment, to cover a rally with senior citizens for Katie Hobbs, the Democratic nominee for governor. I covered a rally with the GOP statewide slate the night before, so I'm doing my best to divide my time and follow the news.
But on Sunday morning, as I was packing up to drive from Phoenix, my new friend Vaughn Hilliard at NBC broke news (which I caught via those Twitter notifications) that a staffer for Hobbs' opponent, Lake, had opened mail containing a suspicious white substance, prompting the FBI, a hazardous materials crew and a bomb squad to shut down her campaign office two days before the election.
’Power Trip: Those Who Seek Power and Those Who Chase Them’is now streaming on Hulu.
"Power Trip" follows 7 young reporters as they chase down candidates in the lead up to the midterms with George Stephanopoulos guiding them along the way.
I opened Twitter to see Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican who has faced dozens of threats himself after the 2020 election, calling on the public to "DO BETTER. THIS IS WRONG." Phoenix police said later Sunday that there had been no reported injuries but the investigation was ongoing.
I thought back to two weeks earlier, when Hobbs had a break-in at her campaign office and condemned Lake’s rhetoric in a statement when confirming the burglary. Lake called it “Jussie Smollett Part Two" -- referring to an actor who was convicted of faking an attack on himself -- and blasted Hobbs for appearing to tie her name to the break-in when Lake's campaign had no involvement.
Arizona residents have also reported being under scrutiny when casting their ballots amid a culture of suspicion about certain kinds of voting. As my colleague Ali Dukakis reported on Monday, a total of 18 complaints related to alleged intimidation at ballot drop box locations have so far been referred to the Justice Department by the state Secretary of State’s office, according to spokesperson Sophia Solis.
Ali and I previously reported that some of those election complaints described individuals filming and photographing voters as they returned their ballots and, in some cases, taking photographs of the voters' license plates. One report described individuals dressed in "camo-clad gear."
It's a tense time, and any feelings of fear or intimidation here are not unfounded. I feel them, too.
Not even 10 days ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband was attacked and seriously injured in his home. San Francisco police said the assault wasn’t random and two sources previously told ABC News that the suspect had shouted, “Where’s Nancy?”
Sen. Mark Kelly -- whose wife, former Rep. Gabby Giffords, survived an assassination attempt and mass shooting in Tucson in 2011 -- called it an act of political violence.
"It's a horrible situation," Kelly told me after a canvassing event. "There's no place in the United States of America for individuals to be attacking or attempting to attack members of Congress or anybody who serves in public office. Folks are trying to do their job."
Lake, at a campaign event last week, when talking about keeping children safe in schools, made an offhand comment that "apparently" Pelosi's "house doesn’t have a lot of protection." Democrats and Lake critics condemned the language, but Lake told me she didn’t make light of the attack.
"I can be responsible for myself," she said at a gaggle, or gathering, of reporters. "I can't be responsible for others."
'Day of reckoning'
Lake is running with a slate of Republican nominees endorsed by former President Donald Trump who deny the validity of the 2020 election -- Mark Finchem, Abe Hamadeh and Blake Masters.
I've watched the lineup develop their stump speeches over the past three months, with Hamadeh, who is running to be the state's top law enforcement officer, in particular leaning into attack lines on the press.
"They claim they are guardians of democracy. They're the biggest threat to democracy," Hamadeh said Thursday in Scottsdale. "Their power and influence is waning, and Nov. 8 will be their day of reckoning!"
That line prompted many to their feet, and at least one older man turned around and started taking photos of me, one of the few women (and the only one without a camera person, since I'm what we call a "one-man band") on the press line that night. I felt very uncomfortable, but I had to continue doing my job.
Three nights earlier, at a rally with the other GOP candidates in Scottsdale, Hamadeh delivered similar statements.
"They're claiming that they're guardians of democracy. They're the propaganda arm of the Democratic Party," he said to cheers and chants, vowing to "fight" us in the newsroom and courtroom.
That night, we were outdoors in a public, open-air space. I remember thinking, "One of us is going to get shot one day."
After that event, a rally attendee came over to the press pin to call us "fake news," a label that was popularized by Trump during the 2016 campaign. When a reporter in the pin challenged him, it soon turned into a shouting match, with the two men inches from one another's face.
After Lake gaggled with reporters, I packed up and left. But it wasn't so easy to shake what I'd seen and heard.
I can only hope it gets better.
"Power Trip: Those Who Seek Power and Those Who Chase Them" is available now on Hulu.