We were sad to learn that Dr. Margaret Kenski has passed away after a long battle with cancer. We send our condolences to Hank, their daughters, and their grandchildren. We join in mourning her loss with the many throughout Arizona who had the honor of knowing and working with her.
HighGround’s Robert Johnson first met Hank and Margaret Kenski in 1984 while he was covering Jim Kolbe’s second bid for Congress as a radio reporter. The accuracy of their polling was unlike anything else anyone had seen at that time. He was always impressed how they called races against the conventional wisdom and were proven correct time and again.
Our Chuck Coughlin and Doug Cole first started working with Margaret during the Symington Re-Elect in 1994. By that time, the Kenskis were already a mainstay in Arizona politics particularly for their work with then Congressman Jon Kyl. Margaret conducted all of the tracking polling during the Symington re-election campaign and was the bearer of good news during the 28 point come from behind victory. It was during this campaign that Chuck really learned the value of good data from Bill McInturff with Public Opinion Strategies and Margaret, who Chuck affectionately called “M”.
Chuck continued to call her “M” throughout their entire relationship and he will deeply miss his frequent calls with “M” and the wisdom and insight she provided to him and to HighGround throughout our now 19 year run.
Margaret was kind enough to mentor Paul Bentz and help put his mathematics background to good use in several statewide and local initiatives in the early 2000’s. She was always willing to explain her thinking and help him learn how to conduct surveys. Though he didn’t have her class in school, Paul considers Margaret his favorite professor and a teacher of a lifetime of wisdom.
We have used national pollsters, but Margaret really showed us the value of working with someone who truly understood Arizona. We could count on her to tell us the truth, whether it was good news or bad news. More than that, she offered a unique and academic opinion on key issues — often challenging the conventional “political wisdom” and making us all better for the experience.
With most campaigns, Republican women were often the “swing” constituency who had to be convinced. Margaret was the quintessential Republican woman. She often had the best arguments and challenged the way we thought about critical issues. Her counsel and insight live on in our souls, but will never be replaced. We can already feel her absence.
More than anything, Margaret was fun to be around and a pleasure to talk to. She had a wry sense of humor and a no nonsense attitude. At the same time, she was always the perfect facilitator for focus groups putting interviewees at ease and getting them to open up.
We truly miss Margaret. The name of her company was Arizona Opinion and she delivered accurate assessments of the opinions of Arizonans year after year. More importantly, everyone valued her individual opinion very highly, and she shaped Arizona’s public policy more that anyone ever knew.
God bless you Margaret Kenski. You left Arizona a better place and all of us who were privileged to know you, better people.