Is Arizona Ready to Turn Blue? The Numbers Look Promising
Last year, the state of Virginia culminated its transformation from one of the most Republican states to electing a Democratic controlled legislature for the first time in a generation.
What will be the next state to transform from a dependable Republican to swing state or better, maybe the Grand Canyon State?
Reviewing the numbers, Mitt Romney in 2012 won the state by 9.0% (208,000 votes). Hillary Clinton shrank that margin to 3.5%, (91,000 votes), in 2016.
The midterm election of 2018 showed progress with Democratic Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema winning with 50.0% to 47.6% for Martha McSally. However, the incumbent Republican Governor, Doug Ducey, won 56.0% to 41.8%. Arizona’s second congressional district flipped to the Democrats giving them a 5 to 4 advantage in the US House delegation. (See Table 4 below.) The state should gain one congressional district in 2022 and has an Independent Redistricting Commission.
In the Arizona legislature, Democrats gained four seats in the lower house in 2018 and now have 29 seats in the 60 seat chamber (Democrats hold 13 of the 30 state senate seats.). Democrats won the statewide offices of Secretary of State and Education Superintendent, a good showing. (See Table 3 below.)
Voter participation in 2018 was the highest in 36 years for a midterm election. The state usually ranks about 43rd in turnout so there is still a vast number of potential voters to reach.
Arizona Is Only 10% Rural
One of the main reasons that Arizona looks so promising, is its relative lack of rural residents. It is a well known phenomenon that white rural citizens vote Republican in the age of Trump while suburban and urban voters are increasingly Democrats. Only 10% of Arizona’s population is considered rural by the US Census Bureau (some of those are Native American or Hispanic). Most voters live in two large urban areas. Maricopa County (Phoenix) has 61% of the state’s residents, and Pima County (Tucson) has another 14%.
Arizona is a retirement state which accounts for some of its Republican leanings. About 17.5% of residents are over the age of 65 while 16% is the US average. Overall, it is not a highly educated state. Some 28.4% of Arizonans have bachelor degrees or better compared to 30.9% nationally. Arizona is $3000 below average in per capita income.
Mormons, McCain, and Flake
Another bulwark of the Republican Party in the west is the Mormon vote. Utah is the only predominantly Republican state that borders Arizona. California, New Mexico, and Colorado have clearly moved toward the Democrats in the last generation and Nevada seems likely on the same path.
But Mormons make up only 5.7% of Arizona residents and their loyalty to Trump, if not the Republican Party, is questionable. Mitt Romney has been Trump’s harshest critic among Republican Senators, and Trump basically forced Jeff Flake out of the Senate. Romney and Flake are both Mormons.
And then there is Trump versus John McCain. McCain, who served Arizona as Senator for more than 30 years, was ridiculed by Trump to such a degree that Trump was not invited to McCain’s funeral. Though it is unlikely to be a major factor, some of those who revere McCain might be reluctant to vote for Trump.
The Southwest Is Becoming More Diverse
Not to rehash discussions of immigration, but Arizona is certainly at the heart of it. Maybe because the population of white people is declining and the powers that be fear Arizona will soon lose white domination following it’s neighboring states. For the record, the Census Bureau says 13.2% of Arizonans are foreign born compared to 12.8% of the US. Of those born under another flag, 61.6% are from Latin America and 20.9% were born in Asia.
Arizona has been at the center of the immigration wars and being a border state with a growing percentage of Hispanics, that seems likely to continue. Republicans have every reason to worry that they are losing their grip as the percentage of white residents decline.
Possibly adding fuel to this fire is the announced candidacy of Joe Arpaio to regain his former position of sheriff of Maricopa County. He lost his long held job in 2016 to Paul Penzone in 2016 by 56.3% to 43.3% after many controversies and lawsuits, many involving discrimination against minorities. He was found in contempt of court but pardoned by Trump.
In any event, if the Republicans nominate him despite his 87 years, it could fuel hyper turnout by both sides in the Arizona’s most populous county.
About a quarter of Hispanics who cast a ballot in 2018 (27%) said they were voting in a midterm for the first time, compared with 18% of black voters and 12% of white voters, according to the exit polls. Meanwhile, many new voters this year were young. A majority of voters younger than 30 said they were voting in a midterm for the first time…
Latinos made up a notable share of eligible voters in several states with competitive races for U.S. Senate and governor, including Texas (30%), Arizona (23%), Florida (20%) and Nevada (19%). In these states, Democrats won the Latino vote, sometimes by a wide margin.
Democrats are increasing in registration faster than Republicans. Of course, more people register in presidential election years than other years, so we can hope to improve these numbers.
|Arizona Party Registration||
|Republicans No Party
Mark Kelly Is a Strong Candidate for Senator
After losing the Senate race in 2018, Republican Martha McSally was appointed to fill out John McCain’s senate term by Governor Brewer. Former astronaut Mark Kelly is expected to be the Democratic candidate in 2020. He is also the husband of former congressperson Gabby Giffords who was shot in the head in 2011 but survived the assassination attempt.
A poll by OH Predictive Insights shows Kelly leads Republican appointed Senator Martha McSally 47% to 44%.
Kelly holds a 10-point lead in Maricopa County, which contributes about 60 percent of the statewide vote. Only one statewide candidate in recent memory has won Arizona without carrying Maricopa. He leads among independent voters by a 51 percent to 37 percent margin.McSally, meanwhile, holds a substantial 22-point advantage in the state’s rural communities. She leads Kelly among white voters by a single point, but he holds an overwhelming 58 percent to 32 percent edge among Hispanic voters, the poll shows.
After visiting Arizona and Wisconsin in the past few weeks (and reviewing the data), I’m tempted to predict the 2020 Dem nominee will win a higher share in AZ than WI – no matter the outcome.
|Sec. of State||Hobbs||50.4%||Gaynor||49.5%|
|Attorney Gen.||Contreras||48.3%||Brnovich (I)||51.7%|
|CD||Dem/Rep 2018||2016 Pres.||2016 Cong.|
|1st||53.8/46.2||R +1||D +7||northeast|
|2nd||flipped||54.7/45.3||D +5||R +14||southeast|
|3rd||63.9/36.1||D +30||No Con.||south|
|4th||30.5/68.2||R +40||R +43||west/central|
|5th||40.6/59.4||R +21||R +28||Maricopa|
|6th||44.8/55.2||R +10||R +24||Maricopa|
|7th||85.8/–||D +49||D +50||Maricopa|
|9th||61.1/38.9||D +16||D +22||Maricopa|