5 things to watch for in Arizona on Election Day

It looks like Arizona will have higher-than-average turnout this election.

And there are likely to be a couple nail-biters as polls have shown several major races within striking distance for Democrats, who still hold a voter registration disadvantage here. 

As the results come in Tuesday, here are five key things to watch:

1. Blue wave or low tide?

For the past year, Democrats have talked of a “blue wave” hitting Congress and Arizona as a reaction to President Donald Trump’s first two years in office, like a reversal of the 2010 midterm election that saw the rise of the tea party.

While it’s true the state increasingly is seen as a battleground by national money-men and prognosticators, is Arizona really turning purple? Will Democrats in the traditionally Republican-dominated state be able to pull off some big wins?

Some statewide races, like the state schools superintendent and secretary of state, saw GOP incumbents fall in the primary, leaving Democrats with a better chance to pick up a win. Both the superintendent and secretary of state’s races are close in polls.

So far, early ballots show Republican-affiliated ballots still hold an advantage over Democratic-affiliated ones, though Democrat ballots have surged as Election Day nears. But it’s important to note that a ballot from a Republican voter doesn’t mean that person voted for all Republicans, and some Democrats, like U.S. Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema, have run as centrists to court those crossovers. 

Most Arizona voters, about three-fourths, vote by mail-in ballots. 

But as of Friday, Democrats had narrowed the gap in early ballots over the past week. Republicans had a 7.9-point early ballot advantage as of Friday. The final split of early ballots in 2014 was +11.1 GOP. 

2. Year of the woman?

Arizona will have its first female senator.

But it’s a coin flip over which one it will be. Polls have shown Sinema and Republican Martha McSally trading the top spot by only a point or two. Pundits have called Sinema the best hope for Democrats to win a statewide election in Arizona this cycle.

A Sinema win would give Democrats their first U.S. Senate victory since 1988 when Dennis DeConcini took a seat. 

Beyond the top of the ticket, women are running for races at all levels. Five of the nine U.S. House races include at least one female candidate. Five of the seven statewide elections include a woman. 

Women have so far edged out men on returning early ballots, too. Overall, they made up more than 51 percent of the returned ballots as of Friday. For Democratic-affiliated ballots, that number grew to more than 57 percent.

3. Will young people vote?

National groups like NextGen America have spent big money in Arizona this cycle to register new voters, many of whom are younger than 40. 

There are more new early voters ages 18 to 34 than any other age group.

But that stands to reason: Older voters are more likely to have registered in previous elections, while younger people may only be eligible for the first time this year.

The number of newly registered young voters is much higher this year than in 2014, though. 

It remains to be seen whether these new voters will vote. Historically, young voters are the least likely to turn out.

A report from the Morrison Institute for Public Policy found only 19 percent of votes cast in the 2016 election in Arizona came from Millennials, while 37 percent came from Baby Boomers, despite the fact that there are more Millennials than boomers here.

4. Could the Arizona Senate flip?

A handful of Arizona Senate races have offered Democrats hope of splitting party control. 

Now, Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of the state Legislature and control the Governor’s Office, meaning the budget is crafted by one party and major legislative proposals often don’t include input from the minority party. 

In the Senate, Republicans hold 17 seats to the Democrats’ 13. Two wins from Democrats of Republican-held seats, while maintaining the 13 they currently have, would split control of the chamber, giving Democrats a negotiating seat.

If they win three, Democrats would control the Senate, though the House would likely remain Republican-controlled. 

The last split Senate was in 2001-2002. 

There are seven key races to monitor for a potential split or Democratic-controlled Senate: Legislative Districts 6, 8, 17, 18, 20, 21 and 28. 

5. Will money talk?

This year’s races have brought in mega spending from both inside and outside of Arizona. But will money be a major deciding factor for races that saw big stacks of cash? 

A battle over clean energy led to the most expensive ballot measure in Arizona history, with more than $40 million spent in total. 

The parent company of Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest utility, spent big to oppose Proposition 127, a measure that would require the state to get half of its power from renewable sources by 2030. Polls have shown the measure trailing. The utility spent more than the group backing the measure.

In the governor’s race, Gov. Doug Ducey has raised nearly $6 million, while his Democratic challenger, David Garcia, has raised about $2 million. That doesn’t include the many millions in outside spending by groups boosting Ducey. 

Conventional wisdom says candidates need big money in statewide races to spend on television ads and other outreach to voters. But other states have seen upsets from newcomers with less money this year. Could Arizona be next?

Reporters Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, Ronald J. Hansen, Dustin Gardiner and Ryan Randazzo contributed to this story. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *