Tucson was supposed to be one of the key battlegrounds nationally this year where Democrats would try to pry loose a Republican-held House seat in their effort to regain the majority.
In some ways, it looks as if the GOP abandoned the seat for the second time in a year to focus on other races.
Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick, a three-term congressional veteran from northeastern Arizona, moved into Tucson in 2017 to run for the seat held by U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz.
But McSally wound up running for the Senate and Republicans largely pulled out of the 2nd Congressional District race weeks ago with GOP hopeful Lea Marquez Peterson trailing in the polls and GOP incumbents struggling in competitive races across the country.
Kirkpatrick enters Election Day expected to successfully complete her second political comeback. If she does, it could tip the state’s nine-member House delegation from a 5-4 Republican majority to a one-seat edge for Democrats.
Kirkpatrick, who regained the House seat she lost in 2010 two years later, has been out of office since her 2016 Senate loss to the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Kirkpatrick’s new district is Arizona’s most evenly divided, with Democrats holding a nearly 2-percentage point registration advantage. About a year ago, the major parties had almost identical totals there.
Almost immediately after the 2016 election, the 2nd District took on outsized importance for Democrats. On the same night McSally won re-election by 14 percentage points, Democrat Hillary Clinton carried the district by nearly 5 points over now-President Donald Trump.
Kirkpatrick has refashioned herself in the new district, combining more liberal rhetoric in some cases with her more familiar pragmatism.
She attacked Marquez Peterson as someone who would help empower Republicans to cut Social Security and Medicare in the future.
Kirkpatrick urged restraint on the question of impeaching Trump, saying publicly she would not support such proceedings without a proper investigation. In a recorded conversation shared by Republicans Kirkpatrick seemed more enthusiastic about impeachment if it made it to a vote in the House.
As she has for years, Kirkpatrick often touted her support for the Affordable Care Act.
Marquez Peterson, the CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, ran a low-budget, low-profile campaign in the district, noting her support for stepped-up border security, including a wall, and repealing and replacing the ACA.
Recent history suggests Democrats have the upper hand in this GOP-held district that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton carried in 2016.
It’s been 28 years since the president’s party won an open House seat held by his party in a district that last voted for the other party’s presidential nominee. In at least 20 cases since then, the president’s party has lost every time.
Regardless of who wins, the Tucson area will have its fourth member of Congress in seven years.
Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat, held the seat that largely resembled the current district for three terms until 2012, when she resigned after being shot in the head in a massacre near Tucson.
Ron Barber, a district director for Giffords who was wounded in the same shooting, replaced Giffords in a 2012 special election and won a full term later that year.
McSally narrowly lost to Barber in 2012 and beat him in the closest House race in the country in 2014 to win her current seat.
The district includes most of Tucson and runs south and east to the border with Mexico and New Mexico. It includes Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.