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Arizona's Election Races Turn To November

Published: Thursday, August 13, 2020 - 1:52pm
Updated: Thursday, August 13, 2020 - 2:05pm
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MARK BRODIE: With the primary election now behind us, it's time to look ahead to November, where there's of course plenty at stake in Arizona. The state has emerged as a battleground in not just the presidential election, but for control of Congress and control of the state legislature. Here to help fill us in on what's in store on the campaign trail these next few months is KJZZ's Ben Giles. Hey there, Ben.

BEN GILES: Good morning.

BRODIE: So, of course, the big questions involving the presidential race here: Is it possible Democrat Joe Biden could actually win Arizona's 11 electoral votes?

GILES: It would be a rare feat if Biden does. The only time a Democrat has won the presidential race in Arizona since before 1952 was Bill Clinton. He won in 1996. I think that if you're looking for any guidance on whether or not that could happen, you can look to the primary. There was a record turnout in Arizona in August — earlier this month, in August. Turnout grew for both parties, but the Democratic turnout growth outpaced the Republican turnout growth. So that's a positive sign for those who want to turn Arizona blue. And it's got the potential to impact not just the presidential election, but other races on the ticket.

BRODIE: All right. So one of those other races is, of course, the U.S. Senate race. Sen. Martha McSally had kind of a rough go of it two years ago when she lost to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in a race for an open Senate seat. What could be different this year?

GILES: Well, the one thing McSally must be counting on is the benefit of running as the incumbent. As you mentioned, she was appointed to another open Senate seat after she lost that election to Kyrsten Sinema. But now she can run as U.S. Sen. Martha McSally. That tends to make at least a little bit of a difference. But what we're seeing so far on the campaign trail now that we're past the primary is likely the same struggle that she had the last go-around. She's got to prove herself conservative enough for the Republican base in Arizona, but at the same time, she's got to try to appeal to independent voters, and we have not yet seen how they will shake out this year — if they'll favor Republicans or maybe favor Democrats. And as for her opponent, Democrat Mark Kelly, he's of course untested on the campaign, but still got plenty of name I.D., and he's polled very well so far.

BRODIE: All right. So, Ben, let's move to the state legislature now where — stop me if you've heard this one before — Democrats want to pick up enough seats in either the House or Senate to take control. Is this the year they actually might be able to do it?

GILES: I'll tell you the same thing I told people two years ago: I'll believe it when I see it. I've been covering Arizona campaigns for, this is the eighth year so far, and every year it seems we talk about, "Is Arizona turning blue? Can Democrats pick up enough seats to gain control of one of the chambers?" The House is certainly in play this year. I guess it's closer than ever before. There is only one seat majority for Republicans in the House of Representatives right now. So if Democrats can flip two seats blue, they get control of the House, and they get a major seat at the table in the legislative process. The Senate this year is trickier, but we're kind of looking at the same races we were in 2018. We have a rematch, in fact, in LD 28, in Phoenix. Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, a Republican, is again facing Democrat Christine Marsh. That was a hotly contested race two years ago. We'll see if maybe that district flips completely blue in November. But even if it does, that would not assure Democrats control of the Senate. They'd need to flip three seats to accomplish that.

BRODIE: All right, Ben, let me ask you, as we wrap up, about some ballot measures that have been proposed and supporters would like to see them on the ballot. Some have already been removed from the ballot. There are legal challenges with some of these. What is the status of some of those challenges, and what might voters actually get to decide in November?

GILES: Well, there were four initiatives that turned in signatures to qualify for the ballot. And none of them are a lost cause just yet, but there have been some differing opinions in Maricopa County, where the first round of legal challenges to initiatives are heard in court — the superior court here. A judge did throw, for the second campaign in a row, an initiative to raise taxes for education off the ballot. That decision is being appealed to the state Supreme Court right now. So we're anxiously awaiting to see whether the Supreme Court will uphold that ruling or let the Invest in Ed initiative go forward. There's also initiatives to change Arizona's sentencing laws and an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana, among others. So those have so far won in court, but those are also being appealed. Those wins are being appealed to the Supreme Court as well. So those seven justices will have a lot to say in the next week or so about what Arizonans will be voting on, and expect those decisions before Aug. 21 — that's the deadline for when counties have to start printing ballots for that November election.

BRODIE: All right. Certainly lots of activity in the next couple of weeks here. That is KJZZ's Ben Giles. Ben, thank you as always.

GILES: Thank you.

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