A contentious race that will end with Arizona’s first female U.S. senator and a governor’s race featuring Republican Doug Ducey against challenger Democrat David Garcia as Ducey seeks a second term top the ticket in the state’s 2018 general election. The race to replace retiring GOP Sen. Jeff Flake pits Democrat Kyrsten Sinema against Republican Martha McSally.
The contest has seen more than $90 million in spending, including more than $58 million by outside groups backing one candidate or the other, according to Federal Election Commission reports. That jaw-dropping number is no surprise to any Arizona residents who have turned on their TVs or listened to radios in the past several months. The ads clog the airwaves.
The Senate race is considered one of the nation’s most competitive, as Sinema paints herself as an “independent” centrist who can work across the aisle and has backed President Donald Trump’s initiatives more than 60 percent of the time. The three-term congresswoman currently represents parts of Phoenix and Tempe.
McSally has focused on border security and boosting the nation’s military while attacking Sinema, labeling her as a leftist who is too radical for Arizona. McSally is a former Air Force pilot who has served two terms representing a Tucson-area congressional district and has run as a strong Trump backer.
Sinema has repeatedly focused attention on McSally’s 2017 vote to repeal of the Affordable Care Act, saying the action shows she will not protect patients with pre-existing conditions. But McSally now says she would protect those patients.
If Sinema wins, it will be a sign that Arizona is in play as a swing state, and she’ll become the state’s first Democratic senator since the mid-1990s.
In the governor’s race, Ducey has focused on border security, a booming state economy and the need to remain focused on making the state’s business climate better to boost job growth.
He hasn’t particularly highlighted education, an area where he is seen as vulnerable, especially after a strike that saw 75,000 teachers marching on the Capitol this spring and more than 1 million schoolchildren out of class because their schools were closed.
Garcia has focused on the state’s underfunded schools while attacking Ducey for what he says is his failure to prioritize school funding. He’s taken a different tack than Sinema, running as a progressive candidate, coming out against Trump’s plans for a border wall and calling for more humane treatment of immigrants, especially children. The Democrat said he would like to see Immigration and Customs Enforcement transformed into a new agency that protects borders while respecting human rights.
That led to attacks from Ducey, and public polling shows the governor with a solid lead as Election Day nears.
All nine Arizona seats in Congress are also on the ballot, with Democrats hoping to pick up southern Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District seat, being vacated by McSally.
Former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, a Democrat, is taking on Republican Lea Marquez Peterson. Democrats are working to hold the 1st and 9th districts, which Sinema is vacating, to bring the Democratic-GOP split to 5-4 if Kirkpatrick prevails.
The 8th District in northeastern metro Phoenix features a rematch of an April special election that saw Republican Debbie Lesko narrowly beat Democrat Hiral Tipirneni. That district features a heavy Republican registration advantage, so Lesko is favored, but Tipirneni is campaigning hard and thinks she could win.
“We know that we are out there every day reaching out to voters,” she said in a recent interview. “We’re having independents continue to engage with us, moderate Republicans come over that are really focused on the issues and the solutions that we’ve put forward.”
The other five districts, three held by Republicans and two by Democrats, aren’t seen as competitive. Still, Democrats have fielded candidates that are actively campaigning in the three GOP-heavy districts, a rarity for those districts.
Also on the ballot are four other statewide offices: secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer and superintendent of public instruction. All are seen as competitive for either party. And two seats on the Corporation Commission, the five-member body that regulates utilities, are on the ballot, with two Democrats running against two Republicans.
Five ballot measures are before voters, including Proposition 305, which asks voters whether to approve a massive increase in Arizona’s private school voucher program approved by the Legislature and Gov. Ducey in 2017 over unified opposition from Democrats. Public school advocates collected enough signatures to put the law on hold pending a statewide vote, and a no vote rejects the law.
The other top ballot measure is a voter initiative known as Proposition 127, which would require utilities to get 50 percent of their power from renewable resources like solar by 2030. Arizona utilities backed by top Republican leaders are pouring cash into the effort to defeat the proposal from environmental advocates backed by billionaire Tom Steyer’s NextGen America PAC.
Three other measures would block new taxes on services, remove some power from the state’s independent public campaign finance commission and change cost-of-living increases in two state pension plans, those for corrections officers and elected officials.
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