Arizona used to be a conservative stronghold. Now it may go blue.
Two years ago, Yasser Sanchez was with Martha McSally. As an influential leader of the Latino community, he took the Republican Senate candidate to Spanish-language radio, television, and newspapers. He put up signs for them.
Now he plans to vote for her opponent.
Senator McSally, says Sanchez, is in step with President Donald Trump, whom he strongly opposes. "I thought she might be the next underdog from Arizona," said Mr. Sanchez of the first female fighter pilot in the US to fly and lead a squadron in combat. But “she will do what the Party tells her, because if not, it will make her life impossible. She sticks to the president. "
It's no exaggeration to say that next month's elections could determine control of the White House and Senate, as well as a Republican-dominated state parliament for more than half a century, in this once-conservative stronghold. Just a few more weeks, both parties are pouring resources into a state that for Mr. Trump rose 3.5 percentage points in 2016, but has quickly shifted from red to purple - and now maybe blue.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and his counterpart Sen. Kamala Harris were expected in the state on Thursday, their first campaign together since Congress. Vice President Mike Pence was due to visit for the fourth time. President Trump was due to hold two rallies in Arizona this week, but these were postponed after his COVID-19 diagnosis.
In many ways, Mr. Sanchez personifies the changing electorate in Arizona. As an immigration lawyer and father of a family, he originally comes from Mexico - and is part of a growing Latino population, which receives a larger share of the vote here and is strongly democratic. Mr Sanchez himself resigned from the GOP last year, saying he was "fed up" with the president's values and his attacks on immigrants, among other things. He plans to elect Mr Biden as president along with other crossover Arizonans like the late Senator John McCain's widow, Cindy McCain.
Perhaps most importantly, Mr. Sanchez lives in Maricopa County - a long-standing Republican electoral fortress that includes Phoenix and its rapidly growing suburbs. Maricopa together with the reliable blue Tucson in Pima County makes up more than three-quarters of the vote in Arizona. That urban bias could make the Arizona Democrats a stronger presence than they do in Wisconsin, Michigan, or Pennsylvania, all of which have a much greater concentration of rural voters.
“Arizona is a rapidly changing state. Maricopa County alone has about 60% of the vote, and that's a rapidly diversifying, well-educated area, ”said Jessica Taylor, who follows the Senate on the Cook Political Report. The report now ranks Arizona a "slim Democrat" for both President and Senate races.
Maricopa County is the "exchange of blows," says Democratic advisor Chad Campbell at Strategies360 in Phoenix. "As soon as Maricopa becomes consistently Democratic, you'll have serious problems as a Republican," said the former Arizona House lawmaker.
Bellwether Maricopa County
Two years ago, Arizona voters sent Democrat Kyrsten Sinema to the US Senate. It beat then Representative McSally by 2.4 percentage points. It was the first time since the early 1980s that the state had elected a Democratic senator. Later that year, the Governor named Ms. McSally to the seat of the late Senator McCain and prepared this year's election to fill the last two years of his tenure.
Senator McSally's Democratic opponent Mark Kelly is a retired Navy fighter pilot and space shuttle commander. He is known to many here as the husband of Gabby Giffords, the former Tucson Congressman who was widely admired for her struggle to recover from an assassination attempt in 2011 when she was shot in the head at an outdoor event. Six people died in the mass shootings, and the couple have become strong advocates of gun laws using “common sense”.
One Saturday in the Ahwatukee section of Phoenix, about 25 Democratic volunteers gathered at 8:00 a.m. to collect signs and literature for driveways. Democrats have not knocked on doors because of the pandemic, instead reaching out aggressively to voters via texts, calls, social media, and handwritten postcards and letters - along with a flurry of advertisements.
Those that emerge reflect the trends that are moving in favor of the Democrats.
There's Barbara Geiswite, a recently retired dental assistant who voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 but switched her registration from Republican to Democrat in April after her son asked her to "think for myself". Mark Swanson, an independent representative, has cast votes for both parties, but plans to vote up and down for Democrats this year: "We need to restore balance to the country."
Behind the scenes, an Arizona State University graduate John Gimenez helps out. He works in marketing for a mortgage company and in his spare time he helps the local Democratic Party with social media and digital advertising. When he was eleven, his parents - immigrants from the Philippines - moved the family from Los Angeles to Arizona, where housing was much cheaper. This is a typical story and explains the nearly 50% population growth in Maricopa County over the past two decades. The state is the fastest growing in the nation and is expected to get a Congressional seat after this year's census.
When Mr. Gimenez came out gay in high school, he knew which political party he would support. "There was one side that actively fought against me and one side that actively fought for me." He founded the first Young Democrats Club at Hamilton High School in Chandler, a suburb of Phoenix, which has attracted many young families. The club had three members including himself.
In recent years, the influx to Arizona has drawn younger people from across the country - not just retirees from the conservative Midwest. "People don't know if they don't live here," notes Campbell, the Democratic strategist. "We have a young population, strongly Latino, who are much more progressive on many issues."
But Republicans are still traveling to Arizona, many of them political refugees from the west and east coasts. "They're excited to come here, where they can be free to be Conservatives," said Sue Harrison, vice president of the Republican Club at PebbleCreek, a luxury retirement resort in Goodyear, a suburb of Phoenix, which is also part of Maricopa County .
Ms. Harrison sits in a folding chair in a busy corner near the resort, registering newcomers to vote, while a few dozen people wave Trump signs and American flags on honking cars and bellow Harleys as they pass.
One of the flag throwers is Denice Ballas, who moved to the resort from Pleasanton, California about three months ago. She and her husband were the only ones in their old neighborhood who put up a Trump sign - even though people knocked on their doorsteps under cover of night and thanked them.
Some members of the group note with concern that more and more progressives are moving into their community. One quotes a favorite t-shirt: "Don't California My Arizona."
McSally campaign spokeswoman Caroline Anderegg dismisses concerns about Maricopa County turning blue and calls them "many gossip class opinions". Still, she emphasizes that the Senator from the Lugar Center at Georgetown University was elected the sixth largest non-partisan senator. Ms. McSally recently won recognition from a group of Hispanic religious leaders who embrace their stand against abortion rights and for freedom of religion. "Latinos are not a monolith," says Ms. Anderegg.
Growing latino clout
That's true, but three-quarters of them voted Democratic in Arizona in 2018, according to the Latino Decisions polling agency and Democratic data company Catalist. Latinos played a significant role in Senator Sinema's victory, making up a higher proportion of the electorate this year, up three percentage points from 2014.
Despite the pandemic, grassroots organizers have so far managed to register more than 160,000 new Latino voters, around 80% of them in Maricopa County, says Eduardo Sainz, state director of Mi Familia Vota. That's more than 100,000 new voters four years ago.
"We've been trying for years to hear from and reach out to Latino voters across the state," said Jacob Peters, spokesman for the Kelly campaign, in a statement to the monitor.
The most important things to Latinos are healthcare, work, and education. Immigration is also part of the mix.
Immigration attorney Mr. Sanchez condemned President Trump in 2017 of former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio, a hardline immigration officer, as an "blatant attack" on the Latino community. Latinos helped oust Mr. Arpaio, a Republican, in 2016 despite Mr. Trump winning the county and the state. Mr Arpaio, along with the controversial Immigration Status Act known as SB 1070, has shut down a generation of Latinos for Republicans, many say.
“We've already gone through this wave against immigrants,” says Sanchez, whose reception room contains a photo album of people he helped get green cards and citizenship. "We thought we'd gotten past it - and Donald Trump came and [revitalized] all of these things that we rejected and made them national."
Mr. Sanchez leads voting events through the 1800s from his parking lot at the law firm in Mesa, around the corner from the temple of Latter-day Saints Church of Jesus Christ, whose supporters founded the city in the late 1800s. He is himself a dedicated Church director and one of several Latter-day Saints who have turned against the President. In Arizona, former Senator Jeff Flake is the most prominent. Utah Senator Mitt Romney is another.
Masked, he distributed Biden signs, stickers and "Adios Trump" T-shirts. Last month, he posted the same message on 10 billboards during President Trump's visit. Next up: a caravan ride for Mr. Biden. All efforts are socially distant (Mr Sanchez was in bed with the virus for 10 days earlier this year), but he is concerned about the lack of personal events and advertisements affecting reach.
In contrast, Republicans have gone full throttle at face-to-face events, including visits from the President, Vice President and various alternates. Your turnout is a well-oiled machine. "People have amnesia and have forgotten that Arizona won the 2016 president," said Ms. Anderegg. "While the state is incredibly independent, it is a right-wing state."
Republican adviser Sean Noble believes Senator McSally will lead President Trump's coattails to victory. He estimates that there are still around 100,000 new votes for Mr Trump compared to 2016 - from Conservatives who voted for the libertarian or an enrolled candidate, or who left the first line of the ballot blank. Now that you've seen what the president has done on taxes, regulations, and judges - especially the Supreme Court - you may be on board.
"I find it hard to believe that the character who gets shot at the president will play a role," he added. "It didn't matter in year 16, even after the [Access Hollywood] tape came out."
That certainly applies to the flag swingers from PebbleCreek. "Promises made, promises kept," says Ms. Harrison, who describes the president as "the salty sailor who gets things done."
Even so, Democrats are confident that the Latinos' years of grassroots engagement combined with demographic change and the anti-Trump factor will be the year Arizona finally turns blue.
"It's a perfect storm," says Democratic adviser Adam Kinsey. “We have a spectacular top of ticket with Biden, Harris and Kelly, and all of this engagement work is being done. It's very exciting to be a long-suffering Democrat from Arizona. "
The explainer "Packing the Court" and partisan politics: three questions
Trump faces two challenges: health and credibility
In the Trump economy echoes from Hoover and Carter?
Read this story on csmonitor.com
Become part of the Monitor community
Become a Facebook Fan!
Follow us on Twitter!
Follow us on LinkedIn!
Subscribe to our RSS feeds!
You should check here to buy the best price guaranteed products.
Jordan Chiles thought the Team USA coach was joking when she was asked to replace Simone Biles in the team all-around
Katharine McPhee Says Son Rennie Is 'Much Bigger Baby Than His Peers': 'Ahead of the Curve'
Why Centralized Cryptocurrency Exchanges Are Seeing A Mass Exodus
Altaba, the Former Yahoo, Is Making a $3.9 Billion Distribution to Holders
This Is The Only Waldorf Salad Recipe You'll Need
Podcast: A drying lake in Oregon attracts the far right