I volunteer in the Tucson Democratic party northwest office. Our phone calls this year are targeting Independent voters and Democrats who usually only vote in Presidential election years. The fear is that the extreme right has more motivation this year than the rest of us. I contrast this with 2008, where we targeted likely Democratic voters. This reflects the climate of uncertainty because of the stalled economy. Many currents can affect this year’s election in Arizona.
First, some background.
Catalina, AZ is an unincorporated village in the far northwest Tucson area. Still largely rural, it has been hit by suburbanization. It is in the 26th statewide legislative district, and in the 8th Congressional district of Arizona, which extends from southern Pinal County all the way to the Mexican border in Cochise County. In this very Republican state, the Tucson area has long been a moderate area. Pima County, which includes Tucson, voted for John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008. For many years we were represented by moderate Republicans.
In 2006 our moderate state Senator Toni Hellon and Representative Pete Hershberger were challenged in the party primaries by right-wing Republicans, and were defeated. The other Representative, Steve Huffman, resigned his seat to run for the US House seat being vacated by Jim Kolbe. The Senate seat and one of the House seats were won by Democrats for the first time, and the Republicans kept the other House seat. In Arizona 08, long-time Congressman Jim Kolbe resigned his seat. The Republicans nominated the right-wing candidate over the favorite, Steve Huffman. Gabrielle Giffords got the Democratic nomination and won, part of the Democratic resumption of the majority in the US House of Representatives.
This part of Arizona remained moderate, while the state Republican party went further right.
In 2008, the Democrats lost the state Senate seat, and Giffords retained her seat. In 2009, the Democratic Governor, Janet Napolitano, resigned to become Secretary of Homeland Security in Obama’s cabinet. Arizona does not have a lieutenant governor; instead, if the Governor leaves office, the Secretary of State becomes Governor. In this case, that was a Republican, Jan Brewer. No longer did the Governor’s veto control radical legislation.
Which brings us to 2010.
The border with Mexico has long been a serious issue in Arizona. The Minuteman group began here. This year, the state has been in the national news since the passage of SB 1070, the “show me your papers” act. Governor Brewer was considered likely to lose in the primary or general election. However, since she signed SB 1070 into law, her numbers have risen. The Democratic candidate is Terry Goddard, the current Attorney General and former mayor of Phoenix, a very Republican city. He is a strong candidate, but with the current climate of xenophobia, it is possible that Brewer will win.
There are several other interesting Democratic candidates for statewide office, most notably Chris Deschene, who is running for Secretary of State. He has had successful military and legal careers. If he wins, he will become the first Native American to hold statewide office in Arizona. He will also be second in line for the governorship. This could be a historic moment for the state.
Giffords has been targeted by the Republican party, and her seat is vulnerable. She is a hard worker and popular in the district, and her opponent, Jesse Kelly, favors dismantling Social Security, as well the Department of Education, the EPA, and other regulatory agencies. As I said, this is a moderate district, and an extreme nominee may not be the best candidate against her. The possible danger for Giffords is the general dissatisfaction with the government.
John McCain was challenged by ultra-conservative J. D. Hayworth. McCain climbed back after Hayworth had an early surge, which means that Democratic candidate Rodney Glassman is having a much harder time. The Democrats were hoping to take the seat that has been held for half a century by McCain and by Barry Goldwater before him. That coup is less likely now.
Democratic state Representative Nancy Young Wright is running for reelection, and Cheryl Cage is running for the state Senate. No Democrat is running for the second House seat.
The national climate of distrust and uncertainty may color the election results. Fear and hate are here in Arizona as well as elsewhere. But the Democrats have strong candidates, and common sense may prevail.
My sources for this article included the candidates’ websites and e-mails I have received from them and from the party. Recently I have also met several who have come into the party office where I have been volunteering.