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Welcome back to my omnibus compendium of Arizona’s upcoming general-election races in the style of my 2018 summaries. This update should cover most of the post-primary changes to my rankings, although I may put out one final update a couple of days before the election if the D-R difference in early vote totals is just abnormally high in some swing districts, or less high than I expected when writing this update. I’ll also be shifting any outstanding “tossup” ratings, as most other amateur election pundits do.
Arizona’s a really interesting state (I may be a hair biased), since it not only is home to 2-3 swing House seats and a high-profile Senate race, but also tenuous majorities in both state houses that could – theoretically – neuter Ducey’s trifecta this fall. And counties have their races this year as well, so I’ve highlighted some of the fireworks ongoing in Maricopa.
And this is before factoring in the fact that our state is a COVID-19 hotspot, with an unpopular Republican Governor doing almost nothing to stop it.
If you’re interested about which district you live in, check https://azredistricting.org/districtlocato
. If you want to get involved with your local Democratic party, find your legislative district on the previous link (NOT CD), and then search for your LD’s name at this link
. Feel free to attend meetings, they’re a great way to get involved with candidates and like-minded individuals.
If you wish to donate to a “clean elections” candidate (mentioned in the post as “clean”), you will have to live in that candidate’s legislative district to give qualifying $5 contributions (check here if anyone needs it
in your area), but they are allowed to accept a limited amount of “seed money” from people outside of the district. The three CorpComm candidates can take $5’s statewide.
If you do not want to vote at the polls, you will need to request an early ballot using the website of your county’s recorder prior to October 23rd. Example links for Maricopa
, and Pinal
. Others available if needed.
Race ratings for listed races will be listed as Safe/Likely/Leans/Tilts (alternatively Solid instead of Safe if my mind blanks).
If you have any questions about nonpartisan races or propositions, which races are the most contested, and how to get involved with other Democrats in Arizona, feel free to PM me.
All fundraising numbers here are as of 10/15/2020 (“Q3”).
District stats are listed for the race that involved the top Democratic vote-getter in the past two midterm cycles plus the last two presidential races, taken from Daily Kos’s legislative sheet
– Clinton’16, Obama’12, Sinema’18, and Garcia’14 (not his 2018 run
). Part 1: Statewide and Congressional Races Part 2: Maricopa County Races Update 1: Congressional and County Rating Updates Part 3: Legislative Districts 1-10 Part 4: Legislative Districts 11-20 Part 5: Legislative Districts 21-30, Additional Updates AZ Judicial Candidates Breakdown (not mine) Incomplete (i.e. no bad candidates are on this list, but some good ones aren't) pro-Public Education Endorsements for School Boards - also not mine. ALL OPINIONS ARE MY OWN SOLELY IN MY CAPACITY AS A VOTER IN ARIZONA, AND NOT REPRESENTATIVE OF ANY ORGANIZATIONS I WORK/ED FOR OR AM/WAS A MEMBER OF. THIS POST IS IN NO WAY ENDORSED BY THE ARIZONA DEMOCRATIC PARTY OR ANY SUB-ORGANIZATION THEREOF, OR ANY FILED CANDIDATE. Several districts (incl. LD1, LD5, LD12, LD15, LD16, LD18, and LD23) either have newly-filed write-in candidates or primary candidates who have qualified for the general election who weren’t on the ballot when I last wrote ratings, but none of these write-in candidates stand any solid chance of winning, so I won’t bother updating any relevant ratings from “Uncontested” to “Safe/Solid”. Likewise, assume any other district not listed in ratings changes here has the same rating it did in August.
Candidate changes are going to be listed in descending size of office (Statewide->Congressional->County->Legislative), so y’all can probably tell whom I’m going to start off with…
Since my late-spring writeup on the Senate race (where I had it at Leans Dem.), the Martha McSally ($12.2M COH) campaign has gone all guns blazing on TV to try and ding Mark Kelly’s ($18.8M COH) favorability numbers, in an attempt to pull herself up towards at least Trump’s levels in the polls - but has seen little success. Kelly’s meteoric ascent into a double-digit lead was successfully stymied, but McSally has been unable to escape from a 6 to 10-point quagmire for these past few months.
The debate is over, Biden is leading in state polls, COVID cases are starting to pick up again, and the fall breezes will soon start to blow. A deficit the likes of which McSally is facing could have been manageable around the time of the primary but is a far harder problem to escape with less than 3 weeks to the election with most fund3amentals going against her.
hunter15991 rating: Likely Kelly (was Leans Kelly)
Congressional District 2 (Sinema+11.4, Clinton+4.9, Douglas+0.72, Romney+1.57)
Not exactly sure why I kept this at Likely Kirkpatrick after the ratings change - Ann Kirkpatrick ($838.6K COH) has run a great campaign, and nary a peep has been heard about her opponent Brandon Martin’s ($100.1K COH) efforts. Ann will walk this one in.
hunter15991 rating: Solid Kirkpatrick (was Likely Kirkpatrick)
Congressional District 6 (McSally+3.41, Trump+9.97, Douglas+6.04, Romney+20.7)
Since shifting this race to Tilts R back in May, a lot has happened in CD6. Hiral Tipirneni ($1.5M COH) has set record after record in fundraising, rapidly outpacing the incumbent David Schweikert ($546K COH) – who to his credit has rebounded from outright negative fundraising quarters earlier in the cycle. Schweikert has also faced an escalation in his House Ethics Committee problems, being unanimously reprimanded by the committee on 11 ethics count violations. Recent polls of the district have ranged from an OHPI Schweikert+3 poll to a Hiral internal showing her up 4.
What I think will ultimately giving Hiral the edge in this seat – outside of her obscenely large war chest – is the relative state of the downballot parties on the ground and various state legislative races that overlap with CD6. In multiple legislative districts that once made up the rock-ribbed base of suburban voters Schweikert counted on for support there are now either ongoing fractures in local GOP legislative slates (23 and 28) or have an operation hobbled by a contentious GOP primary (15). On the flip side, Democrats are on the offensive in these districts, with (at least in my view) some of the most experienced and talented local organizers at work in the area. Downballot polls of the area indicate a groundswell of Democratic support that make me bearish on undecideds breaking for Schweikert in the final days.
It’ll be close, but I think the third time will be the charm for Dr. Tipirneni.
hunter15991 rating: Tilts Tipirneni (was Tilts Schweikert)
Maricopa County Attorney
I had the primary for this race at “Tilts” in favor of the victor, Julie Gunnigle ($55.4K). That may have been quite a bit conservative, as Gunnigle ended up winning that primary by 37 points, demonstrating the campaigning aptitude that had her overperform relative to the mean legislative candidate in her 2018 HD-15 run on a far larger, countywide scale. Gunnigle faces incumbent County Attorney Allister Adel ($139K) in the general election, and while she’s significantly outmatched in terms of direct war chests, Gunnigle can count on substantial support from outside criminal justice reform organizations and other such groups. A poll back in late August had the race in a dead heat, and I think Gunnigle is in good position to pick up the undecideds. In recent debates she has come off as charismatic and smart on her feet, in stark contrast to an Adel who sometimes came across as inebriated, was routinely snippy, and often reached near-Trumpian levels of indignation when pressed on her record as a prosecutor (including two controversial decisions to not charge officers in the shootings of Antonio Arce and Dion Johnson by police).
And judging by the County Attorney’s very hasty attempts to patch over failings at the department with “reforms” announced right around the Democratic primary for the seat, Adel must be seeing the heat in her own internals. The moves made by her at the office reek of urgency, of the panic of a dinosaur trying to outrun the meteor’s shockwave.
She’s right to be afraid.
hunter15991 rating: Leans Gunnigle (was Tossup)
Maricopa County Assessor
This is a rare race where I’ll end up making a change in the GOP’s favor, as bizarre as that sounds. Democrat Aaron Connor ($16.3K COH) has run a perfectly fine race in his own right, but now faces interim Assessor Eddie Cook ($1.6K), and not perennial bipartisan failson Rodney Glassman - on whose my initial rating was predicated. This race rating is adjusted towards what I think the generic row ballot will be for Maricopa County – a very slight Dem. lead, in Connor’s case possibly assisted by any lingering fallout from the Paul Petersen international baby trafficking scandal (albeit not enough to move it out of Tilts).
hunter15991 rating: Tilts Connor (was Leans Connor)
Maricopa County Recorder
In the County Recorder race, incumbent Adrian Fontes ($45.5K COH) faces a spirited challenge from Republican attorney Stephen Richer ($156.2K COH), whose sole claim to fame is an “audit” he ran at the behest of the Maricopa County Republican Party to look into Fontes’ handling of the 2018 midterm elections.
Of course, because up is down and left is right in this world, Richer is running on a position of depoliticizing the County Recorder’s office, accusing Fontes of getting too political, what with his attempts to do hideous Communist things like “helping more people vote by mail”. The MCR’s attack dog may put on a pretty face, but thanks to Trump’s inherent politicization of elections I would wager nominal swing voters would be less than convinced by a Republican clerk or recorder running on depoliticizing elections. And Fontes and the county Democratic party have proven able to get that message out in the past – Fontes got more votes than Clinton did despite being far down the ballot, and ultimately outperformed her by a few%. His current strategy of just being very visible in operations of the 2020 election seems to be working quite well.
Richer’s big challenge in this race will be to try to paint what by all accounts was a successful 2018 midterm, 2020 presidential preference election (as COVID was hitting), and 2020 primary as somehow mismanaged or rigged. For independent swing voters who may have been doubting Fontes’s abilities in 2016, those 3 elections are probably more than enough proof of his abilities, and Richer’s talking points far too Trumpy for their tastes. With Biden polling in the mid-single digits in the county that’s not a good position for a GOP candidate to take.
Richer’s backup talking points aren’t that decent either – attacking Fontes for being “unprofessional” over Fontes’s deployment of the “F-bomb” at a prospective candidate in 2016. What was an unsavory incident is being stretched to great extent by Richer in these attacks and looks desperate.
I think Adrian retains his seat but do consider sending him some cash. That’s a sizable deficit.
hunter15991 rating: Tilts Fontes (was Tossup)
Maricopa County Treasurer
This is another race where I got the GOP candidate wrong in the pre-primary rankings, as incumbent Royce Flora ended up getting defeated by outgoing State Rep. John Allen ($3.1K), who will now face former AZ National Guard Chief Warrant Officer and retired Daniel Craig impersonator Dan Toporek ($12.1K COH). Toporek has a decent (albeit small in the big picture) cash advantage over Allen, and in general has a better bio than the former House Majority Leader who commented that teachers get second jobs to buy boats during debate on a teacher certification deregulation bill, which is typically Not a Smart Thing To Do in a state with an ongoing teacher pay crisis.
There’s little that would differentiate this race from the baseline county row ballot, but Royce Flora has been oddly confrontational towards fellow Republicans after his primary loss, causing a bit of a stink. He recently filed a bar complaint against Allister Adel, and sent out a Property Tax Statement to county property owners that ended with a ranty paragraph telling them to complain to Sen. Venden “Vince” Leach (R, SD-11) if they found the letter intrusive, as he had mandated the sending of it in a recent bill (Leach, as much of a leech as he is, may have actually been in the right in writing that bill, but that’s a story for another time). The letter had mixed reception, but the Treasurer’s Office did get at least a bit of flak from it.
Flora’s drawing a lot of negative attention to the Treasurer’s office at just the wrong time…and something tells me he knows it.
hunter15991 rating: Tilts Toporek (was Leans Flora)
Maricopa County Supervisor District 3
One of two competitive supervisorial districts this cycle (if Dems take both they’ll flip the board), this district features incumbent Supervisor Bill Gates (
$104.1B COH $150.2K COH) going up against activist Whitney Walker ($38.3K COH). Walker’s fundraising has significantly improved since the last time I wrote about this race, and she has picked up her campaigning. I believe given other downballot trends in the legislative districts her supervisorial district encompasses that she’ll be able to pull out the win this November.
hunter15991 rating: Tilts Walker (was Tossup)
Legislative District 6 (McSally+1.72, Trump+10.39, Douglas+0.92, Romney+13.36)
In LD6 the curse of Wendy Rogers ($186.9K COH) struck again, knocking Sen. Sylvia Allen out of the race in the GOP primary. This made her few friends in the local Republican Party, and chain emails were abound after the primary telling people that Rogers was a liberal plant from Tempe (she does in fact actually live in Tempe, but is an Oathkeeper-y nutjob). Rep. Walter Blackman ($27.1K COH) even said that he wouldn’t campaign with her, which is going to swing the needle in this super-swingy district. While Rep. Brenda Barton ($40.3K COH) hasn’t thrown out the same gauntlet, Blackman is the more politically connected representative in the district, and the absence of his support will be at least slightly perturbing for Rogers.
On the Democratic side, Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans ($266.5K COH) is running for House, and 2018 HD-6 nominee Felicia French($233.5K COH) faces Rogers in the Senate matchup. Both French and Evans have been raising astronomical sums of money, and in general are very well prepared to operate in the last few weeks of the race. What’s more, Blackman, Rogers, and Barton have been targeted by a grand total of $1.35 million in negative outside PAC spending – about 4x as much as the Democratic nominees have faced.
While Art Babbott ($56K COH) - an independent candidate for house who’s an incumbent County Supervisor – complicates House projections, I ultimately think Mayor Evans will be able to pull out the win. With fewer wildcards involved the French/Rogers bout is easier to predict - and given Wendy’s lifelong curse of botching races in swing districts I think it’s now more likely Felicia makes that 0-5 record 0-6.
hunter15991 rating: Tilts Evans, Leans French (was Tilts Evans, Tilts French)
Legislative District 11 (McSally+9.93, Trump+13.9, Douglas+16.7, Romney+19.3)
LD11, typically a safe Republican seat, has seen a surprising influx of outside cash and endorsements in support of the Democratic House and Senate nominees – Felipe Perez ($53.2K COH) and JoAnna Mendoza ($82.8K COH). Not only are the two nominees seeing a spike in donations over the course of the last couple of quarters, incumbent legislators Sen. Venden “Vince” Leach ($118.8K COH) and Rep. Mark Finchem ($37.6K COH) have face an above average amount of negative PAC spending against them (and only a fraction of the amount in response to support them). Their fellow Rep. Bret Roberts ($31.7K COH) is a bet less controversial, and probably will coast to re-election. Both Leach and Finchem are also favorites, but with Democrats currently leading early ballot returns and flooding the district with cash, there are outside chances for both Democratic nominees to pull off the win.
hunter15991 rating: Likely Leach, Solid Roberts, Likely Finchem (was Solid Leach, Solid Roberts, Likely Finchem)
Legislative District 17 (Sinema+3.53, Trump+4.09, Douglas+3.12, Romney+14.16)
I don’t want to wax too poetic about this seat, but the absolute onslaught of outside negative funding against Sen. J.D. Mesnard ($185.8K COH), Rep. Jeff Weninger ($154K COH), and Liz Harris ($57.6K COH) – just over $1.1M in total – has left Rep. Jennifer Pawlik ($145.2K COH) and AJ Kurdoglu ($210.8K COH) in better shape than they were earlier in the election. While Republicans in the district still have a narrow lead in combined slate fundraising, Democratic candidates will probably be carried over the line by the deluge of outside spending.
hunter15991 rating: Tilts Pawlik, Tilts Kurdoglu (was Tossup House, Tilts Mesnard)
Legislative District 21 (McSally+4.09, Trump+15.18, Douglas+6.1, Romney+17.4)
LD21 is one of the seats where the ratings update is less due to any recent news (IE involvement in this seat has been more or less a wash, maybe providing a very narrow Democratic gain) and more just resolution of an outstanding “tossup” rating. Democratic nominee Kathy Knecht ($131.7K COH) has posted great finance reports these last two quarters, but her war chest is a bit less impressive when it has to be compared to the consolidated funds of Beverly Pingerelli ($18.7K COH), Rep. Kevin Payne ($47.1K COH), and Sen. Rick Gray ($87.4K COH) – who can fundraise for the anti-Knecht cause since he doesn’t have an opponent of his own.
Still, Knecht has an incredibly strong biography and past elected experience in the district, including a win against Pingerelli in a school board race in 2014. I think she’ll be able to narrowly pull out the win again this year.
hunter15991 rating: Tilts Knecht (was Tossup)
Legislative District 23 (McSally+9.69, Trump+13.33, Douglas+9.36, Romney+26.94)
This is one of the districts where Democrats could see significant gains, even relevant to 2018. Eric Kurland($131.9K COH), the 2018 House nominee, is running again for this seat, this time with Seth Blattman ($41.1K COH) as his Senate running mate. With IE’s avoiding this district in favor of getting involved in places like 21 and 23, it’s going to be harder for the Republican candidates in the district – Rep. John Kavanagh ($37.1K), Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita ($13.4 K COH), and Joseph Chaplik ($32.2K COH) – to reach fiscal parity with the Democratic candidates.
And GOP infighting in this seat will only make things worse for local Republicans. With 45% of Kavanagh voters refusing to vote for Chaplik in a poll that had Kurland leading Chaplik by 6, the problems for conservatives in this district are all but clear. Kurland has been more than happy to help exacerbate these issues for Chaplik, participating in several “bipartisan discussions” with GOP write-in candidate Joe Romack, whom Chaplik is suing.
If you told me the home legislative district of Joe Arpaio and David Schweikert would flip back in 2016, I’d have laughed out loud. But now the sky is all but falling for the AZ-GOP.
hunter15991 rating: Solid Kavanagh, Leans Kurland, Leans Ugenti-Rita (was Tossup House, Likely Ugenti-Rita)
Legislative District 28 (McSally+9.69, Trump+13.33, Douglas+9.36, Romney+26.94)
In LD28, Sen. Kate Brophy McGee ($280.3K COH) is in a situation akin to Knecht in LD21, having to fundraise against 3 active Democratic candidates without any help on her end. In this case, GOP House candidates Jana Jackson ($14.1K COH) and Kenneth Bowers ($3.80 COH) have been lagging sizably in their fundraising behind Rep. Kelli Butler ($102K COH) and Rep. Aaron Lieberman ($120.8K COH) who instead are able to direct those funds towards Christine Porter Marsh ($276.3K COH) and her quest to oust McGee.
McGee’s financial advantage at the start of the race has been whittled away, and now McGee is down ~$200K in the final weeks of the race and has a decent hole to dig herself out of, judging by Democratic internals.
The Susan Collins of Arizona is running out of time. And that’s one thing her mound of money can’t buy.
hunter15991 rating: Leans Marsh (was Tilts Marsh)
And that’s that! I’ve passed on Phoenix Council writeups since those races are a bit more bizarre this year since they now must be run concurrently to the Presidential election. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on those races on Election Night if I’m sober enough. This probably will be my last update for the cycle, but I may have one more depending on how early vote returns look like around Halloween.
Thanks so much for reading!