Democrats seek to end GOP control
The balance of power in the Arizona Legislature is on the line in Tuesday’s election, with Democrats aiming to break the GOP’s longtime hold on power at the Capitol.
All 90 seats in the Legislature are on the ballot this year. Democrats have set their sights on flipping control of the closely-divided state Senate, where their path to a majority is more probable.
Republicans have dominated both chambers in the Legislature for more than two decades and have pushed an aggressively conservative agenda.
But Democrats say support for #RedForEd, the teacher movement demanding increased funding for education, and opposition to President Donald Trump could boost their fortunes this year.
Meanwhile, Republicans are hopeful that a booming economy and teacher-pay raises they approved will earn them voters’ support
Republicans currently hold a 17-13 majority in the Senate. Democrats are optimistic they can take three seats to seize control — or at least two seats to achieve an even split in the 30-member chamber.
Their odds are less favorable in the state House of Representatives, where the GOP holds a 35-25 majority.
If Democrats flip or split power in the Senate, it would give them significant leverage to demand more funding for schools and complicate Republicans’ ability to pass conservative legislation on issues like abortion, gun rights and immigration.
The last time Democrats had a semblance of power at the Legislature was 2001-02 when the Senate was split 15-15. Republicans have controlled the House since 1966.
Key battleground districts
These are seven key battleground legislative districts that could decide the balance of power in the next Legislature:
District 6, northern/eastern Arizona’s mountain country: Democrats are trying for a third time to topple Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake. She’s survived close races before but faces a spirited challenge from Wade Carlisle, the former vice mayor of Holbrook.
The district spans Payson, Flagstaff, Sedona and parts of Camp Verde. It has been a GOP stronghold, particularly in rural towns, but growth in Flagstaff has changed the voter base.
District 28, east Phoenix/Paradise Valley: Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, faces a fight from teacher Christine Marsh. The campaign has been all about education, especially given Marsh was Arizona’s 2016 teacher of the year.
Brophy McGee, a moderate, has portrayed herself as a good fit for the centrist district.
District 21, northwest Valley: Incumbent Sen. Rick Gray, R-Sun City, faces a formidable opponent in Kathy Knecht, a school board member. The district spans Sun City, El Mirage and parts of Peoria and Surprise
While the area is a Republican bastion, Knecht is an independent with deep roots in the district. She said she doesn’t know what party she would caucus with. That could put either party’s path to the majority in limbo.
District 17, parts of Chandler and Gilbert: House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, is switching chambers to run for Senate. He faces Democrat Steve Weichert, a hospital administrator. The race will be a key test of #RedForEd’s influence given the movement’s strong following there, and Weichert’s campaign has focused on education.
District 18, Ahwatukee Foothills and parts of Tempe/Chandler: Sen. Sean Bowie, D-Ahwatukee, faces a rematch of his 2016 showdown with Republican Frank Schmuck, a commercial pilot.
This is one of the few swing districts where Democrats are on the defensive this fall, and they need to hold it to have a path to the majority.
District 8, Pinal County: Sen. Frank Pratt, R-Casa Grande, is running to keep the seat he took from a Democratic incumbent in 2016. Democrats hope Sharon Girard, a retired physician’s assistant, can reclaim the seat.
Pinal County was once a stronghold for Democrats but has turned increasingly red.
District 20, north Phoenix and Glendale: Rep. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, faces two opponents for the open seat: Democrat Douglas Ervin, an accountant; and Doug “Q” Quelland, a former lawmaker and independent.
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