Voices: In Arizona, it’s not looking great for Republicans

Former US President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event supporting US Senator Mark Kelly and Democratic Gubernatorial candidate for Arizona Katie Hobbs (AFP via Getty Images)
Former US President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event supporting US Senator Mark Kelly and Democratic Gubernatorial candidate for Arizona Katie Hobbs (AFP via Getty Images)

Two years ago, despite the polls predicting a Trump and Republican sweep here in Arizona, a traditional Republican state, I called a Joe Biden and Mark Kelly win in an article published by the Independent.

I did not look at the polls — I looked at my neighborhood, a traditionally hardcore Republican area that was filled with Biden signs in people’s front yards.

This year, the yards are strangely empty. Even the two last holdout homes that had Trump flags flying for years have taken them down. I have seen more signs expressing solidarity with Ukraine this past year than political signs in gardens.

There’s a sense that people here are weary of egotistical politicians who look more like attention-seekers than public servants, and so they have largely kept their opinions to themselves. When I asked a group of friends and family on social media about their thoughts on the elections in Arizona, no one even responded.

Yet, the political atmosphere is so charged that many people I know are voting straight down the party line, meaning they are voting either all blue or all red. Just because they aren’t sharing their thoughts doesn’t mean they haven’t been touched by the divisiveness that marks the rest of the country.

The late Senator McCain was an influential figure here in Arizona, and his shadow continues to loom large over elections — especially as some of the GOP candidates here are supported by Trump, which is a turnoff to old-school Republicans. One Republican voter I spoke with informed me that many of his friends are “holding their noses as they vote for all Democrats”. Trump’s insults toward McCain haven’t been forgotten by those who once proudly voted red.

GOP political consultant Barrett Marson told me, “The Republican ticket is hard to swallow if you are up on the issues. It is difficult to vote for election deniers and conspiracy theorists even if you are a conservative person.”

Interestingly enough, President Obama — who was here in Arizona earlier this week, addressing a crowd of thousands at Cesar Chavez High School in Laveen Village — said almost the same thing. “They have decided it’s advantageous for them to just assert that Donald Trump won the last election, and now they want control over the next election. And their argument has no basis in reality,” Obama said. “If you’ve got an election denier serving as your governor, as your senator, as your secretary of state, as your attorney general, then democracy, as we know it, may not survive in Arizona.”

And while the Republican Party has a lot of members here in Arizona — they make up about 35 percent of the population — many are not Trump fans. Several of the candidates that won this year’s primaries, however, are committed to the Trump doctrine.

The choice this year for governor is between Democrat Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Republican TV anchor-turned-politician Kari Lake.

Lake has committed herself entirely to a MAGA platform and the Trump base. Fiery rhetoric is expected during the primaries, when candidates are addressing their own party — but in the general election, most strategists suggest moving to the center and appealing to the broader population of the state. Lake has refused to do so.

Indeed, in the past few weeks, Lake has appeared at a rally with the far-right strategist and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. To the shock of many, she even referred to Bannon as a “modern-day George Washington”. Lake also showed a surprising lack of empathy during a campaign event in Scottsdale, when she joked about the attack on Paul Pelosi while talking about school security. “It is not impossible to protect our kids at school. We act like it is. Nancy Pelosi, well, she’s got protection when she’s in DC. Apparently her house doesn’t have a lot of protection,” she said.

Meanwhile, 82-year-old Paul Pelosi was in the intensive care unit after being attacked with a hammer by an intruder who broke into his home in the middle of night.

This kind of obnoxious behavior does not play well with many of Arizona voters, as about a third of the state is registered as Independent. And the truth is that most voters want to focus on the future of the state — not on fighting with politicians across the country in Washington DC.

While the pundits are predicting a Lake win, if Hobbs can get 10 percent of Republican voters and 60 percent of the Independent voters, she will become the next governor of Arizona.

This has been accomplished in the past by Senator Kyrsten Sinema and Senator Mark Kelly, both of whom consciously appealed to voters across party lines. And it also applied to President Joe Biden, who in 2020 won by 0.3 points and became only the second Democrat to carry Arizona since Harry S. Truman.

Meanwhile, Democrat Senator Mark Kelly is running against Blake Masters. Masters is seen as an outsider who is being supported by Peter Thiel and big money from California. And if there is one thing Arizona voters don’t like, it’s being told what to do by outsiders. While the race is generally agreed to be razor-thin close, Kelly is known as having a broad appeal among Independents and has a good chance of winning again.

As of November 2, 2022, 2,471,577 ballots were returned in Arizona: 923,805 were from registered Democrats, 914,172 from Republicans and 633,600 from Independents or voters with no party affiliation. My guess is that the races will be close — Arizona, much like our late Senator McCain, is a maverick state, and it has a tendency to throw up surprises.