The excitement building for months over this year's all-important midterm election will peak on Tuesday as Arizonans and the rest of America vote on Trump politics.
It's the most expensive midterm in history, reportedly — something you probably realize from the bombardment of advertising everyone has heard or received. And now it's time for voters to decide whether they like the unorthodox and bold (some would say fascist, racist, etc.) way of Trump, a kingmaker whose influence has helped decide many of the candidates who will be on ballots in Arizona and other states. Locally, the Trump effect combines with the fresh energy of the #MeToo and #RedforEd movements, resulting in a slate of new liberal candidates, most of them Democrats.
In Arizona, a vote-by-mail state, up to 80 percent of voters have already cast their ballots. But turnout tomorrow will be a key deciding factor in many races. Both sides are fired up. You're registered, right? Then you have no excuse for failing to be part of history on Tuesday. Get your ass out and vote.
Even if you've done your research, check out our take on the major races in this pregame rundown by Phoenix New Times writers. It's also helpful for a quick cram session:
Martha McSally (R)
Kyrsten Sinema (D)
“Pink tutu.” “Say-anything-McSally.” “Left-wing activist.” “Voted to eliminate protections for pre-existing conditions.” “Didn’t care if Americans joined the Taliban.”
Utter these cursed words aloud, and watch an Arizonans' eyes roll back in their heads as they enter the zombie-like state brought on by months of a brutal, attack-ad-saturated Senate campaign.
Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema are running to replace Jeff Flake. One of them will become Arizona’s first female senator. Both have admirable life stories: McSally was the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat for the U.S., while Sinema, the first openly bisexual person elected to Congress, struggled with poverty as a kid and earned a law degree and a doctorate through grit and determination.
But control of the Senate is at stake, and these legitimately impressive accomplishments have been subsumed by the kind of mudslinging that only millions of dollars in campaign cash can buy. Because most polls show the race is a tossup, the contest could hinge on whether voters buy the smears against Sinema related to her previous Green Party activism, or if they are dismayed by McSally’s newfound devotion to President Trump.
Congressional District 9
Dr. Steve Ferrara (R)
Greg Stanton (D)
We were never quite sure what Democrat Greg Stanton did as mayor of Phoenix. He got a lot of national cred from Governing for making the city more sustainable and from Atlantic magazine for making the city more accessible to business. But Phoenix is actually run by a city manager. We feel certain, though, that Stanton should be empathetic to victims of crime, because he always seems to be one. Most recently, he was robbed apparently by a homeless man wielding some sort of weapon, something police union leaders said wouldn't have happened if he had increased the public safety budget. New Times also reported Stanton was cyber-stalked for two years and also blocked hundreds of people from his Twitter account. And you may remember that Stanton had his tires slashed while he was at a fundraising event during his first campaign for mayor. Perhaps that will earn him the sympathy vote.
Stanton’s Republican opponent, Dr. Steve Ferrara, a combat veteran, might be better equipped to stand up to crime, but he supports President Donald Trump and Stanton doesn’t, which may be the telling difference in a city that voted heavily for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Congressional District 2
Ann Kirkpatrick (D)
Lea Marquez Peterson (R)
Out of the nine congressional districts in Arizona, this one has the most swing to give Democrats congressional control in the state with a likely 5-4 favor. Since incumbent Martha McSally opted to run for Senate and not seek re-election, this seat became wide open. Former U.S. Representative Ann Kirkpatrick, a Democrat who challenged John McCain for the Senate seat in 2016, and Republican Lea Marquez Peterson, the Tucson Hispanic Chamber CEO who used a 2016 McCain attack ad against Kirkpatrick right after his death in August, are facing off.
Even though CD2 has a Republican incumbent, it’s no surprise Kirkpatrick is leading in virtually every poll; this district favored Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, one of 25 red districts in the country to do so. But apparently no lead is safe enough. Last week, Kirkpatrick's campaign barred an Arizona Daily Star photographer from one of the candidate's appearances, presumably to prevent a picture of Kirkpatrick's meeting with former Minority House Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is none too popular in Arizona. This race would help the Democrats take control of the House. Perhaps the “blue wave” will at least hit one race in Arizona, but it’s predominantly in Tucson, so does that even count?
Congressional District 8
Debbie Lesko (R)
Hiral Tipirneni (D)
Debbie Lesko-Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, Round 2. The special election in April – which feels like years ago now – was so close, this might be the biggest rematch since Super Fight II. CD8 was considered for a while an easy win for Republicans – so much so that no Democrat even challenged Trent Franks in 2016. Then Franks resigned in late 2017 after asking to impregnate a staffer, leading Lesko and Tipirneni to battle it out, with Lesko only edging a victory by five points. All eyes have been on this race since then, and it has not disappointed.
It would be pretty fitting for a first-generation immigrant to become the one to unseat hardcore Trumper Lesko in a deep red district that favored Trump by 21 points in 2016. Republicans have been scared of Tipirneni – or as they call her, the “fake doctor” – since April, and they have every right to be.
Congressional District 1
Tom O’Halleran (D)
Wendy Rogers (R)
In what is expected to be a close race in Congressional District 1, which includes massive swaths of Native American reservations, Republican challenger Wendy Rogers may not be faring too well with Navajos. Rogers, a former Air Force pilot, was met with stony silence, according to online video, when she said in a meeting with Navajos, that her goal was to “Make Navajo Nation great again.” Apparently, somebody forget to tell them they weren’t. Then, according to a Facebook post by Deb Krol, a veteran reporter on Native American affairs, Rogers ”stuck her foot in her mouth and inserted it nearly to her knee when she sashayed into the Navajo Nation Council Chambers and urged them to vote against all Democrats – three out of four Native state legislators are Navajos, and they are all Democrats.”
If you’re not Navajo, the choice is pretty clear: If you support the president, Rogers believes that Donald Trump poops gold. If you want a Congress that works across the aisle, incumbent Tom O’Halleran, a centrist Democrat and former homicide detective, has demonstrated he will work with both parties to get things done.
Doug Ducey (R)
David Garcia (D)
David Garcia, a statistics professor with fashionable suits, hopes to ride the education wave to the governor’s office. He campaigns as a fun-guy progressive, rallying with Bernie Sanders and touring the state in a school bus, but takes care not to swing too far left lest he alienate Arizona moderates. Garcia’s appears to be a losing strategy.
Incumbent governor and former Cold Stone CEO Doug Ducey grossly and effectively exaggerates his challenger’s lefty persona, while Garcia can’t seem to find a message that sticks. You get the sense he counted on a viral moment a la Beto O’Rourke or Andrew Gillum. Simply being the #RedForEd candidate hasn't been enough. It didn’t help that Garcia couldn’t get the Democratic machine behind him, with most of the donkey cash going toward the Senate election and more competitive statewide races. Polls show Garcia trailing by double digits.
Secretary of State
Steve Gaynor (R)
Katie Hobbs (D)
The candidates for the job of state elections chief and second-in-command are polar opposites. Democrat Katie Hobbs is a state senator, former state rep, and a social worker campaigning on a platform of protecting the right to vote. In October, she was sued by the far-right, anti-immigrant Patriot Movement AZ over a six-month-old tweet in which she criticized Governor Doug Ducey for posing in a photo with the group.
The day after that lawsuit was filed, the Patriot Movement AZ endorsed Hobbs’ opponent, Republican Steve Gaynor. Gaynor, a businessman who has never run for office and came out of nowhere to defeat incumbent Michele Reagan in the primary. His $2.5-million-plus campaign is almost entirely self-funded. He wants to see the National Voter Registration Act overturned and thinks all election materials should be in English, although he’s not above running ads in Spanish.
This is a tight race; in the last month, Hobbs has eaten into what was once a clear lead for Gaynor. The latest polling from OH Predictive Insights showed Gaynor with a 6-point lead, compared to 14 points in early October. A poll from HighGround Inc. gave Hobbs a lead of 1.2 points, although that fell within the poll’s margin of error.
Arizona Attorney General
Mark Brnovich (R)
January Contreras (D)
Here’s a race that’s flying under the radar despite national groups pouring in millions for their preferred candidate. Mark Brnovich, the first-term Republican incumbent, made his mark taking on the Obama administration, litigating against the Affordable Care Act and a mining ban at the Grand Canyon. Brnovich lost both those battles, but he won another big case that refuted the Obama agenda, successfully suing to prevent colleges from giving in-state tuition to Dreamers. Brnovich’s opponent, Democrat January Contreras, has blasted the guy as an activist lawyer wrongly bringing partisanship into the office. It’s hard to wrap our heads around this line of attack, since this is an explicitly partisan office and Contreras publicly opposes numerous Trump policies.
If you’ve only read the headlines, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Brnovich’s opponent is actually Proposition 127. He sued proponents of the clean energy proposition after they ran ads blasting him for modifying the language of their ballot measure to include the words “irrespective of costs.” Now why would Brnovich stick his head in the energy wars in the first place? We wonder if it has anything to do with Arizona Public Service Company’s parent company donating to a Republican group that supports his candidacy.
Mark Manoil (D)
Kimberly Yee (R)
For a state agency with $15 billion in the bank, the Arizona Treasurer wields relatively little power, but it’s a solid bully pulpit and stepping stone for the ambitious.
This year, voters will choose between two ambitious people, Democrat Mark Manoil and Republican Kimberly Yee. Manoil’s a visionary and ex-Democratic Party Chairman who wants to enact fundamental change in the state, including lobbying for the repeal of a 1992 voter-approved measure that makes it tougher for the Arizona Legislature to raise taxes. Yee, a lawmaker since 2010 and the current Senate Majority Leader, predictably takes a no-new-taxes position. However, the job has little to do with creating policy. The most important function of the state treasurer is managing investments.
Who’s the best money manager? Manoil reportedly is one of four tax-lien attorneys who represented investors in a whopping 83 percent of Maricopa County foreclosures from 2010 to 2016. So he’s knowledgeable – but what about his judgment? Could be better. A few years ago, he lost his own home to foreclosure and had his car repossessed.
Yee admits to no personal financial chaos, and she’s also knowledgeable on money matters because of her job. And she formerly worked for the treasurer’s office as a spokeswoman. Yet her Legislature job offers a look into her leadership style, too – for instance, in 2014 she opposed a bill that would have spent state money on cannabis testing, so she blocked other lawmakers from being able to vote on it. That move sparked a short-lived recall drive against her.
Either one you pick, the new treasurer likely won’t do that much – until his or her next job.
Superintendent of Schools
Kathy Hoffman (D)
Frank Riggs (R)
Experience or change — that’s the clear choice between the two candidates for state Superintendent of Schools.
The Republican, Frank Riggs, is the experienced one. He’s a former policeman and 1990s California Congressman. He’s a businessman who moved to Arizona in 2002 for a job at a company that provides services for schools, and embarked on a new career helping out, and helping run, charter schools. He’s qualified for the job and would be a different Republican leader than Diane Douglas, the woman he beat in the primary election. That is, he's not a creationist and isn't obsessed with Common Core standards. But he's not the ideal candidate for voters who want to see substantive change after the embarrassment of Douglas. His candidacy is also weird — he's like a B-level actor from a '90s TV show who wants another shot at a bit part. What motivated him to get back into politics in another state, in the same field as his business ventures, only he knows.
The much younger, less-experienced candidate is Democrat Kathy Hoffman. She’s worked as a speech pathologist in Arizona schools for five years before her epiphany last spring that she needed to quit and run for school superintendent. She's fired up for teachers and was not only a supporter of the #RedForEd movement, but her former campaign manager, Noah Karvelis, was a key lead #RedForEd organizer. But her lack of experience is a factor: When she was on Sunday Square Off on Channel 12 (KPNX-TV), host Brahm Resnik asked her for an example of a time she brought people together to make a change. She related the story of a time she once helped a student in her class before Resnik chided her that she'd be leading a much larger organization if elected.
State Mine Inspector
Joe Hart (R)
Bill Pierce (D)
Democratic challenger Bill Pierce, 70, and his wardrobe have done a remarkable job drawing attention to this race. Students at Arizona State University were even dressing up as him for Halloween. See photos below for further explanation:
Today at the Capitol with the letter saying I'm on the ballot. I am the only Democrat running. pic.twitter.com/NBBwldo2Be— Bill Pierce, Democrat for AZ State Mine Inspector (@BillPierceAZ) May 24, 2018
The incumbent, 74-year-old Republican Joe Hart, has held the job since 2007. He spent 10 years as a state representative and worked for Duval Mining Corporation for 20 years. Pierce is an engineer who likes to tout his certifications from the Mining Safety and Health Administration and OSHA.
Pierce, the first Democratic challenger since 2010, is running on a platform of safety advocacy. He claims that under Hart, the mine inspector’s office has been out of compliance with federal laws by failing to inspect active underground mines. Hart rejects that claim while also countering that he gets a limited budget from the legislature.
This is the only race of its kind in the country. Arizona’s mine inspector does more than just inspect active mines. He or she is also supposed to oversee inactive and abandoned mines, of which Arizona has about 100,000. Given the recent news about a man who spent several days at the bottom of an abandoned well, fighting rattlesnakes and drinking blister fluid to survive, this position is certainly topical.
What’s the main difference between the two candidates? In Pierce’s own words, “I'm younger and better-looking."
Rodney Glassman (R)
Justin Olson (R)
Sandra Kennedy (D)
Kiana Sears (D)
Four candidates are running for two open seats on the Corporation Commission, a quasi-judicial body of five that decides on utility rates, oversees the incorporation of businesses, and regulates securities, among other responsibilities. This race to the bottom has been a shouting match to see who can most convincingly a) dump on Arizona Public Service, even while some of them have obvious or alleged ties to the company, and b) promise to “restore integrity” and “root out corruption” at the Commission.
We’ve interviewed or chatted informally with all the candidates, and we’ve followed them at public debates and forums. We wish they were more impressive, but you get what you get.
The Democrats are Sandra Kennedy and Kiana Sears, two black women whose election could help seriously diversify what is currently a solidly white, male board (come on, it’s 2018!). Kennedy has been a state legislator and senator and previously served on the commission. Sears was employed for six years at the CorpComm as an executive consultant, but when we interviewed her, she had some trouble explaining what that job entailed. The latest on the Sears front is that the Arizona Attorney General’s office is investigating her for failing to disclose her businesses when she launched her campaign.
The Republicans are Justin Olson and Rodney Glassman, two white men. Olson is a former state representative and CorpComm incumbent appointed in October 2017 by Governor Doug Ducey. Sometimes, Olson borrows talking points from APS. Glassman, an attorney, unsuccessfully ran in 2010 as a Democrat in a bid to unseat the late Senator John McCain. He became a Republican a few years ago and has been accused of plagiarizing parts of his dissertation for his Ph.D. Here is a bonus video from that campaign. Someone out there loves him so much they made him a parody Twitter account. Glassman also co-writes children’s books.
Mayor of Phoenix
You’re voting for mayor in this election because former mayor Greg Stanton stepped down to win a Congressional race against a ghoul-faced doctor who believes food stamp recipients are just like your dog Patty. If no one gets 50 percent of the vote in the mayor's race on November 6, there will be a runoff election between the top two contenders in March. There will be four names on your ballot for this race, but only two actually stand a chance of winning: Daniel Valenzuela and Kate Gallego. Although the mayor of Phoenix is a nonpartisan office, both of challengers are Democrats. Both were also Phoenix City Council members who supported the light rail extension, perhaps the biggest debate in city politics this year. That’s to say, finding daylight between your mayoral front runners proves as challenging as finding a clean candidate in the Meth Lab of Democracy. Seriously, the issue that got the most air time this race was whether Valenzuela would give up his job as a Glendale firefighter if he wins. (At first, he said no. Now, he says yes.)
Without much separating Valenzuela and Gallego in public debates, look to their backers for clues. Valenzuela has the support of former Attorney General Grant Woods, two former mayors, the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, and several labor unions, including the police union. In Gallego’s corner: U.S. Representative Ruben Gallego, Congressional candidate Ann Kirkpatrick, Emily’s List, Sierra Club, and the Planned Parenthood Advocates for Arizona.
In the clean-energy match-up of the century, it’s the utility company versus the Democratic mega-donor. And no matter if Prop 127 succeeds or fails, based on the tens of millions of dollars that have been spent, one side is going to be thoroughly embarrassed.
Prop 127 would require utilities to generate 50 percent of their power from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2030. On one side: California billionaire Tom Steyer and his progressive organizing apparatus NextGen America, the group sponsoring Prop 127. On the other: Arizona’s largest utility company, Arizona Public Service, which likes to throw its weight around in Arizona politics and loathes the idea of an inflexible renewable energy mandate imposed via the Arizona Constitution.
The pros and cons of Prop 127 have to contend with the extremely complicated logic of intermittent energy sources and potential consequences to the Palo Verde nuclear plant. But ads from Team Steyer have mostly focused on the clean air benefits of Prop 127 (a dubious claim) while APS says that the measure will raise customers’ bills (which tends to happen regardless). One team is going to go home very disappointed.
Props 125, 126, 305, and 306
If you haven't done your research on these propositions, it's going to be tough to decide what to do. But if you want the easy way out, here it is:
• Prop 125 relates reforms the pension system for corrections officers and elected officials and can reportedly save $275 million in the future by limiting permanently increasing benefits for ones that are based on cost-of-living increases. If you want these reforms, vote yes.
• Prop 126 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would prevent — permanently — taxing many services that aren't taxed now, like auto repair or hair styling. While that may sound good, don't forget that taxes are how we pay for things like teachers' salaries and health care for disadvantaged people. One other thing to keep in mind: This was put on the ballot by the Arizona Association of Realtors, who presumably don't want their income lessened in the future because people don't want to move here, because taxes are too high. If you like their plan vote yes, and vote no to allow the possibility for such a tax in the future.
• Prop 305 asks you to weigh in on the contentious issue of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, or ESAs, which take money from the state fund for schools and gives it to parents for homeschooling or for private-school tuition. So far, the ESAs have been used mainly for disabled students. Prop 305 would allow the family of any K-12 student to apply, but would cap the program at 0.5 percent of the total number of Arizona students. Vote yes to expand the ESA program, or no to halt ESA expansion.
• Prop 306 makes changes to the Citizen Clean Election Commission, and take care with this vote, because it's one of those tricky props in which a "yes" vote prohibits something. Prop 306 would ban candidates who take public money through the Clean Election system from giving that money to political parties or other political entities who would promote them. Vote yes to say no transferring Clean Election money, and no to say yes to the current system.
LD28 State Senate
Kate Brophy McGee (R)
Christine Marsh (D)
#RedForEd swept over the Arizona Legislature this spring. Now the election is here, and underpaid, overworked, fed-up educators aim to prove they can actually elect pro-education candidates. One of their best prospects for knocking off a Republican incumbent is in Legislative District 28, where State Senator Kate Brophy McGee is running for a second term. Her Democratic challenger is Christine Marsh, a high school English teacher in the Cave Creek Unified School District and the recipient of Arizona's 2016 teacher of the year award.
Brophy McGee previously served as a state representative and has a reputation for being willing to compromise – she has even helped shepherd key education legislation through the Legislature. But that might not save her if enough #RedForEd supporters in north Phoenix go to the polls, outraged after the defeat of the Invest in Education initiative at the Arizona Supreme Court and fed up with tax-averse Republicans who stubbornly refuse to generate new revenue to fix failing classrooms.
Also running as education candidates are Jennifer Samuels, a Paradise Valley teacher running in LD15, and Jennifer Pawlik, a Chandler teacher running for the second time in LD17 after losing narrowly in 2016. If these three candidates win on Tuesday, expect to see another spike in #RedForEd energy, this time in the halls of the Capitol.
Supreme Court retention election
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Rest in peace, Invest in Education initiative; we hardly knew ye. The ill-fated proposal to raise income taxes on Arizonans earning more than $250,000 was supposed to be the next step of the #RedForEd movement, bringing a school-funding measure to the voters to do what the tax-allergic Legislature won’t.
Enter the Arizona Supreme Court. A 5-2 majority of justices kicked the measure off the ballot in late August because of misleading language in the measure’s 100-word summary. Teachers were pissed, and immediately targeted Clint Bolick and John Pelander, the two justices who are up for a retention election this fall. Arizona Supreme Court justices have to survive a retention election two years after joining the bench, and every six years thereafter. Right after the Invest in Ed decision, #RedForEd leaders posted a graphic on their website that showed images of the Supreme Court justices with red Xs overlaid on Bolick and Pelander. (The graphic was later removed.)
Bolick is a former libertarian activist lawyer appointed by Governor Doug Ducey in 2016. Pelander is a 2009 Jan Brewer appointee who previously served on the court of appeals in Tucson. They both voted to strike down Invest in Ed. Will educators strike them down as payback?