Just Thinking

Democrats Sweep Seats Set Up to Be Competitive

by Richard Gilman

(Update: Ron Barber’s eventual victory – by 2,500 votes – in the second congressional district narrowly gave Democrats all three of the seats that were set up by the Independent Redistricting Commission to be competitive.  Coupled with the two other seats they were virtually guaranteed to win, Democrats will have a 5-4 edge in Arizona’s delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives.)

(November 8) The results of the state’s congressional and legislative races played out just as they were laid out.

Tuesday’s election was the first test of new district boundaries that will be in use for all of this decade.  The results illustrate why the work of Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission is extremely important . . . and so hotly contested.

The winning party of two-thirds of the congressional seats and five-sixths of the legislative seats were all but decided when the lines were drawn.  Of all the contests decided on Tuesday, perhaps only one race in one legislative district deviated from the pattern.


With the outcome of District 2 still not entirely decided, it appears that Republicans will have a 5-4 advantage in Arizona’s congressional delegation.

The outcomes in six of the districts were a foregone conclusion by virtue of gargantuan registration advantages that the redistricting commission set up for one party or the other.  An earlier assessment of the safe — and not so safe — districts.

Four districts were virtually guaranteed to the Republicans.  Paul Gosar, Matt Salmon, David Schweikert and Trent Franks waltzed to big – but entirely predictable – victories on Tuesday.  All gained 60+ percent of the vote in their respective districts.

Likewise, two seats were there for the taking by Democrats.  Ed Pastor and Raul Grijalva won handily, even if some might say Grijalva underperformed with “only” 57 percent of the vote in the face of a spirited challenge from Gabriela Saucedo Mercer.

The real battle though was for the three remaining seats.  They were competitive, exactly as the redistricting commission intended.  As of Thursday morning, with provisional and early ballots still being processed, all were still being contested.

The Democrats led two of them by the narrow margins that one might expect in swing districts.  Ann Kirkpatrick gained 49 percent of the vote in District 1 to edge Jonathan Paton by four percentage points.  District 9 was even closer.  Kyrsten Sinema led Vernon Parker by 48 to 46 percent – a margin of just 2,700 votes.

By an even narrower margin, the Republicans may have taken the third of the competitive seats. Martha McSally led Ron Barber by 50.0 to 49.8 percent in District 2.  That’s just 400 votes out of the 228,000 that were cast.

If McSally’s slight lead is erased as the ballot count continues, the 5-4 advantage in the congressional delegation would flip to the Democrats.


Republicans held onto the Senate and retained a more sizeable margin in the House.  Although not quite up to the supermajorities the GOP enjoyed the previous two years, it looks as if it will control the Senate by 17 votes to 13 and the House by 36 to 24.

As with the congressional races, the legislative elections went just as the redistricting commission mapped them out.

The outcomes of the races in 25 of the state’s 30 legislative districts were all but determined the day the districts were drawn.  The index used by the commission to measure competitiveness showed that, in all these districts, one party or the other had advantages of anywhere from 11 to 45 percentage points.

True to form, 74 of the 75 races – each district is represented by one senator and two representatives – went just as one would expect in the 25 districts.

Democrats operated with commanding voting registration advantages in 10 districts.  They swept the three races in each of those districts, in many cases without opposition.

Republicans had similar advantages in 15 districts.  Often without opposition, they came close to sweeping the races in all those districts.  There may be, though, one solitary exception.

Eric Meyer, a Democratic legislator who has shown a singular ability to snare victory from the Republican den, may have eked out another victory on Phoenix’s north side.  A profile of Meyer from two years ago.

As of Thursday morning, he led Republican Amanda Reeve for the second of the House seats in District 28 by a mere 400 votes.  Republican Kate Brophy McGee maintained a commanding lead for the first of the District 28 seats.

The other five legislative districts were set up by the redistricting commission to be more evenly divided — to the point, though it might be a bit of a stretch, that the districts could be considered competitive.  In all five, the commission index showed neither party had an advantage of more than 10 percentage points.

The formula indicated the GOP would have slight advantages in Districts 6 and 18.  Republicans, all but one of them incumbent legislators, swept those races on Tuesday but the margins of victory were closer than those enjoyed by their colleagues running in safe districts..  While the results all went one way, the races were hotly contested.

Newly elected Rep. Bob Thorpe called his race in LD-6 “extremely competitive.”   As one indicator, he cites $400,000 in negative advertising that he says was poured into the district by the labor unions.

Meanwhile, the redistricting formula gave minimal advantages to Democrats in Districts 8, 9 and 10.  And indeed the Democratic candidates, two of them veteran legislators, swept the Senate seats in the three districts.

The House races though proved competitive.  Of the six seats up for grabs in the three districts, Democrats won three and Republicans won three.

Had the Democrats somehow won all the Senate and House seats in the five more competitive districts, they would have achieved parity with the GOP in both houses.  On Tuesday, the Republicans put that possibility to rest.







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