On a recent Monday morning, Tim O’Malley sat in a Sunnyslope diner sipping coffee and peppering his Republican elected officials with questions about education funding — sounding more like a well-informed heckler than a former longtime member of the Republican Party.
Although he was raised on GOP politics, the 66-year-old switched his party registration to independent in 2010 because the Republican Party in Arizona had become too conservative for him, he said.
Now he faces a dilemma when choosing his two state representatives in the Republican-leaning Legislative District 28, which covers Paradise Valley and parts of Phoenix, from about Scottsdale Road in the east to Interstate 17 in the west, Thomas Road in the south to Union Hills Drive in the north.
Should he vote for the two Republican candidates, Rep. Kate Brophy McGee and Rep. Amanda Reeve of the north-central Phoenix area, even though he doesn’t always agree with them? Or should he split his vote, and give Rep. Eric Meyer of Paradise Valley, the lone Democrat in the race, a chance? The Libertarian candidate in the race isn’t an option for O’Malley.
“I’m hoping what happens in this election is that our Legislature becomes more moderate,” he said. “I would personally like to see the Dems pick up a couple of seats and make it so that (Republicans) have to negotiate to get stuff done.”
But even if every independent in the district split their two votes between the two parties, the boost for Meyer still wouldn’t be enough to overcome the almost 13-point voter registration advantage that Republicans have over the Democrats.
In order to win, Meyer needs to run a strong single-shot campaign.
MEYER’S SINGLE-SHOT STRATEGY
“In our district, I can’t win without doing the single-shot thing,” said Meyer, a physician.
For the past two elections, Meyer has been able to hang on, despite overwhelming numbers against him in his current LD11, because he has run as the lone Democrat for the office where voters get two picks. By telling Democrats to vote for him and not use their second vote, he increases the under-vote of his competitors, and increases his odds to take the second seat.
The single shot technique also means that voters tempted to split their vote between the two parties have only one choice for Democrat, and two for Republicans.
On a recent evening, when the mosquitoes were thick in the Arcadia neighborhood in Phoenix, Meyer rode his neon green bicycle down a residential street, knocking on doors and asking for votes. He knows he needs votes from both parties to win the race, so when he arrives at a Republican household, he humbly asks for their second vote in the race.
He’s careful not to turn off any voter, and his signs and website never mention his party affiliation.
But when he knocked on a Democratic door, he explained the single shot.
“I see you’re a Democrat, I’m also a Democrat,” he said. “I’m running against two incumbent Republicans who have voted for the cuts to education and some of the crazier bills at the Legislature … If you only vote for me, it makes it easier for me to win.”
As he’s leaving a voter wished him good luck.
“Thanks,” he replied. “I’ll need it.”
Even if everything goes according to Meyer’s plan, it will still be a thin margin of victory.
The fact that the voters even elected Meyer says a lot about the district. The new LD28 is made mostly of the old Legislative District 11, which he currently represents. LD11 is one of only two districts in Arizona represented by a Democrat and a Republican.
In the state’s other split district, Legislative District 24, Republican Russ Jones won a House seat by running a single shot campaign against a 5.5-point voter registration disadvantage.
The electorate in LD28 includes affluent areas like Paradise Valley, along with a high percentage of college and post-graduate voters and a lot of political insiders who understand public policy, according to political consultant Kyle Moyer. Moyer, who is working for Brophy McGee, has done polling in the area in the past, and said that the district has proved its mainstream conservative nature with a history of electing conservatives like Reps. Deb Gullett and Stephen Tully and Sen. Adam Driggs.
The House in LD11 first split in 2006, when Democrat Mark Desimone won the second House seat with a narrow victory on a single shot campaign.
“District 28 is one of the most affluent, educated and participatory districts in the state,” Moyer said. “Even prior to the incarnation of it being District 28, back when it was District 11, it was the same.
Over the history of the last decade or more the district has supported mainstream conservative candidates.”
It’s a kind of Goldilocks district — not too red, not too blue — and the voters have rebuked candidates seen as too far to the fringe on either side.
REEVE HAS GROUND TO COVER
In a district like this, Reeve acknowledges she runs the risk of being seen as too conservative. She said that the electorate in LD28 is more moderate than her current district, but says she was considered very moderate there, so it’s a good fit.
“In my old district, I was (called) a RINO,” said Reeve, a paralegal.
“So I think I must be doing something right. I am a Republican and I have those ideals, but when I am here at the Legislature, I recognize that I don’t just represent the Republican Party.”
Reeve’s old district was Legislative District 6 — a Republican stronghold in the northwest Phoenix area that has elected conservatives like Sen. Lori Klein, Rep. Pamela Gorman and Rep. Carl Seel in recent years.
Reeve notes that she has bucked her own party on issues like guns in public buildings and guns on campus, and has voted against Republican legislation on environmental issues, such as the state sovereignty HCR2004 and the federal land bill, SB1332, from the 2012 session.
She also points out that all of the bills she sponsored last year had bipartisan support, and they all got signed into law.
Reeve is trailing the two other candidates in fundraising, and has brought in $34,000 as of the pre-primary campaign finance reports, with $22,000 cash left on hand. Brophy McGee has raised more than $43,000, and still has $26,000 on hand. Meyer had raised more than $69,000, through the same reporting period and still had $55,000 in the bank.
Reeve said she’s hoping that an independent expenditure committee steps in to help her, but if not, she has run campaigns on small budgets before. She said she has had a hard time rounding up donations because it is a busy campaign year with a lot of candidates asking voters for checks, and fewer candidates using the Arizona Clean Elections system.
But her biggest hurdle in the race as a whole is geographic, she said.
Only a small portion of her previous district overlaps into the new LD28, so the vast majority of the voters Reeve has been courting and building a relationship with in recent years won’t have the chance to vote for her. While Meyer and Brophy McGee have quasi-incumbency status, Reeve has had to start campaigning from square one, introducing herself to the district’s voters for the first time.
“I think just getting out there and getting people to know me is going to be my biggest challenge,” she said. “It’s a whole new area.”
BROPHY MCGEE APPEARS FAVORED
Brophy McGee was first elected to the district in 2010, and said she’s been working hard to build a relationship with the constituents ever since. She said part of her focus as a lawmaker has been to keep a running conversation with her voters and community leaders in the area, to preemptively address any problems they may have and only use legislation as a last option.
Her strategy appeared to pay off on Election Day. Voters in the district gave her nearly 4,000 more votes than Reeve in the primary election, even though the two were unopposed on the ballot.
Before coming to the Legislature, Brophy McGee was an Arizona School Facilities Board chair and the president of the Washington Elementary School District Board. She said her focus has always been on education — a top issue for the district, which includes parts or all of eight different school districts and dozens of charter and private schools.
“I have over a decade of experience in community involvement,” she said. “So it’s a different type of grassroots activism and involvement.”
She said the voters in the district are a lot like her: fiscally conservative and socially moderate. They’re also an informed and involved group that has no qualms about calling or emailing their lawmakers when they have a problem or dislike a vote.
“A lot of times they pick a fight when they think they have to,” she said. “I’m never bored, that’s for sure.”
And although there are some significant differences between the three incumbents, she said the race has been hard because they all like each other and have worked together in the Legislature to pass some bipartisan solutions to the state’s problems.
“In my mind it’s a shame to lose any one of us,” she said. “None of us are bomb throwers, we all work hard — but one of us has to lose.”
THE LIBERTARIAN FACTOR
The deciding factor in the race could be the fourth candidate, a Libertarian named Jim Iannuzo who got onto the general election ballot through a write-in campaign in the primary election.
Iannuzo had originally filed to run for the Senate seat, but the Republican Party challenged his nominating petitions because he had signatures from independent voters. The courts eventually sided with the Republicans and Iannuzo decided to run for the House instead.
“I think that, strategically, the Republican Party made a huge mistake by challenging my petitions,” he said.
Iannuzo is the Maricopa County chair for the Libertarian Party, and has run for the Legislature twice before. In 2006, he won more than 2,100 votes and in 2010, he received almost 4,400. He said with that kind of showing again this year — presumably taking votes from mostly conservative Republicans — he could be a spoiler for the GOP candidates.
Though it’s not likely he will take home a victory on Nov. 6, he could pull enough of the vote away from the Republican-leaning base to skew the vote toward Meyer.
“It’s very possible that I pull enough votes from the Republicans, or even the Democrats, that I could easily take out one of the Republican candidates,” he said.
|2625||insurers; healthcare coverage; religious beliefs||N||Y||Y|
|2036||abortion; procedures; informed consent; requirements||N||N||Y|
|2800||public funding; family planning; prohibition||N||Y||Y|
|2729||state regulation of firearms||N||N||N|
|1609||retirement systems; plans; plan design||N||Y||Y|
|1495||Arizona state guard; establishment||N||Y||Y|
|2443||abortion; sex; race selection; prohibition||N||N||Y|
|1070*||immigration; law enforcement; safe neighborhoods||NV||-||Y|
not vote; Brophy McGee
not yet elected