Republican Sen. John McCain barnstormed across Arizona on Monday in a final push for support in a tough race against Democratic U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who focused on getting out the vote in heavily Democratic southern Arizona.
The Senate race is one of several key decisions Arizona voters will make Tuesday, including whether to legalize recreational marijuana and re-elect an Arizona sheriff who is charged with a crime.
McCain is the clear front-runner as he campaigns for his sixth term, making last-minute stops in Flagstaff, Tucson and Yuma before ending the day at the historic Yavapai County Courthouse in Prescott.
The courthouse, a traditional stop for Republican candidates, is where Sen. Barry Goldwater launched his 1964 campaign for president and where McCain has ended every campaign, including his 2008 presidential bid.
McCain been dogged by GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has attacked McCain on his military record and divided voters with remarks about immigrants, women and others.
The senator angered conservative Republican voters when he pulled his endorsement of the New York businessman last month after a 2005 recording emerged of Trump making crude comments about women.
Kirkpatrick says she sees a path to victory and has repeatedly attacked McCain for supporting Trump until it was politically inconvenient. She was making seven stops Monday, including three with former Rep. Ron Barber, hitting Oro Valley, Tucson and Nogales to rally volunteers. Kirkpatrick said in a conference call that turnout will be key and that she’s sensing surging interest among Democrats.
“People really feel like they have a chance to make history in Arizona, and it’s exciting,” she said.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is trying to make inroads in historically Republican Arizona and beat the GOP here for the first time since her husband won here in 1996. Clinton has pumped resources into the state in recent weeks and visited last week.
Alexis Tameron, chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, said the party is heartened by a big increase in Latino voters who cast early ballots, voting at twice the rate they did in 2012.
“The overall story of this election for Arizona is that our base Democrats, which are being led by women over 50 and Latinos, are voting like crazy and Republicans right now are slacking,” she said.
But Republicans are well ahead of Democrats in the early-ballot returns, election officials said.
Voters appear engaged. Maricopa County saw long lines at early-voting locations, which closed Friday. Pima County extended its early voting, setting up emergency locations that remained open Monday.
Concerns remain about a repeat of the hourslong lines seen in Maricopa County during the presidential primary, although they were mainly caused by a huge cut in the number of polling places and the fact that independents could not vote. Neither of those is the case Tuesday.
“I’m encouraging people who are going to the polls to be prepared for long lines, take water, take food, maybe a folding chair in case you have to wait to vote,” Kirkpatrick said.
Maricopa County has a court-sanctioned response plan in place in case long lines appear.
The other statewide races include a ballot measure that would legalize recreational marijuana and one that raises the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020 and adds paid sick leave. Both are likely to bring out more younger, Democratic-leaning voters, which could hurt Republicans.
Another high-profile race is Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s bid for a seventh term despite being charged with criminal contempt of court two weeks before Election Day for ignoring a judge’s order in a racial profiling case. He’s facing a tough challenge from retired Phoenix police Sgt. Paul Penzone, who has hammered the longtime sheriff over the costs of the case to taxpayers.
Two congressional elections are competitive. Kirkpatrick is vacating her 1st District seat, with Democrat Tom O’Halleran facing off against Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, a Republican. Democrats believe they can hold on to the seat.
Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Martha McSally is trying to win a second term by beating Democratic challenger Matt Heinz in the 2nd Congressional District, a swing district that has a history of tight races.