Arizona is emerging as a potential swing state for the U.S Senate race and presidential election, and the increasingly centrist makeup of our state is also affecting state politics. The historically Republican-controlled Legislature now has a narrow edge over Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives, and all 90 seats are up for election in 2020, threatening to turn the Legislature blue in decades.
Despite the historic possibilities of these state elections, they are still put on the backburner to federal elections, which is unfortunate because our state government plays a large role in some of today’s most vital issues. It’s important for citizens to support politicians who will directly better their personal lives and best represent their values, so we must begin to prioritize supporting state candidates through voting and campaign contributions.
Our local governments have a considerably larger impact on our lives domestically in comparison to the federal government – state legislatures are responsible for appropriating state funding in areas like infrastructure and education, which the federal government has less of an impact on within Arizona. The issue of fiscal appropriation is especially important in Arizona where minimal educational funding has been widely scrutinized, even leading to a teachers’ strike in 2018. While teachers’ salaries have seen some increase, Arizona still ranks in the bottom five in regard to per-student funding and student-to-teacher ratio.
A more recent example of the Legislature’s power is the state’s response to COVID-19. In late May, a bill was passed making it harder for workers to sue their employers should they contract COVID-19, aiding corporations and small businesses, while hurting their employees. These highlighted actions are only a small portion of the enormous responsibilities given to our state government, and demonstrates the direct impact they have on our lives.
Because of this influence, citizens must focus on voting and contributing to their preferred candidates in state elections, especially when there are numerous heated races throughout the state that could tip the majority in the Legislature. One of these races is in Legislative District 28, where Democrat Christine Marsh is challenging Republican incumbent Kate Brophy McGee for a seat in the Senate. Marsh and Brophy McGee also faced off in 2018, when Marsh lost by a mere 267 votes. In Legislative District 6, current Senate candidate Felicia French lost her 2018 bid for a spot in the House by 577 votes. We say that every vote counts, and truly every vote is enormously important. But if it’s possible, voting is even more impactful in these smaller elections where the amount of votes separating winning from losing is minute.
Aside from voting, one of the biggest ways to support these candidates is through campaign donations. In comparison to federal candidates, local candidates receive substantially less in terms of contributions, so the weight of each dollar is greater to them. According to OpenSecrets, Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego, who resides in one of the most liberal districts in Arizona, raised over $1.3 million throughout the course of his campaign, despite the fact that he is almost guaranteed victory. Similarly, conservative Congressman Andy Biggs represents the most Republican district in our state, yet he still raised over $900,000. Comparatively, Brophy McGee and Marsh, who are engaged in a close race for a state Senate seat have raised $330,000 and $123,000, respectively. Simply put, money is a more valued commodity in state elections. Take the example of Marsh, who lost by 267 votes in 2018. A couple more thousands to her campaign treasury could have allowed her to do more voter outreach, or put up more campaign signs, both of which would have made her more recognizable to voters and possibly swing the election. But donating extra thousands to candidates like Gallego or Biggs makes very little impact on the election, as their victory is essentially assured.
It’s time to take a deeper look at our election system and realize which politicians are actually affecting our personal lives, and do our best to support them rather than high-profile federal candidates. State government dictates where billions of dollars are spent and much of our attention directed at the federal government would be best spent looking into how to better our state Legislature. It is our duty to better the government by voting for candidates who represent the people’s will, in both federal and state politics. As for those who have money to spare, contributing to local candidates in heated races would prove to be the most impactful way to reach their desired outcome in an election. So as the 2020 general election nears, make sure to spend your money and vote wisely to have your values represented in Arizona politics.
Rohan Patel is a senior at Sandra Day O’Connor High School.