Analysts: new map favors GOP

Some new analysis of the just-adopted congressional districts underlines how much Democrats stand to lose if the lines remain as they are now. 

Political analyst George Khalaf says a review of everything from how well some Republicans did in the 2018 and 2020 elections ‘to voter registration patterns suggests that 2022 is going to be a good year for GOP candidates. 

How good? Khalaf said it is shaping up to move the congressional delegation from its current 5-4 Democratic edge to 6-3 Republican. 

George Khalaf

To be fair, Khalaf’s firm, Data Orbital, does work for Republicans. But his opinion is not unique. 

Sam Almy does election data analysis at Uplife, which works for candidates across the aisle. And he figures that there are only two truly “safe” Democratic districts now held by Ruben Gallego and Raul Grijalva. 

“Taking a look at the maps, specifically with regard to the competitiveness tables, 6-3 may be the case for 2022,” he said, though Almy thinks there are ways for Democrats to hang on to one more. 

Both Khalaf and Almy said it’s more than just analyzing voter registration. 

On paper, Republicans account for 34.6% of registered voters statewide, giving them a 3-point edge over Democrats. Virtually all the others are political independents with a handful of Libertarians. 

So what analysts do is look at other data points. And that includes political history, like how well candidates have done in the past couple of years with the same group of voters. 

“The 2018 governor’s race is probably the least predictive just because that race was a blowout,” Khalaf told Capitol Media Services 

Indeed. Incumbent Doug Ducey picked up 56% of the vote against less than 42% for Democrat David Garcia, with most of the balance going to Green Party candidate Angel Torres. 

Similarly, the 2020 presidential race, where Joe Biden edged then-President Donald Trump by 10,457 votes appears not to be a reliable predictor. 

Khalaf said it may be best to go farther down the 2018 ballot to see how people in any given area voted. And that specifically includes the race for attorney general where Mark Brnovich got 80,672 more votes than Democrat January Contreras. 

“It’s a race that obviously wasn’t under the radar,” he said. 

“Money was spent significantly from both sides,” Khalaf continued. “But the performance was where you would expect a Republican to perform.” 

“I always look at the mine inspector myself,” said Almy, where Republican Joe Hart outpolled Democrat Bill Pierce by 78,452. That’s a race which probably reflected more how Arizonans think generically about Republicans and Democrats. 

All that plays out in what will now be the 6th Congressional District, the district that runs from midtown Tucson out through parts of Cochise, Graham, Greenlee and Pinal counties. This is an area that has been politically competitive: Democrats won in 2012, 2018 and 2020; Republicans in 2014 and 2016. 

Prior election results using even the new district lines would make it appear to be a tossup district, with Democrats Biden and Mark Kelly scoring small victories in the races for president and Senate, respectively. And Khalaf puts Brnovich’s 2018 victory in the AG’s race within the highly competitive range. 

But Khalaf then throws into the mix what happens when turnout is high, looking only at those who went to the polls in at least three out of the last four elections. And in CD 6, Republicans have a nearly 5-point advantage over Democrats. 

That, he said, is not surprising. 

“There’s a school of thought that Democrats have performed better in higher-turnout elections and presidential,” Khalaf said. Conversely, in a non-presidential election year, those affiliated with the party in power in Washington  in this case, the Democrats  likely lag in turnout. 

Almy agrees that turnout will be “key” to what happens. 

“Turnout always drops in the midterms,” he said, for “Dems more so than GOP.” 

And there’s something else. 

Almy noted the redistricting commission moved large areas of Democratic strength out of CD 6 and into already heavily Democratic 7th Congressional District, which runs west from midtown Tucson out to parts of Yuma and then up into the Phoenix suburb of Avondale. That not only includes pushing the line between the districts out as far east as possible  to Alvernon Way at some points  but also craft a district that extended an arm of CD 7 into southern Cochise County to remove Bisbee and Douglas from CD 6. 

Plus, there’s an open seat, with Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick retiring. 

Those same factors go into analyzing what will now be the 4th Congressional District, which runs from Ahwatukee through Tempe into northwest Mesa. This is the area generally reflective of the district currently represented by Democrat Greg Stanton. 

The Democratic candidates for mine inspector and attorney general did win the area in 2018, but just barely, in both cases by less than 52% of the vote. That compares with voter registration figures which show Democrats having a 53.5% to 46.5% edge. 

Also working for Stanton in what could be a tough year for Democrats is new voter registration, an indicator of voter enthusiasm. More Democrats signed up to vote in the past 18 months than Republicans. 

But that trend is not statewide. Khalaf said that in rural areas the GOP signed up more people than the Democrats. 

That, he said, makes sense. 

“In the post-Trump era, a lot of Republicans tend to be doing better in rural America,” he said. “To me, it’s the best indicator in terms of where districts are going to perform in a climate that is hyper-partisan.” 

“I think District 4 is safely competitive,” Khalaf said. 

The incumbent who could face the biggest hurdle is Democrat Tom O’Halleran, who will be running in the 2nd Congressional District, a district that sort of mirrors the area he has represented since the 2016 election. That includes northern and eastern Arizona, but even dips all the way down to the edge of Casa Grande. 

In 2020, he outpolled Republican Tiffany Shedd by about 12,000 votes out of about 365,000 cast. 

But the lines drawn by the redistricting commission for the coming decade aren’t what it used to be. 

“Now he’s looking at a district that President Trump won by almost double digits,” Khalaf said. 

“Now you add Prescott, an area that he’s never represented,” he continued, saying that the area “behaves like a typical conservative rural county and rural city would.” 

All that, Khalaf said “more than balances out Flagstaff. And add to that, Khalaf said, is the “enthusiasm gap” between Republicans and Democrats and the “sheer high unfavorables for Biden.” 

“Adding all of Yavapai County doesn’t do him any favors,” Almy agreed. 

But he also pointed out that O’Halleran no longer has Graham County in his district. And Almy said being an incumbent will help. 

Still, an analysis of the 2018 race finds that while Democrats won the statewide elections for secretary of state and school superintendent, the voters in what is now CD 2 went the other way. 

Almy also said that incumbency may help Republican David Schweikert hang on to his seat in a newly drawn CD 1, which includes Scottsdale and portions of northeast Phoenix. But he, too, is no shoo-in, with just a 2.5-point GOP voter registration edge and a district that went for Biden and Kelly in 2020, though just barely. 

Doug Ducey’s Donald Trump dilemma

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, left, accompanied by President Donald Trump, right, speaks during a meeting with governors in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, May 21, 2018, to discuss border security and restoring safe communities. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, left, accompanied by President Donald Trump, right, speaks during a meeting with governors in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, May 21, 2018, to discuss border security and restoring safe communities. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Donald Trump has put Gov. Doug Ducey in a bind.

With reports swirling that Trump will headline an upcoming rally in Phoenix, his likely visit has put Ducey – who is fighting for his political life vying for a second term – in an awkward position as the governor toes the line in embracing the Republican Party’s most bombastic figure.

Ducey has not said if he will appear on stage with Trump at a rally that will be focused on uniting the GOP following a contentious Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Jeff Flake. Details for the rally have not been solidified.

The governor, a calculating and typically scripted politician, could be the parallel opposite of Trump, who tends to shoot from the hip.

Ducey said this week he looks forward to welcoming Trump to Arizona, but would not say if he will participate in a campaign rally with the president.

“I’ve been with the president plenty of times. I’ve had dinner with the president at the White House so we’re going to see what the details are and we’re going to work with him to make it a productive trip,” he said.

The governor’s staff has been in contact with the White House on coordinating Trump’s visit.

Ducey will appear with Trump because he knows he doesn’t have a choice, said Zachary Smith, a regents professor of politics and international affairs at Northern Arizona University.

“He can’t afford to ‘dis’ Trump,” he said.

More specifically, Ducey can’t risk losing support from die-hard Trump supporters in November, which could happen if he snubs the president when he comes to Arizona, Smith said.

But Ducey also has to appeal to a broader swath of voters this fall. He needs to pick up a chunk of independent voters in order to lock down a second term, Smith said.

Ducey will be walking on a tightrope, Smith said. He will have to show respect for the president, but he could hurt his standing with moderate voters if he’s overly effusive, he said.

“I’m not sure how he’ll do it, but watch, Ducey will find some way to be there, but not be there,” Smith said. “He’s not going to be cheerleading or anything like that.”

Ducey has visited the White House in recent months. In August, he attended an event honoring U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. He and several other Republican governors discussed border security with the president when they dined with him in May at the White House.

Trump endorsed Ducey just before the primary election, inciting liberal outrage across Arizona. While Ducey said he was grateful for the president’s endorsement, his campaign did not broadcast Trump’s tweet because it happened during a campaign hiatus immediately following Sen. John McCain’s death.

In the midst of a contentious re-election bid, Ducey has kept Trump at arm’s length.

Ducey spoke at a local Trump rally in 2016 just after the state’s primary election. But Ducey did not appear at a 2017 Trump rally in Phoenix, although he did welcome the president on the tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport beforehand.

Republicans across the country are struggling with how to handle the Trump factor in a year where Democrats are determined to send a message to the commander-in-chief and members of his political party.

But GOP pollster George Khalaf, president of Data Orbital, said Trump’s visit is unlikely to affect Ducey’s re-election campaign.

A Data Orbital poll from September 10 found Trump underwater with his favorable rating at 49 percent and unfavorable at 42 percent. But Trump’s favorability rating in Arizona has remained relatively consistent over time, according to previous polls from Data Orbital.

The same poll found Ducey with an 8-point lead over Democratic gubernatorial nominee David Garcia, with a mere 7.9 percent of those surveyed undecided.

The Trump factor is largely played out this close to the general election, Khalaf said.

Voters were already associating Ducey with Trump or they weren’t, he said.

“Whether Trump comes or doesn’t, whether the governor shows up on stage or doesn’t, Trump endorsed Governor Ducey and so I think if it’s going to sway someone’s mind, that would be enough,” Khalaf said.

Some voters could also already be lumping Ducey in with Trump simply because they’re both Republicans and anti-Trump voters are already so turned off by the Republican Party right now, he said.

But digging deeper into the Data Orbital poll shows that some Democrats do see the difference between Ducey and Trump because the governor is picking up some support from Democrats who view Trump as unfavorable.

Ducey and Republican Rep. Martha McSally, who is facing Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat, in the U.S. Senate race, have treated Trump differently this election cycle. McSally eagerly vied for Trump’s endorsement and often sought to connect herself to the president throughout the primary.

Weeks before Trump’s endorsement of Ducey, the governor would not say if he wanted the president’s endorsement, in an interview with the Arizona Capitol Times.

Federal candidates have more interaction with the president than politicians at the state level, Khalaf said. McSally recognizes that if she’s going to get the negative effects of running at the same time that Trump is in the White House, she may as well get the positive effects like having the president do a rally for her, he said.

“She may as well go all in,” he said.

Arizona Democrats are incensed at most everything Trump says and does. As Democrats lobby hard to take the Governor’s Office, they have tried to tie Ducey to the president whenever possible.

A spokeswoman for Garcia’s campaign said it doesn’t matter if Ducey appears with Trump when the president comes to Arizona, because they obviously share a common agenda.

Garcia spokeswoman Sarah Elliott said Ducey and Trump agree on tax cuts for the wealthy, attacks on working people, clean energy, civil rights and women’s reproductive rights.

“He’s clearly lockstep with Trump,” she said.

Smith, the NAU professor, said the Trump rally will likely be a wash in the end. Anti-Trump sentiment among Democrats and some independents is already strong and a local Trump appearance isn’t going to inflame that anger, he said.

“At the end of the day, the people who hate Trump will still hate him and the people who love Trump are still going to love him,” he said.

Ducey, Sinema are wooing ample number of crossover voters

U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. speaks prior to delivering her signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State's office Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at the Capitol in Phoenix. Sinema is officially running as a Democrat for U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. Women running for office have crossed another threshold with a record number of candidates for the U.S. Senate.  (AP Photo/Matt York)
U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. speaks prior to delivering her signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State’s office Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at the Capitol in Phoenix. Sinema is officially running as a Democrat for U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. Women running for office have crossed another threshold with a record number of candidates for the U.S. Senate. (AP Photo/Matt York)

As politics grow more partisan across the country, a new type of voter — one who isn’t afraid to cross party lines — has emerged this election cycle.

Approximately 12 percent of people who support Democrat Kyrsten Sinema’s U.S. Senate bid plan to vote for Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, according to recent polling from Data Orbital.

On the flip side, Sinema is picking up roughly the same amount of Ducey supporters.

The polling bodes well for the incumbent governor and three-term congresswoman, who is locked in a tight race with U.S. Rep. Martha McSally to replace U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake.

It’s not unusual for statewide candidates to get some crossover support. Some Democrats will vote Republican and vice versa every election cycle. But with the U.S. Senate and governor’s races predicted to be close, crossover support could mean the difference between winning and losing.

A major factor in the significant number of crossover voters is the candidates themselves, said GOP pollster George Khalaf.

Some Democrats may be flocking away from Democratic gubernatorial candidate David Garcia because of his stance on issues such as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, taxing the rich to fund K-12 education and his plan to offer free college, said Khalaf, president of Data Orbital.

Garcia, unlike previous Democratic gubernatorial candidates in Arizona, is running as an unabashed progressive, who is often pigeonholed in the Bernie Sanders-wing of the party.

“While both parties are going to fringes, there are still components of both parties that don’t want to elect someone that is on their fringe,” Khalaf said. “They would be more likely to elect sort of a pro-business Republican governor than elect someone who they feel like may not align with them on a couple of issues.”

Meanwhile, some Republicans are turning to Sinema because she has spent years shaping herself into an independent, moderate Democrat who isn’t afraid to work across the aisle, Khalaf said.

Longtime political analyst Chris Herstam dismissed the crossover voters as nothing unusual. There’s always crossover voters and more so in the governor’s race than Senate races because the federal races are typically tied to the president and are far more partisan, he said.

Herstam, a former Republican turned Democrat and Garcia supporter, predicted voters will stick closer to their respective parties come Election Day.

“People tend to come home to their political parties as a campaign wears on, and I think you’ll see the crossover vote for both Garcia and Ducey from their own party to the other candidate will be very similar,” he said.

While Garcia and McSally have picked up some support from their opposing parties, it isn’t near as much as their respective opponents. Garcia picked up about 5 percent of McSally voters and vice versa, according to Data Orbital polling.

Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

In the governor’s race, prominent Arizona Republicans like former Superintendents of Public Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan and Jaime Molera, who endorsed Garcia in his 2014 bid for schools superintendent, have turned their backs on him this election cycle.

But in a September 24 governor’s debate, Garcia said he wasn’t surprised by Molera and Keegan’s endorsements of Ducey because they are both Republicans.

Other polling shows a similar pattern of crossover voters. A Fox News poll conducted jointly by Republican and Democratic polling outfits shows Ducey picking up 18 percent of Sinema supporters, with Garcia picking up only 5 percent of McSally supporters.

Khalaf said the polls may not necessarily indicate that Democrats dislike Garcia. Some Democrats just like Ducey’s message more, he said.

The polling could indicate there’s a contingent of Democrats who vote based on economic issues. They are not going to be partisan Democrats just for the sake of being partisan Democrats, Khalaf said.

Douglas Mayor Robert Uribe, who has endorsed Ducey, is one of those Democrats.

Uribe praised Ducey’s focus on bringing jobs to Arizona and working to strengthen the economy along the Arizona-Mexico border. Ducey’s 2017 visit to Douglas to tour the Raul Hector Castro Port of Entry also left quite the impression on Uribe.

“The majority of people in Douglas, Arizona, are asking for more jobs in our region and we struggle with that significantly,” he said. “I’ve been trying to make sure that Douglas is at the table, that Douglas is a part of the conversation and the governor has made himself available to me.”

Uribe also praised Garcia as a passionate candidate with a strong education vision for Arizona. But he stressed that there’s a list of other issues that are equally important, including jobs, trade, infrastructure and Arizona’s relationship with Mexico.

Ducey is the only Republican Uribe has ever endorsed.

Similarly, Jerry Sanchez, the Democratic mayor of San Luis, announced his support for the governor nearly two weeks ago.

What’s more, Ducey’s campaign recently hired Democrat Mario Diaz, a strategist and lobbyist who previously served as former Gov. Janet Napolitano’s campaign manager.

Diaz said Ducey is the right person for governor because of the stability he will bring to the state while boosting Arizona’s economy. He also criticized Garcia for characterizing the state and the Legislature as corrupt, rhetoric that would make it difficult for Garcia to be an effective governor, he said.

“This type of language is divisive and not needed in our state,” Diaz said. Diaz has contributed to numerous other Democrats this election cycle, including a slew of legislative candidates and Katie Hobbs, who is running for secretary of state.

In a gubernatorial debate, Garcia dismissed Diaz’s endorsement of Ducey.

“Of course he’s going to back you,” Garcia said to Ducey. “If you pay somebody then I wouldn’t expect him not to endorse you.”

Ducey’s campaign is paying Diaz $5,000 per month to consult on law enforcement issues and Latino outreach.

Local pollsters predict Biden will win Arizona Democratic PPE

From left are Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont. Arizona pollsters predict a solid victory for Biden in the Arizona Presidential Preference Election on March 17. (Photos by Paul Sancya/Associated Press)
From left are Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont. Arizona pollsters predict a solid victory for Biden in the Arizona Presidential Preference Election on March 17. (Photos by Paul Sancya/Associated Press)

Pollsters agree the Arizona Presidential Preference Election on March 17 is Joe Biden’s to lose. 

The former vice president had a great showing on Super Tuesday March 3, winning 10 of the 14 states, which followed his decisive win in South Carolina on Feb. 29, leaving local pollsters George Khalaf, Mike Noble and Paul Bentz to agree the trend will continue in Arizona. 

All eyes began turning to the 48th state for the 2020 general election, after Democrats picked up several legislative seats, three statewide offices, and gained a majority of the Congressional delegation in 2018, solidifying it’s new moniker as a swing state. 

Mike Noble
Mike Noble

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ended his campaign on March 4 and endorsed Biden following the Super Tuesday results, and U.S. Sen Elizabeth Warren pulled the plug on her candidacy on the morning of March 5. Both Bloomberg and Warren had put a lot of effort into winning Arizona, including racking up endorsements statewide, but they never gained momentum here. Biden has since picked up plenty of support from Arizona politicians like U.S. Reps Greg Stanton and Ruben Gallego, U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Senate-hopeful Mark Kelly, among others. 

It’s now a two-man contest between Biden, the more moderate option, against U.S. Sen Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, the progressive candidate, who calls himself a “Democratic socialist.”  

The pollsters noted that’s a similar dynamic as the 2016 Arizona PPE in which Hillary Clinton beat Sanders by roughly 15 percentage points. Additionally, Biden seems to be winning the same states Clinton won four years ago, with some by a wider margin. 

Khalaf, founder of Data Orbital, predicted that Biden will beat Sanders by “north of 10 [percentage points],” but said he was not conducting any polling to support his prediction.

“I think even though Sanders has done well with Hispanics in other states, it feels like an eternity since Nevada,” he said. 

George Khalaf
George Khalaf

Khalaf said he thinks Arizona will hew more closely to Texas, which Biden won by 4.5 percentage points, than Nevada, which was one of Sanders’ biggest victories. 

Even though Sanders has done really well among the youngest demographic, Khalaf doesn’t think that will be enough for him to pull off a victory here. 

“I’m not really seeing the data that leads me to think that, especially in a presidential preference [election], there’s going to be enough of a surge of 18 to 40-year-old crowd or 18 to 35 that would help Sanders get over the edge,” he said. 

Noble, a pollster at OH Predictive Insights, is the only one of three pollsters interviewed for this story to publish a poll, which showed Biden with a commanding lead of 45% to Sanders’ 17%. Warren and Bloomberg were also included in the March 9 poll, with 13% and 12% of the vote respectively. 

Noble said Biden is well positioned after so many candidates have dropped out. 

Paul Bentz (Photo by Ellen O'Brien/Arizona Capitol Times)
Paul Bentz 

Khalaf said pollsters putting out surveys right now are playing with fire since many voters already mailed in ballots for candidates no longer vying for the nomination. 

Case in point, Julian Castro, the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development under the Obama administration, was stumping for Warren in Arizona ahead of Super Tuesday where he joined dozens of her supporters who lined up to mail in their ballots voting for Warren.

None of their votes will be counted now. 

The primary reason Democrats are backing Biden over Sanders, Noble said, is that in a general election head-to-head matchup against Trump, Sanders performed the worst of the five candidates at the time. Biden led the pack in the hypothetical matchup against Trump, but still trailed the president by two percentage points with 10 percent still undecided. 

Noble said Biden would likely win Arizona because the state is “not purple, [but] magenta” – meaning voters are more likely to choose a moderate over a progressive like Sanders. 

Bentz, of Highground Public Affairs Consultants, said Sanders has outperformed Biden in Arizona fundraising, and if there is a big surge of young and Hispanic voters, Sanders still stands a chance. Still, he said, “at the end of the day, our electorate still is dominated by voters 50 and older, and those folks tend to lean Biden’s way.”

Still standing in the way of the Presidential preference election is a CNN-moderated debate that will take place in downtown Phoenix on March 15 with just the two remaining candidates. And despite the growing concern of COVID-19 spreading, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego says the debate will go on as planned.

Polls identify no leader in U.S. Senate race

U.S. Reps. Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally
U.S. Reps. Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally

Three new polls show Wednesday the race to replace Jeff Flake in the U.S. Senate is pretty much a toss-up.

A live-telephone survey done Sept. 4 through 6 by Data Orbital found Democrat Kyrsten Sinema supported by 46.1 percent of those questioned, giving her a 4.3 percentage point lead over Republican Martha McSally.

Pollster George Khalaf, who questioned 550 likely general election voters, also found Libertarian Adam Kokesh, who didn’t survive the primary, with the backing of 2.3 percent of those asked, with the balance held by the other 9.5 percent who for the moment favor neither major party candidate.

By contrast, a telephone survey of 597 likely voters done by Mike Noble of OH Predictive Insights on Sept. 5 and 6, half live calls to cell phones and half automated to landlines, found McSally the choice of 49 percent, with a 3-point lead over Sinema in a head-to-head race.

And Fox News released its own live telephone poll of 710 likely voters conducted between Saturday and this past Tuesday showing Sinema at 47 percent to 44 percent for McSally.

In all cases, however, the spread is within the margin of error. And none of the surveys asked about Angela Green who will be on the November ballot as the Green Party candidate.

More to the point, Noble said all each survey represents is a snapshot in time of the views of the sample  that each of the pollsters got. And given what he said is the “ungodly amount of money” that both sides will put into the race in commercials — upwards of $20 million — those numbers are likely to change, perhaps radically.

Noble, whose firm has questioned voters about McSally versus Sinema for nine months, said that’s already proving to be the case.

Just a month ago, his poll showed Sinema up by four points. The reversal of fortune, he noted, follows the recent release by Republicans of some deliberately negative advertising about Sinema, including a 2003 picture of her, in a pink tutu, protesting the Bush administration policies of going to war in the Middle East.

McSally has sought to paint the protest of the war as “denigrating” the service of those in uniform — including McSally herself who was a fighter pilot.

And Noble said that the movement between polls appears to be largely in the “swing” voters, those not firmly attacked to either candidate, who also can be swayed by other news, including what appears to be the popular decision by Gov. Doug Ducey to name Jon Kyl to replace John McCain.

All that, Noble said, shows the volatility of the race, which is why he said that race watchers should stay tuned.

“We go back in the field in a week or so and we’re going to be polling multiple more times,” he said. “We’ll know in about a week or so whether that number stuck.”

But Khalaf said there’s something else that might explain why his survey has Sinema up over McSally versus Noble’s poll. Khalaf presumes that Democrats will have a higher turnout this year than they normally do in off-year elections than Noble.

That, he said, is significant, as it will cut into the advantage that Republicans, with their 153,000-registrant edge, traditionally have in statewide races. In fact, Khalaf said, the outcome of the election depends on it.

“In order for Democrats to be truly competitive … they have to limit the Republican ballot advantage to probably 4 or 5 percent,” he said. At 6 or 7 percent, Khalaf said, the race could go either way.

“Anything 8 (percent) or above, I don’t think you’re going to see much change on who’s in office,” he said.

There’s something else waiting in the wings.

President Trump is expected to visit Arizona, though the date for planned rally has yet to be hammered down.

Trump remains very popular among the GOP base, the same base that McSally appealed to in her successful primary race against the more conservative Kelli Ward and Joe Arpaio.

But a Data Orbital poll showed that, among all likely Arizona voters, Trump’s 42.2 percent favorable rating is exceeded by the 48.7 percent who have a negative view of the president.

Despite that, McSally spokeswoman Torunn Sinclair said her candidate intends to stick with her backing of the president and will share a stage with him whenever he does come to Arizona.

Noble said that, at this point, McSally really has no choice.

“If you do that, you lose your base,” he said.

And Khalaf said there’s no downside to McSally staying cozy with the president.

He said Sinema and Democrats will link Trump and McSally together “because there are some negatives there with pockets of voters.” So if she’s going to be linked to Trump, Khalaf said, McSally might just as well take advantage of the popularity he does have “so the Republican base gets jazzed up.”

But Ducey, who will be faced with the same decision, would not make the same commitment to appear with the president as the governor attempts to ward off a challenge from Democrat David Garcia. He told Capitol Media Services that the question of sharing the stage is premature as a date has not yet been set for a Trump visit.

A year ago, Ducey did greet the president at the airport but did not go to the Phoenix Convention Center. Press aide Daniel Scarpinato said his boss was focused on working with law enforcement to ensure a safe event.

But Ducey did participate in a rally for Trump after he was nominated to be the GOP candidate in 2016.


Reagan vs Gaynor: Secretary of state’s GOP race heats up

Michele Reagan at her 2015 inauguration (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting)
Michele Reagan at her 2015 inauguration (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting)

Arizona’s secretary of state contest could be the sleeper race of 2018.

The Republican primary contest has gained little attention, but has developed into one of the state’s more contentious races as millionaire businessman Steve Gaynor challenges Secretary of State Michele Reagan.

The race comes chock full of finger-pointing – Gaynor points to his opponent’s mistakes in her first term and Reagan points to her opponent’s self-funding and relative obscurity.

Gaynor, the owner of a printing plant, has poured $1 million into his bid to be the state’s chief elections officer and first in the line of succession for governor.

Reagan, a former state senator who was first elected secretary of state in 2014, has spent much of the lead-up to the August 28 primary defending missteps from her first term.

State Sen. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, will face the winner.

Steve Gaynor
Steve Gaynor

Gaynor said he was recruited to run for secretary of state because Republicans were worried Reagan couldn’t beat a Democrat in the general election.

But he won’t say who recruited him.

Reagan said she doesn’t know where Gaynor got the idea that she couldn’t win in the general. She said her campaign has internal polling that shows her easily winning against a Democrat.

Before hitting the campaign trail, Gaynor was relatively unknown in state politics. He was more involved on the national level and has donated to numerous federal candidates — mostly Republicans, but also a few Democrats due to their support for Israel.

Gaynor has mostly self-funded his campaign, pouring $1 million of his own money into the race. Fundraising is often time consuming and Gaynor said he didn’t have the name recognition to bring in adequate contributions.

Reagan called it opportunistic and peculiar for Gaynor to spend $1 million of his own money to run for secretary of state.

“That is absolutely insane,” she said.

Gaynor said he expects donors to come out in force should he win the primary election.

Reagan pledged to support Gaynor if he wins the primary,

“I’m a Republican first,” she said.


Polling from Data Orbital last month showed Gaynor leading the race with a 44-22 percent lead over Reagan.

A previous July poll showed Reagan and Gaynor neck-and-neck.

Reagan said she isn’t surprised Gaynor is gaining traction in the polls, citing the hundreds of thousands of dollars his campaign has spent on negative TV ads.

Gaynor’s last campaign finance report, posted in mid-July, shows him paying $222,631 to a political consulting firm that specializes in TV advertising and media buying.

In the ads, Gaynor tries to tie Regan to a series of election-related mistakes. In campaign ads, Gaynor has also touted his support for President Donald Trump, his lifetime membership in the National Rifle Association and his pro-life views — issues that don’t pertain to the Secretary of State’s Office, but could win over Republican voters.

Reagan has struggled to combat Gaynor’s negative attacks. She has adopted an aggressive targeted digital strategy instead of buying TV airtime. Gaynor’s ability to self-fund means he has more campaign cash than his opponent.

“His negative messaging may work,” she said. “And there’s nothing I can do about that.”


On the campaign trail, Gaynor is calling out Reagan for previous elections mistakes.

In 2016, Reagan failed to comply with state law when she failed to mail out 200,000 ballot pamphlets explaining election issues before voters received their early ballots.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich looked into the matter, calling it a “complete fiasco.”

Reagan has owned up to the mistake that occurred ahead of the first statewide race run by her office.

“Am I excusing that? Absolutely not,” she said. “We were held accountable. We have new people and new systems. And we’ve had four elections since then where things went off without a hitch.”

But Gaynor has alleged that Reagan’s office tried to cover up the mistake by not publicizing it as soon as they knew there was an error with the pamphlets.

People make mistakes, but she was not transparent about what went wrong and did not rush to fix the problem, Gaynor said.

“The good news is, from a Republican standpoint, I don’t have the baggage of four years of problems, and frankly, that was one of the primary reasons I got in the race,” Gaynor said.

One of Gaynor’s ads also ties Reagan to the long lines Maricopa County voters had to wait in during the 2016 Presidential Preference Election.

The snafu happened when Maricopa County drastically reduced the number of polling places, which had people waiting in line for hours to vote.

Reagan has tried to distance herself from the incident, saying it is up to county recorders to pick the number of polling places and their locations, and then the recorders get approval from their local board of supervisors.

“There isn’t a whole heck of a lot we could have done,” she said.

But Gaynor has said, as the state’s chief elections officer, Reagan is owed some of the blame.

Consent decree

One of the wonkiest issues of the secretary of state’s race is turning into one of the biggest topics on the campaign trail.

Gaynor criticized Reagan’s decision to settle a lawsuit, clearing a series of hurdles for those seeking to register to vote. He said the consent decree published by Reagan this summer is unconstitutional and allows undocumented immigrants to vote.

Reagan, who stands by the settlement, argues that Gaynor is twisting the consent decree and scaring people in order to drum up support.

At issue in the lawsuit was the required documentation to vote in Arizona, which differs under state and federal law.

State law requires voters to show proof of citizenship to register to vote, but federal law stipulates people must be allowed to register to vote, even if they can’t show proof of citizenship.

Previously, if someone without proof of citizenship filled out the state form to register to vote, their form would be set aside and they wouldn’t be allowed to vote in any elections. They would have to fill out the federal voting form to be able to vote in federal elections.

Now, those who submit either the state or federal form will be registered to vote in federal elections, even without proof of citizenship.

That means, under the consent decree, if you’re an undocumented immigrant and you register to vote with the state form, you can vote in federal elections, which didn’t used to be the case, Gaynor said.

In theory, if the consent decree is allowed to stand, Arizona will have more federal-only voters than before, he said.

“Her actions in this case are outrageous,” Gaynor said.

Reagan, who dismissed claims that the settlement was unconstitutional, said she wouldn’t go back and change a thing because the settlement does the right thing by treating voters equally.

She also called Gaynor’s attacks insulting to others who signed onto the consent decree.

“Is he saying that Mark Brnovich and Bill Montgomery signed something to let illegals vote? It’s absolutely ludicrous,” she said.

See the money

Gaynor has also taken aim at Reagan’s campaign finance-tracking website SeeTheMoney.com, the full launch of which has been delayed.

The website, which was one of Reagan’s campaign promises from 2014, is up and running in beta as a way to track campaign donations and spending in Arizona elections.

Reagan hoped to complete the website in 2016, but now calls that naivety on her part because of the number of statewide elections that year kept her and her staff preoccupied.

Now, Reagan doesn’t have a date for when the final product will launch. Instead, she characterizes the site as something that will continually be updated and said it could take years to integrate campaign finance data from all of Arizona’s counties, cities and towns.

Nonetheless, Reagan heralds the website as the ultimate transparency tool.

Gaynor has criticized Reagan’s SeeTheMoney project as a sign of incompetence and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

“The See the Money website saga, in my opinion, is emblematic of the way the Secretary of State’s Office has been run since January of 2015,” Gaynor said. “Problems, more problems, more problems.”

He would not say whether he will finish the SeeTheMoney website should he be elected secretary of state. Gaynor said he would first evaluate the status of the product before moving forward.

Correction: This story has been corrected to say Steve Gaynor holds pro-life views. A previous version incorrectly stated he held pro-choice views.  

Steve Farley: A wonk with a dream to be governor

As the primary draws near — forcing Democrats to choose sides in the governor’s race — Farley is counting on his wonkiness to help him win it all.
Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, makes a point during a campaign stop July 24, 2018, in his run for governor. (Photo by Carmen Forman/Arizona Capitol Times)

State Sen. Steve Farley can rattle off details of the state budget until your eyes glaze over.

After 12 years in the Arizona Legislature, he has transformed into a full-blown policy wonk. He loves policy so much he claims he even dreams about it.

But Farley is trading in his legislative office for a chance to take on Gov. Doug Ducey this fall.

Locked in a three-way race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, Farley is relying on his legislative experience and superior fundraising to help him win the August primary.

But victory is far from assured. Polls show Farley, the only candidate in the race with any experience as an elected official, trailing Democrat David Garcia, an associate professor at Arizona State University who ran for state superintendent of public instruction four years ago.

As the primary draws near — forcing Democrats to choose sides in the governor’s race — Farley is counting on his wonkiness to help him win it all. After all, it was Farley’s ability to explain complicated budget issues that had teachers flocking to his Capitol office during the “Red for Ed” strike and now he’s using that same tactic to win over primary voters.

After representing Tucson for six years in the House of Representatives and six years in the Senate, Farley is banking on his legislative experience to win the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Farley, 55, became interested in state politics after he helped form Pima County’s Regional Transit Authority.

A graphic designer, Farley’s professional claim to fame stems from his creation of tilography — a way to transfer photographs to glazed ceramic tile. He likes to joke that with his political career and his work as a public artist, he gets to exercise both the left and right sides of his brain.

Democratic candidate for governor David Garcia speaks with a voter June 10 as he canvassed a west Phoenix neighborhood. (Photo by Carmen Forman/Arizona Capitol Times)
Democratic candidate for governor David Garcia speaks with a voter June 10 as he canvassed a west Phoenix neighborhood. (Photo by Carmen Forman/Arizona Capitol Times)

Compared to Garcia’s Bernie Sanders-style populist campaign, Farley is largely seen as the “safe” choice in the gubernatorial race. He better fits the mold of rare Democrats, like Janet Napolitano, who have broken through the GOP stranglehold on Arizona to win higher office.

But this is no ordinary election year.

With President Donald Trump in the White House, Democrats are energized and ready for change. As a result, some voters feel reliable Democrats just aren’t enough anymore.

Nationally, a spate of women and minority candidates are winning elections, which could mean good news for Garcia, a Latino, and Kelly Fryer, the third candidate seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

But Farley’s not too concerned with his primary opponents.

“I’m not running to beat a Democrat. I’m in this to win this race and beat Doug Ducey,” he said in a recent interview.

He jumped into the governor’s race because he saw this as an atypical election year. After Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential loss fired up Democrats across the country, the Governor’s Office suddenly looked winnable.

“I saw this year as a tremendous opportunity with the energizing of the Democrats … that there was a real possibility of turning this state around,” he said.

Farley doesn’t like labels. But if he has to choose, he likes to consider himself a “responsible liberal,” co-opting the words of an Arizona Republic columnist.  

Much like the details of complicated state policies that Farley likes to dig into, he sees himself as a long-form kind of person. He dislikes running for office in an age where policies are reduced to quick-hit hashtags, like #AbolishICE.

Just look at his Farley Reports — Farley’s weekly blog posts to update his constituents on legislative sessions. He has posted hundreds of lengthy Farley Reports.

“I go on at length. I’m not 140-character guy,” he said.

Even Farley’s pitch for himself at fundraisers and other campaign events isn’t quick and snappy. Instead, it’s lengthy and thorough. He often cites a plethora of specific budget figures to make his case.

Numbers are important 

Farley’s wonkiness fits into his belief that better policy equates to better living for everyday Arizonans.

“People get bored with numbers,” Farley said. “But the numbers, because people tune out, they’re the most important thing we have. If you don’t pay attention to the numbers, there are people who will pay attention and they will not have our best interest in mind.”

It’s Farley’s grasp of state politics and his understanding of what goes on behind the scenes at the Capitol that won Beth Ballmann over. A Democrat from Cave Creek, Ballmann votes every election cycle, but she’s trying to get more involved this year.

“I am encouraged to hear that he has been in the Legislature for 12 years,” she said. “I think that really does make a difference. He knows how to win elections.”

Farley’s 12 years in the Legislature culminated in a fiery education speech at 4:45 a.m. on May 3 as lawmakers finished debate on the state budget.

Hopped up on Dr. Pepper, adrenaline and no sleep, Farley launched into an 11-minute tirade criticizing the state of public education in Arizona, praising the “Red for Ed” movement and repeatedly slamming Ducey before voting in favor of the education budget, including the 20-percent teacher pay raises the governor proposed.

Sticky situation

As the teachers in the gallery rewarded the gubernatorial candidate with silent jazz hands — a move he taught them so they could maintain the quiet decorum of the Senate chamber — Farley made the rock on sign with his hands.

“Universal public education is one of those things that made us into the country that we are today, and our decreasing commitment to it, particularly here in Arizona, is threatening that greatness that we achieved,” Farley said.

The state budget put Farley in a sticky situation. Democrats typically oppose all parts of the GOP-proposed spending plans. But if Farley had voted against the K-12 funding plan, Ducey’s campaign — with its massive war chest and support from outside groups — could have run ads slamming his vote against significant teacher pay raises.

Garcia, who is not a member of the Legislature, said he would have opposed the budget.

Farley, the son of teachers, has been fighting for public education since he was 15-years-old and tried to get a local newspaper reporter to expose the shady administration at his mother’s school.

A California native, Farley went to the California Daily Report in Ontario to blow the whistle on overly controlling school officials who were micromanaging his mother’s classroom.

“I had a big sense of justice at the time,” Farley said. “It just didn’t seem right.”

The reporter didn’t bite on the story.

Now, Democrats and Republicans alike are recognizing Farley’s commitment to public education.

Misty Arthur, executive director and lobbyist of the American Federation of Teachers Arizona chapter, praised Farley as a knowledgeable fighter for public education. The federation was looking for a pro-public education candidate who could elicit bipartisan support, she said.

“He just wants what’s best for teachers and it seems like he’ll go out on a limb for it,” said Arthur, a Republican.

The teachers union endorsed Farley in the primary.

Garcia did not seek the chapter’s endorsement, Arthur said. But even if Garcia had, his past history sitting on the board of a charter school would have hurt his chances, she said.

Garcia was endorsed by the Arizona Education Association, and he often says that he will be the most education-friendly governor the state has ever seen because he is a teacher. He is an associate professor at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

But at a recent Farley campaign event, teacher Phaedra Culley said she had switched her support from Garcia to Farley.

In 2014, Culley was firmly behind Garcia’s schools superintendent bid. Now, she’s on the Farley-for-governor bandwagon.

“I don’t know what it is, I just can’t get behind David Garcia,” she said.

When Culley visited the Capitol during the “Red for Ed” strike, she appreciated Farley’s efforts to keep the visiting teachers informed by posting meeting notices and budget updates on his official Facebook page.

As Farley likes to say, he turned his Facebook page into the village newspaper of “Red for Ed.”

Culley, a teacher at Gilbert Classical Academy, said she is impressed by Farley’s breadth of knowledge and his tangible education plans.

“There is just something about Steve Farley that is strong and informative,” Culley said.

One of Farley’s top priorities, should he be elected, would be to cut $3 billion in corporate sales tax loopholes in order to better fund K-12 education and reduce sales taxes. Farley won’t say which loopholes he wants to scrap because he envisions it as a bipartisan process involving members of the Legislature.

During the “Red for Ed” movement, most Arizona teachers were united against Ducey. Then, many of them refocused their energy in backing the Invest in Education Act.

Anyone’s race

But now, Arizona’s teachers — easily one of the most impressive and engaged political forces this election cycle — are splitting up as they line up behind various gubernatorial candidates.

It’s not clear yet which Democratic candidate will capture the bulk of the teachers’ support.

On the campaign trail, Farley touts a history of bipartisanship and working across the aisle, aspects that could play well among independents and Republican voters should he make it to the general election.

He boasts of playing an integral role in working with former Gov. Jan Brewer to usher in Medicaid expansion.

The Medicaid expansion vote happened in 2013, Farley’s first year in the state Senate. A newbie in the upper chamber, he caught Brewer’s attention when he offered to help her with simplifying the state’s transaction privilege tax. As someone who sometimes has to pay TPT in his business, Farley had ideas for how to simplify the state’s tax code.

Last year, Farley introduced a bill that would require periodic review of the state’s more than 300 sales tax exemptions and exclusions. With Republican support, he was able to push the bill out of the Senate in a 28-2 vote. The bill later stalled in the House.

But Farley worked with Republicans long before he joined the Legislature in 2007.

For years, he worked with former Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup, a Republican, to improve Tucson’s public transit — a widespread partnership that led to the creation of the Sun Link streetcar.

Walkup has endorsed Farley in all of his campaigns since.

“I endorsed him throughout all these campaigns because I knew that his heart was in the right place,” Walkup said.

Farley has shown his colors in the Legislature, Walkup said. He said Farley was instrumental in pushing Medicaid expansion and through that, he showed he was capable of working across the aisle.

Whether Arizonans like it or not, they are being driven by what is happening in Washington D.C., and what’s happening across the country has voters rethinking the kind of leader they want here at home, he said.

“I think we want the old-style leadership where you care about all of the people and you care about our friends and our allies,” Walkup said. “Those are the kind of people this country is going to put back into office.”

Recent polls show Garcia leading the pack in the gubernatorial primary. And some national media outlets act as though Garcia winning the primary is a foregone conclusion. A recent Politico Magazine article on the state of Arizona’s gubernatorial contest and U.S. Senate race didn’t even mention Farley.

But polls, like the one put out by Data Orbital this month, show roughly half of Democratic voters are still undecided in the governor’s race, which could indicate there’s no clear winner yet.

Citing his campaign’s superior financial resources — he has double the cash on hand of Garcia’s campaign — as a major advantage heading into the primary, Farley seemed unconcerned by recent polls.

His campaign recently filmed a statewide TV advertisement to air sometime before the primary, and is ramping up events and outreach to sway those undecided voters.

“This is anyone’s race and we’re the only ones with the ability to communicate at this point,” Farley said.

Survey says voters support modest tax hike for education

Jar for coins

A new statewide survey shows that a majority of voters are willing to hike sales taxes for education — but not by as much as some are seeking.

The poll done by Data Orbital also finds that a majority want “results-based funding,” what the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which sponsored the survey defines as tying increasing dollars to improved academic performance. And it finds strong public support for the plan crafted by Gov. Doug Ducey and enacted by the Legislature to boost teacher salaries an average of 20 percent by 2020.

The survey comes as the Helios Foundation is working to craft a measure that would raise $1.5 billion a year for education through a combination of increased sales and property taxes. Foundation officials are hoping to present a plan to lawmakers who would put it on the 2020 ballot.

But adding property taxes to the mix could prove fatal, with the survey finding using that as a source of revenues far less popular than not just sales taxes but also income taxes.

It also comes as the Center for Economic Progress is coming up with its own plan to ask voters to pump more money into education.

Last year the organization attempted to put a measure on the ballot for an income tax surcharge on the most wealthy Arizonans. That plan drew immediate fire from the state chamber, which filed the successful lawsuit that kept it off the ballot.

David Lujan, the group’s executive director, said the form the 2020 initiative will take is still being decided, with ongoing research to find something that would be acceptable to voters.

But Lujan said it could be similar to last year’s plan which sought to hike income taxes on individual earnings of more than $250,000 a year, a plan that would raise $690 million a year without costing the vast majority of voters a penny.

“What we found is it had strong support from Arizonans,” Lujan said of that proposal.

The chamber’s poll, however, asked only whether voters prefer sales, income or property taxes to fund education and never inquired about a plan to tax just high earners.

Chamber spokesman Garrick Taylor told Capitol Media Services that despite the opposition to last year’s bid to raise money for education through an income tax surcharge on the most wealthy that his organization isn’t necessarily opposed to putting more dollars into K-12 — and even doing it with some sort of tax hike.

“But we’ve also supported the idea that results should be valued and proper investments should follow those results,” he said. Taylor said, though, any academic improvement results used to put new dollars into classrooms should include special financial consideration for schools with “obstacles,” such as a high percentage of students in poverty.

Of note in the survey is how much more voters are willing to tax themselves.

Of the 550 people questioned in the telephone poll last month, 57.7 percent said they would support taking the current 0.6-cent sales tax now dedicated for education and raising that to a full penny. That parallels a plan crafted by Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, who chairs the Senate Education Committee.

But there are others, like Sen. Andrea Dalessnadro, D-Green Valley, who have argued, however, that the approximately $473 million the tax hike would raise is nowhere near enough to make up for the funds that were cut from education during the recession.

There is, however, a risk of going bigger: The survey shows a drop of support, to 45.2 percent, for a plan to take that 0.6-cent levy and increase it to 1.5 percent to add $1 billion a year in funding.

One survey question may be an indication of the depth of public support for more education.

The chamber has Data Orbital point out that the Legislature put an additional more than $600 million into education this past year, though the question did not inform respondents that figure includes not just new money but also what the state is required to fund for both inflation and student population.

And then the survey goes on to state that current K-12 funding amounts to about $5.5 billion of the $11.8 billion state budget.

Yet even with those prompts, 52.4 percent of those questioned still believe that more funding for education is necessary.

“It’s not a runaway on that question,” Taylor said. “But still a majority, even when given the details of recent budget deals, still believe that more dollars are needed.”

The survey has a margin of error of 4.2 percent.