Allen holds off Dem challenger Carlisle

Sen. Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake)
Sen. Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake)

Despite Democrats’ best efforts, Sen. Sylvia Allen isn’t going anywhere.

The Snowflake Republican surged to a commanding lead overnight against Democrat Wade Carlisle, continuing her biennial tradition of holding the Legislative District 6 seat for the Republican Party.

Allen has now won three consecutive terms in the northern Arizona district, and did so again in routine fashion.

After early ballot results gave Allen a narrow lead of a few hundred votes on election, day-of voting reports from Gila and Navajo counties helped her surge to a commanding lead. Allen also narrowly won the majority of the vote in Yavapai County, while Carlisle, the vice mayor of Holbrook, handily won in Coconino County. A nearly identical scenario played out on election night two years ago, when Allen beat Democrat Nikki Bagley.

Carlisle, a railroad worker, was backed by a healthy dose of independent expenditures hoping to boost his campaign and harm Allen, a conservative Republican who’s routinely targeted as a beatable candidate.

Allen has proven immune to those efforts, thanks in part to her own penchant for fundraising – she raised nearly $70,000 for the campaign – and a healthy dose of spending by the Senate Victory PAC to help ensure the chamber stays in control of Republicans, as it has been for more than a decade.

For Democrats, the loss is a blow to their chances of picking up any seats in the Arizona Senate, where they’ve spent the better part of the last six years on the short end of a 17-13 split.

—LD6 Senate by the numbers

100 percent of precincts reporting in Coconino, Gila, Navajo and Yavapai counties


Sylvia Allen 52 percent


Wade Carlisle 48 percent

Arizona House Speaker Mesnard poised for move to Senate

House Speaker J.D. Mesnard (Photo by Katie Campbell/ Arizona Capitol Times)
House Speaker J.D. Mesnard (Photo by Katie Campbell/ Arizona Capitol Times)

Arizona House Speaker J.D. Mesnard is likely going to be a senator, and perhaps the next Senate president.

The Chandler Republican spent the last two years guiding the House of Representatives through a tumultuous period that saw lawmakers make history by expelling one of their colleagues. Termed out of the House, Mesnard is now leading the race in Legislative District 17 to represent it in the Senate.

With early ballots reported, Mesnard is handily defeating Chandler Democratic Steve Weichert, who also ran unsuccessfully for the same seat in 2016.

If Mesnard’s lead holds, he’s got another race to run on Nov. 7: He’s vying to become the next Arizona Senate president, and would succeed the current senator from LD17, Republican Steve Yarbrough, in that role.

Sen. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, is also running for the top leadership role in the Senate.


LD28 Senate by the numbers

Early votes  


J.D. Mesnard 52.8 percent


Steve Weichert 47.2 percent

Bowie holding on to Senate seat in East Valley

Sen. Sean Bowie, D-Phoenix (Photo by Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times)
Sen. Sean Bowie, D-Phoenix (Photo by Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times)

Early voting poll results show Sen. Sean Bowie defending his Senate seat against his old rival, Republican Frank Schmuck.

A Chandler Democrat, Bowie last beat Schmuck in 2016, when the two ran head-to-head for the open Senate seat in Legislative District 18. Now Bowie, the incumbent, is leading Schmuck again on election night.

Bowie spent the last two years in office carving a place in the Senate as a moderate Democrat, knowing that in a competitive swing district like LD18, which spans parts of Phoenix, Chandler, Tempe and Mesa, a bipartisan streak is a necessity. A voting analysis, conducted by the Arizona Capitol Times and the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting, found that Bowie voted alike with Republican senators more than any other Democratic lawmaker in 2017.

The vote that perhaps best demonstrated Bowie’s willingness to buck party trends was his yes vote on Gov. Doug Ducey’s budget plan to give Arizona teachers a 20 percent raise over three years. Bowie was one of a handful of Democrats who cast votes in favor of the proposal, avoiding a potential attack from Schmuck on the campaign trail.

While Bowie touted his votes for public school funding, he attacked Schmuck, a Tempe Air Force veteran, for a position Schmuck took in 2016: A proposal to phase out the state’s income tax.

Bowie labeled Schmuck’s prior support of the plan as untenable given the need for even more funding for K-12 schools.


LD18 Senate by the numbers

Early votes 


Frank Schmuck 44.1 percent


Sean Bowie 55.9 percent

Brophy McGee comes through with GOP win as vote count ends

Sen. Kate Brophy McGee (R-Phoenix)
Sen. Kate Brophy McGee (R-Phoenix)

Editor’s note: This story has been revised multiple times since the original publication because of the changing vote tally.

It took nearly two weeks, but it’s finally safe to declare victory for Sen. Kate Brophy McGee.

The Phoenix Republican was left waiting thanks to a slow vote-counting process by the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, which released its final batch of tabulated ballots late Monday afternoon. That final count left Brophy McGee’s lead at 267 votes over former Arizona Teacher of the Year Christine Marsh in Legislative District 28.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride for both candidates since Election Day. What started as an 808 vote lead for Brophy McGee that night nearly doubled to 1,458 votes the morning after. By November 9, that lead would be down to 616 votes.

From then on, Brophy McGee’s lead steadily shrunk as Maricopa County elections officials counted late-early ballots, mail-in ballots that were turned in the day of the midterm election, as well as provisional ballots.

Some days, Brophy McGee earned more votes than Marsh. But more often than not, the updates favored her Democratic challenger, who relied not only a surge of support for Democrats while President Trump occupies the White House, but also strong backing of the #RedforEd movement and public education supporters leary of Republican representation at the Capitol.

Brophy McGee gained some breathing room over the weekend, when a 280-vote advantage grew to 347 votes on Saturday evening. It was enough to help ensure she’d win with enough votes to avoid a recount, which would’ve been triggered by a lead of 50 votes or less.

LD28 candidates, particularly its state senators, routinely face tough elections in an area of Phoenix where Republicans hold a voter registration advantage, but independents often sway races and have a history of electing at least one Democrat to serve at the Capitol.

In Marsh, a high school English teacher riding a groundswell of support from fellow educators amid the #RedforEd movement, Brophy McGee faced arguably her toughest challenge yet.

Brophy McGee has gotten this far by walking a fine line on the campaign trail as a moderate Republican, and overcoming a rash of GOP infighting in the district.

Having finished her first term in the Senate, Brophy McGee isn’t always popular in GOP circles for her political positions, which skew toward bipartisan results. Even her own brother has contributed to her political rivals in the Republican Party, with Brophy McGee explaining her brother and sister-in-law favor more conservative candidates.

Her candidacy was at one point threatened by a fellow Republican, Rep. Maria Syms, whose husband sought to run against Brophy McGee as an independent. Throwing a third candidate, one aligned with a Republican like Syms, could have pulled votes away from Brophy McGee and swung the race in Marsh’s favor.

Following a lawsuit and the discovery that hundreds of the would-be candidate’s signatures were invalid, Brophy McGee was back to the campaign trail, where she told voters she has done all she can to boost funding for education.

Brophy McGee has boasted of her push to extend a sales tax for education, her support of Gov. Doug Ducey’s plan to give teachers a 20-percent pay raise over three years. She’s even threatened to sue a political committee that accused her of slashing education funding while in office.

Marsh, who has spent 26 years in the classroom, most recently at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, has criticized Republicans like Brophy McGee for not doing enough for teachers. And her pitch, like many other Democrats, focused in part on taking control of the Senate from Republicans, who she accused of leaving schools in a constant state of underfunding.

By surviving Marsh’s challenge, Brophy McGee is now the last remaining Republican legislator in the district. Syms and GOP newcomer Kathy Pappas Petsas were swept in the House race by Democrats Aaron Lieberman and Rep. Kelli Butler.

Cajero Bedford long run in Legislature over

Olivia Cajero Bedford
Olivia Cajero Bedford

The Cajero dynasty in the Arizona Legislature has ended after more than 40 years.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting in Pima County, Sen. Olivia Cajero Bedford, who was running for one of two vacant House seats in South Tucson’s Legislative District 3, has been defeated.

First-time candidate Andres Cano led in the three-way race and political newcomer Alma Hernandez took the second spot in the Democratic primary. Unofficial results show Cajero Bedford fell short of the second spot by just 332 votes.

Cajero Bedford, who has served in the Legislature for 16 years, was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2003, where she served for eight years. She has served in the state Senate since 2011 and is termed out this year.

Minus a six-year absence between 1996 and 2003, this marks the first time in more than four decades that a Cajero is not in the Legislature. Her parents, Bernardo “Nayo” Cajero and Carmen Cajero, served in the House for 28 years.

Cano has served as Pima County Board of Supervisor Richard Elias’s community liaison since 2012, and he served as Elias’s campaign manager in 2012 and 2016.

Hernandez, the sister of Rep. Daniel Hernandez, who represents neighboring Legislative District 2, works in the public health field. She led Arizonans United for Healthcare, working to defeat the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Cano and Hernandez will face off in the Nov. 6 general election against Beryl Baker, the Green Party candidate, who ran unopposed in the primary.

LD3 House By The Numbers

28,105 votes cast


Olivia Cajero Bedford 32.05 percent

Andres Cano 34.72 percent

Alma Hernandez 33.23 percent


Beryl Baker 100 Percent


David Garcia clinches Democratic gubernatorial nomination

Democratic gubernatorial nominee David Garcia gives a victory speech after winning a three-way Democratic primary challenge Tuesday. Garcia, who will take on Gov. Doug Ducey in the governor's race, spoke to more than a hundred supporters packed into a Phoenix bar and restaurant. PHOTO BY CARMEN FORMAN/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES
Democratic gubernatorial nominee David Garcia gives a victory speech after winning a three-way Democratic primary challenge Tuesday. Garcia, who will take on Gov. Doug Ducey in the governor’s race, spoke to more than a hundred supporters packed into a Phoenix bar and restaurant. PHOTO BY CARMEN FORMAN/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES

Long hyped as the frontrunner in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, David Garcia cruised to victory Tuesday, earning the chance to take on Gov. Doug Ducey this fall.

Garcia, a professor at Arizona State University and former Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate, defeated state Sen. Steve Farley and activist Kelly Fryer to win the Democratic nomination.

Garcia ran to the left of Farley in the primary, showing off a side of himself that was not seen in his 2014 campaign for superintendent of public instruction – a race he lost to Diane Douglas by about 16,000 votes.

He was the first Democrat to jump into the governor’s race and consistently led in the polls.

In a rousing victory speech at a Phoenix bar and restaurant, Garcia said the primary election results show Arizonans are turning away from the agenda of Ducey and President Donald Trump in favor of a new vision for the state.

“Arizona made a choice,” he said. “They said we are ready for vision over division. We want hope over fear. We want trust over dishonesty and as of today, the Trump/Arpaio/Ducey playbook. … That playbook is coming to an end.”

Even with strong Democratic tailwinds, Garcia now faces a tough battle to unseat the incumbent governor.

Garcia’s path to victory already appears arduous. Ducey, with his massive war chest and financial support from the Republican Governors Association, will blanket the airwaves with advertisements touting the governor’s re-election bid. The RGA has already put down $9.2 million in ad time to prevent a Democrat from winning the governorship.

But in front of a packed audience Tuesday, Garcia dismissed the attack ads as deceptive and dishonest.

It is not going to work this time because all the money in the world, all the slick ads, all the dishonest ads are not going to help us forget that our schools are still in crisis,” he said.

The RGA fired back at Garcia on Tuesday, characterizing him as part of the “radical far-left” wing of the Democratic Party.

Garcia ran as an unabashed progressive by calling for free college tuition and a total overhaul of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency amid comparisons to former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Citing Garcia’s calls to revamp ICE and his support for a ballot initiative that would boost renewable energy requirements in the state, RGA spokesman Jon Thompson called Garcia’s political agenda too expensive for the state.

“David Garcia’s radical agenda would be a dangerous disaster for Arizona,” he said.

In the governor’s race, Garcia and Democratic groups are unlikely to have anywhere near as much spending power as Ducey and his allies.

But if elected, Garcia would be Arizona’s second Hispanic governor, following Raul Castro who served more than four decades ago.

All three candidates support the Invest in Education Act and vowed to undo Ducey’s Border Strike Force, if elected.

With teachers fired up by the “Red for Ed” movement, the democratic gubernatorial candidates tried desperately to capture as much of the education vote as possible in the lead up to the primary. Education funding was often a hot topic of debate at most of the debates and forums in which the candidates participated.

Garcia jumped into the governor’s race last year after Ducey signed legislation to create universal vouchers. Garcia was so incensed by the action that he characterized as a major blow to public education in Arizona that he set his sights on ousting Ducey. Garcia sees raising taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents as the key to funneling more money into K-12 education.

After his win Tuesday, Garcia hearkened back to Ducey’s voucher expansion. That was the end of the public education as Arizonans knew it, he said.

“If you take away one thing from this night, I want you to remember this,” Garcia said. “We will never have a governor more committed to public education than me.”

Democrats are increasingly fired up this election cycle. With President Donald Trump in the White House and Arizona teachers demanding their voices be heard, Democrats are hoping they can turn that liberal outrage into enough votes to oust Ducey from the governor’s office.

But in a deeply conservative state like Arizona, Democrats don’t have a great track record of winning statewide office. Janet Napolitano, the state’s last Democratic governor, was elected in 2002.

In light of Sen. John McCain’s death, Garcia vowed to limit his campaigning on Wednesday and Thursday as the late senator is honored at the Capitol and at a memorial service.

Democratic Gubernatorial Primary

By The Numbers

Early votes

Steve Farley: 34 percent

David Garcia: 49 percent

Kelly Fryer:  17 percent

Doug Ducey easily defeats Bennett, wins GOP nomination

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

Gov. Doug Ducey easily brushed off an intraparty challenge from former Secretary of State Ken Bennett Tuesday.

Early voting totals shows the governor — an Arizona GOP darling who is seeking a second, four-year term — ran away with the Republican nomination.

Leading up to the primary, Ducey largely ignored his primary opponent as Bennett desperately tried to wage an uphill battle against the incumbent governor with a massive war chest.

Approximately 20 minutes after the first election results posted, Ducey put out a statement claiming victory and thanking voters for their continued support, but also looking ahead to the general election.

“Now we must come together again to ensure we build on the significant gains of the last three years to secure Arizona’s future,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to the campaign ahead in the weeks and months to come.

Ducey will face Democrat David Garcia in the general election

In what was either a testament to the non competitive nature of Ducey’s primary challenge or the strength of Ducey as a candidate, Vice President Mike Pence congratulated the governor on his primary win Tuesday — before any election results were released. He later deleted his tweet, likely upon realizing his congratulations were premature.

Bennett called Ducey to concede shortly after the race was called, said Christine Bauserman, Bennett’s campaign manager.

He, like Ducey, said it was time to present a united Republican front going into the general election, Bauserman said.

“Now is the time to come together to keep the state Republican,” she said.

Bennett angered establishment Republicans when he jumped into the race this spring, fresh off the heels of the “Red for Ed” teachers’ strike. Bennett repeatedly criticized Ducey for “caving” to the teachers and denounced the governor’s proposed school safety plan to prevent gun violence in schools.

But Ducey kept Bennett at arm’s length by refusing to debate him and often glossing over his primary opponent in interviews and at campaign events. 

Bennett failed to qualify for Clean Elections funding before the primary, which would have given him the resources to speak to a broader swath of Republican voters ahead of the primary.

However, Bennett did get one small victory on Tuesday as he turned in his $5 Clean Elections contributions to the secretary of state’s office. He turned in his Clean Elections contributions after a Maricopa County Superior Court judge compelled the secretary of state’s office to reopen the online contribution portal after Bennett was shorted about four hours of contribution time.

Bennett invoked the ire of Ducey and many high-ranking Arizona Republicans in June when he vowed not to appoint Cindy McCain to her husband’s U.S. Senate seat, implying months before John McCain died, that Ducey would appoint Cindy McCain to the seat.

In his gubernatorial bid, Bennett cast himself as an anti-establishment Republican in the mold of President Donald Trump — an odd choice for a longtime politician who served in the state Senate before being elected secretary of state.

He unsuccessfully sought the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2014. He came in fourth in the six-way primary race that Ducey won.

Ducey clinched Trump’s endorsement Monday.

Now, all that stands between Ducey and a second term is the winner of a three-way Democratic primary for governor. But in the wake of McCain’s death, Ducey has temporarily put off campaigning as the state and the nation honors Arizona’s senior senator.

The Democratic Governors Association came out swinging against Ducey after he clinched the GOP nomination.

Ducey spent his first term undermining Arizona’s future by poorly allocating K-12 education funding, supporting plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and cozying up to special interest groups that pour millions into his campaign, said DGA Executive Director Elisabeth Pearson.

The Republican Governors Association is planning to spend at least $9.2 million to propel Ducey to a second term. The RGA is trying to bail Ducey out, Pearson said.

“Doug Ducey is in electoral trouble — and he knows it,” she said in a statement.

Republican Gubernatorial Primary

By The Numbers

Votes cast: 510,322

Doug Ducey: 70.5 percent

Ken Bennett: 29.5 percent

Early voting change short on votes

Voting ballot box isometric vector icon with paper sheet

While the Arizona Senate took another step towards banning voters from dropping off their mail-in ballots at polls, the measure is effectively dead due to opposition from two Republicans.

Sens. Heather Carter and Kate Brophy McGee are opposed to SB1046, which require voters who request a ballot by mail to return it by mail. If not, they’d be required to go to a polling place and vote in person, rather than have the option to drop off the mail-in ballot at election sites across the state.

Some 228,000 mail-ballots were dropped off at polling sites on the day of the 2018 general election, and both Carter and Brophy McGee said they object to barring that long standing practice in Arizona elections. Carter, a Cave Creek Republican, acknowledged that she’s one of those voters who delivers her mail in ballot by hand.

“The analogy someone used with me is toothpaste back in the tube,” Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, told the Arizona Capitol Times. “People are used to doing it that way, they want to do it that way. I’d love to find a way to be mree efficient, but this isn’t the way to get there.”

Brophy McGee also cited testimony from county recorders, the officials responsible for running elections, that contradicted the core rationale offered by Sen. Ugenti-Rita to sponsor SB1046 – that requiring ballots to be mailed back would expedite the process of counting ballots.

“My understanding is that it will not save time,” Brophy McGee said.

Combined with the unanimous opposition from the Senate’s 13 Democrats, that leaves Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, one vote shy of the 16-vote majority needed for a bill to be approved in the Senate.

Nonetheless, the bill was the subject of fierce debate in the Senate on Wednesday before senators took a voice vote to advance the bill one step further in the legislative process.

Ugenti-Rita and Republicans characterized voting as a “privilege” or “responsibility” and decried the practice of dropping off ballots and the slow vote counting process as a drag on the public’s faith in Arizona elections. And Ugenti-Rita brushed aside the concern of county recorders, who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that eliminating the ballot drop off won’t help them count votes any faster. Worse, some warned it could depress voter turnout.

Republicans bristled at this particular accusation as Democratic senators, one after another, spoke in fear of the bill unintentionally suppressing votes or disenfranchising voters who choose to drop off their mail-in ballots.

“This will be a step backwards in terms of voter accessibility,” said Sen. Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix.

Republicans countered that there are still plenty of options afforded to voters if they can’t return their ballots by mail. At one point, Republican Sen. Eddie Farnsworth scolded Democratic Sen. Juan Mendez for suggesting that a bill such as Ugenti-Rita’s could be racist.

Mendez, a Tempe Democrat, had said that the “human impact” of some bills could be detrimental, and that he wished bills could be studied “to find out how racist some of these bills are.”

Sen. David Farnsworth, R-Mesa, called the practice of dropping of ballots “ridiculous.”

“Voting needs to be respected,” he said. “When I was young I didn’t hear so much about the right to vote, I heard about the responsibility to vote.”

Ending mail-in ballots would bring ‘electoral chaos’

In this March 22, 2016 file photo, voters wait in line to cast their ballot in Arizona’s presidential primary election in Gilbert. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

If the Arizona Supreme Court rules early voting is unconstitutional, Maricopa County could see ten times as many voters come to the polls and, elsewhere in the state, officials say it would lead to “electoral chaos.” 

Nearly 92% of those who voted in the 2020 election in the county voted early. Statewide, 80% of voters did. Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer said completely flipping the script and having those ballots cast on Election Day would fundamentally alter the assumptions made in the past few months in terms of getting ready for this year’s elections. 

“We had around 180,000 people vote on Election Day in November 2020, and if the lawsuit were found to be meritorious, I assume that number would go up to around 1.9 million,” Richer, a Republican, said. “That would be basically 10 times that we’d have to expand everything that goes into voting on Election Day.” 

Stephen Richer

The Arizona Republican Party, in a lawsuit filed in late February, argues that vote-by-mail and early in-person voting are unconstitutional and that the only constitutional way to vote is in-person, on Election Day. The AZGOP went straight to the state Supreme Court – its attorney Alexander Kolodin argued that the justices need to address the legality of early voting before the early voting period opens for the November general election. 

The state’s high court accepted the case. The justices said they would consider it without holding oral arguments. If they don’t nix early voting entirely, Kolodin asks that they constrain the current early voting rules, including striking down the state’s 31-year-old “no-excuse” early voting law, which allows Arizonans to vote early without having to provide a reason, and ditching ballot drop-boxes. 

Former Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell was in office in 1991 when the no-excuse early voting law was passed and in 1992 when it was implemented. Purcell said this is the first time she has heard the argument that the law is unconstitutional.  

“I don’t know of that ever being said before,” said Purcell, who held the office for 28 years before she was unseated by Adrian Fontes in 2016.  

Over the years, early voting gained popularity. 

“Like anything else, it started off at a slow pace, but everybody really got on board,” Purcell said. 

Helen Purcell (Photo by Michelle Chance/Cronkite News)

In 1992, the first general election after the no-excuse early voting law passed, 7.84% of Maricopa County voters voted early, according to the Maricopa County Elections Department. In 2008, the first general election after the Permanent Early Voting List law passed, that was up to 55%. In the 2016 general election, when there was more than one in-person early voting site for the first time, 78% of county voters cast early ballots. 

As early voting became county voters’ preference, Purcell said the county shifted accordingly. For example, the county reduced the number of precincts in part because fewer people were physically going to the polls.  

Reversing course and opening more polling locations would be tricky, Purcell said, regardless of whether they were done by precinct or used larger voting centers. 

“It is extremely difficult to find places for polling places, and particularly if you had to find very large ones,” she said. “Add to that the number of people it would take to staff those. Both of these are issues that would be difficult at best.” 

Purcell had issues with polling places that contributed to Fontes defeating her in 2016. Purcell’s office cut the number of polling places in the 2016 presidential preference election to 60, down from about 200 in 2012 and about 400 in 2008. Purcell had expected 71,000 people to vote in-person, but more than 83,000 did. She took the blame but also said at the time that a lack of state funding played a role in the decision. 

Richer said finding polling places and volunteers continues to be difficult. 

Beyond that, results would be delayed, Richer said. He said everything would be processed on a precinct-based tabulator, and all those memory cards would then have to be taken to central count tabulation, where about 90% of ballots are currently counted. 

He said his office has not explored the issue “at all.” 

“We haven’t given it much thought,” Richer said. “We’ll see what the Supreme Court rules, and whatever the law is, we will do our absolute best to comply with it.” 

Outside of Maricopa County, the impact of an end to mail-in voting would look different, but nonetheless significant. 

In Coconino County, a lawyer for the Board of Supervisors wrote that there would be “electoral chaos” if mail-in voting were curtailed.  

“The current configuration of precincts and their outfitting of personnel and supplies would be at risk of collapse if 93,393 voters were suddenly at the polls as opposed to the established, self-selected process of having 61,440 voters voting early,” the attorney wrote in an amicus brief filed on behalf of the supervisors. 

They also noted that a number of voters would face serious barriers to actually getting there: “Without early voting, many voters in the rural areas of the county may have to drive over 60 miles one way to get to their polling place.” 

Attorney General Mark Brnovich speaks at the 2020 Converge Tech Summit at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

And beyond election administration, Attorney General Mark Brnovich has used the case as an opportunity to suggest that the entire Elections Procedures Manual – the 500-page document that details how elections are administered in the state – might need to be thrown out. Even though Brnovich gave his stamp of approval to the manual in 2019, he filed an amicus brief urging the court to decide whether the 2019 manual might be invalid due to provisions that he argues go beyond the scope of its authority. 

Since the case addresses hot-button political issues, candidates and officials from both sides of the aisle have used amicus briefs and other actions to weigh in on the implications of the lawsuit. 

The Arizona Democratic Party is arguing that pulling the plug on mail-in voting would be nothing short of disenfranchisement for many voters – including demographic groups associated with Democrats.  

“Black, Hispanic, Native American, and young voters, are among those constituencies who are more likely to have their voting rights severely impeded, and in some cases, effectively withdrawn,” the party argued in a motion asking to be named as a co-defendant in the case. 

At a press conference on March 16, Democratic Party Chair Raquel Terán said, “Democrats will not let the Arizona Republicans take your right to vote away.”  

Kari Lake, a GOP gubernatorial candidate, filed an amicus brief supporting the suit and asserting that no-excuse mail-in voting is “not consistent with the Arizona Constitution.”  

Kris Mayes, a Democrat running for attorney general, filed an amicus brief criticizing the suit and arguing the state Constitution clearly allows for the practice. 

But reactions to the suit haven’t split perfectly along party lines. 

In a break from others in his party, the state’s highest-ranking Republican has also come out against the case. On March 15, Gov. Doug Ducey panned both the idea and the strategy behind the lawsuit, calling it “ill-conceived and poorly-crafted.” 

“It would undo the work of many Republican governors and secretaries of state over the past several decades, and I’m certain the way it’s written, it’s destined to fail,” he said. 

Former lawmaker John Fillmore on his way back to Capitol

Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction (Cronkite News Service photo)
John Fillmore (Cronkite News Service photo)

Former Rep. John Fillmore, a one-term lawmaker from Apache Junction who served from 2011-12, could be returning to the state Capitol.

Early voting poll results show that Fillmore and Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, have taken a lead in the five-way GOP primary for the two House seats in Legislative District 16.

Three other Republicans, Lisa Godzich, Stephen Kridler, and Tara Phelps, are also vying for the Republican nomination, hoping to replace Rep. Doug Coleman, who is running for justice of the peace.

Godzich, a respiratory therapist, is the second vice-chair of the LD16 GOP committee. She serves on U.S. Congressman Andy Biggs’ Veterans Affairs Committee and is also a board member of the Mesa Republican Women.

Kridler is a U.S. Air Force veteran and a retired law enforcement office, who served 15 years with the Apache Junction Police Department.

Phelps, an Arizona native and mother of five, received a bachelor’s degree in business and supply chain management from Arizona State University. She is a small business owner.

The winners of the primary will face off in the Nov. 6 general election against Democrat Sharon Stinard, who ran in the Democratic primary unopposed. Green Party candidate Richard Grayson is running as a write-in candidate, and in order to qualify for the general election, Grayson must receive at least as many votes as the number of signatures required to qualify for the ballot in that district.

LD16 House By The Numbers

Early votes  


Kelly Townsend 33 Percent

John Fillmore 23 Percent

Lisa Godzich 20 Percent

Stephen Kridler 9 Percent

Tara Phelps 15 Percent


Sharon Stinard 100 Percent

Greg Patterson takes step in political comeback

Greg Patterson (Photo by Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services)
Greg Patterson (Photo by Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services)

Former lawmaker and Arizona Board of Regents chairman Greg Patterson is one step closer to a political comeback.

Unofficial results show that Patterson and incumbent Rep. Jill Norgaard secured the top two spots in the GOP primary for two House seats in Legislative District 18.

Patterson previously served in the Arizona House of Representatives from 1991-94.

Most recently, he served as a regent, overseeing the state’s three public universities.

Patterson resigned from his post in 2017, after five years on the board, after a report chronicled a secretly-recorded meeting in which he mocked a state lawmaker.

During a February 2017 meeting between the board and Rep. Mark Finchem, Patterson berated and ridiculed Finchem over his legislative proposal to scale back the authority of the Board of Regents.

Frustrated by criticisms of the board, Patterson stormed out of the meeting attended by Finchem, Norgaard and then-Regents President Eileen Klein. But before he left, he mocked Finchem’s Western-style attire.

Details of that meeting only came to light because Patterson secretly recorded the meeting, a copy of which was obtained by the Arizona Republic through a public records request.

Norgaard and Patterson will face off in the Nov. 6 general election against Rep. Mitzi Epstein and Jennifer Jermaine, who defeated LaDawn Stuben in the Democratic primary.

Republicans hold a small voter registration advantage in the district, which spans parts of Phoenix, including Ahwatukee, and parts of Chandler, Tempe and Mesa.

LD18 House By The Numbers

28,883 votes cast  


Jill Norgaard 44 percent

Don Hawker 12 percent

Greg Patterson 25 percent

Farhana Shifa 19 percent



Denise “Mitzi” Epstein 44 percent

Jennifer Jermaine 38 percent

LaDawn Stuben 19 percent

Hoffman victorious in schools chief Democratic primary

Democratic candidate for superintendent of public instruction Kathy Hoffman chats with Republican candidate Frank Riggs during the Arizona Capitol Times' Meet the Candidates event. PHOTO BY KATIE CAMPBELL/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES
Democratic candidate for superintendent of public instruction Kathy Hoffman chats with Republican candidate Frank Riggs during the Arizona Capitol Times’ Meet the Candidates event. PHOTO BY KATIE CAMPBELL/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES

Kathy Hoffman shocked political observers across the state during the Aug. 28 primary as she pulled off a victory in the Democratic primary race for Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Hoffman came out ahead with a slim lead over challenger David Schapira in early ballot returns, and held it through the night. It is currently unclear who she will face in the Nov. 6 general election as the Republican primary is still too close to call.

In a text shared by Hoffman’s spokeswoman Emily Brent, Schapira congratulated Hoffman.

“Looks good for you so far,” he wrote, according to the message shared with the Arizona Capitol Times. “Congratulations! We’ll talk tomorrow.”

Speaking briefly to the Capitol Times from her watch party, Hoffman described her excitement at seeing a green checkmark beside her name, indicating a win called by a local TV station. She said she was elated and honored to continue to the general election.

As a speech therapist in Arizona public schools, Hoffman has appealed to the post-Red for Ed enthusiasm on the left. Her former campaign manager, Noah Karvelis, led that movement, and she stood behind the teachers, frequently rallying with them at the Capitol.

Schapira did too, a fact that speaks to what has been one of the most significant challenges in the Democratic primary race: distinguishing one candidate from the other.

Hoffman and Schapira held many of the same beliefs about Arizona’s public education system and efforts to increase school funding, including through the Invest in Education Act initiative seeking to raise taxes to pump up dollars for public education. Instead, they focused largely on the differences in their backgrounds – Hoffman with her greater experience in the classroom, and Schapira with his time in a variety of administrative and elected positions.

Hoffman’s frontlines message appears to have won the day, but she still faces a tough road ahead as a Democrat seeking statewide office.

A Republican has held the seat for more than 20 years. But with the momentum of the Red for Ed movement still fueling the conversation around education in Arizona, political observers foresee a competitive general election contest for the seat.

Superintendent of Public Instruction By The Numbers


415,434 votes cast

Kathy Hoffman 53 percent

David Schapira 47 percent


486,978 votes cast

Diane Douglas 21.49 percent

Bob Branch 21.79 percent

Frank Riggs 21.94 percent

Jonathan Gelbart 14.77 percent

Tracy Livingston 20.02 percent

Incumbent Mitchell loses LD13 Republican House primary

Rep. Darin Mitchell, R-Litchfield Park, said requiring Arizona Department of Corrections officers to be U.S. citizens would help ease unemployment in his district, which stretches to Yuma. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Juan Magaña)
Rep. Darin Mitchell, R-Litchfield Park. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Juan Magaña)

Incumbent Rep. Darin Mitchell fell short in his bid for a return to the Arizona House of Representatives.

Rep. Tim Dunn, R-Yuma, and Joanne Osborne defeated the Goodyear Republican and his running mate Trey Terry in the Aug. 28 GOP primary for the two House seats in Legislative District 13.

Mitchell, a realtor, was first elected to the House in 2013.

Dunn and Osborne will face off in the Nov. 6 general election against Democrat Thomas Tzitzura, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.

However, Tzitzura isn’t likely to pose a threat to either Republican in November. Republicans hold a healthy voter registration advantage in the district, which includes the northern part of Yuma County and the northwestern part of Maricopa County.

LD13 House By The Numbers

35,064 votes cast


Timothy “Tim” Dunn 37 percent

Darin Mitchell 21 percent

Joanne Osborne 24 percent

Trey Terry 19 percent


9,324 votes cast

Thomas Tzitzura 100 percent

Lesko wins CD8 GOP primary

Debbie Lesko (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Debbie Lesko (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

U.S. Representative Debbie Lesko has easily won the Republican nomination to keep her Congressional seat after pulling far ahead of her sole challenger, Sandra Dowling.

With her place in the race for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District secured, Lesko is now heading to a repeat of the special election held earlier this year. She’ll face off once again against Democrat Hiral Tipirneni, who did not have a primary challenger in the Aug. 30 primary.

While Lesko won the special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Trent Franks in April, she did so by a smaller margin than expected in a district that has been reliably conservative for years.

Lesko defeated Tipirneni by just 5 percentage points, and a rematch in the Nov. 6 general election may end in equally tight margins.

Arizona’s 8th Congressional District

79,955 votes cast


Debbie Lesko 77 percent

Sandra Dowling 23 percent


44,580 votes cast

Hiral Tipirneni 100 percent

Newcomers take lead in LD24 House Dem primary

Rep. Ken Clark explains Thursday why he believes a description for voters of a ballot measures on changes to the Citizens Clean Elections Commission is biased. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
Rep. Ken Clark explains (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Two political newcomers ousted two-term lawmaker Rep. Ken Clark from the state Legislature.

First-time candidates Amish Shah and Jennifer Longdon received the most votes in the seven-way Democratic primary for the two House seats in Legislative District 24.

Unofficial results show that Clark fell short of the second spot in the Democratic primary by 703 votes.

Four other candidates, John Glenn, ran on a slate with Clark, Fred Dominguez, Marcus Ferrell, and Denise Link, were also in the running for the Democratic nomination to fill the seat being vacated by Rep. Lela Alston, who is running for the Senate.

Shah, a Chicago native, is a doctor specializing in emergency medicine and sports medicine. He founded the Arizona Vegetarian Food Festival to promote healthy eating and the festival is now in its third year.

Longdon has worked on various campaigns promoting gun violence prevention efforts after she was paralyzed in a random shooting in 2004. She helped organize the state’s largest gun buy-back program, was past president of Arizonans for Gun Safety, and served on the City of Phoenix’s Commission on Disability Issues and the Arizona Statewide Independent Living Council.

Longdon and Shah will face off in the Nov. 6 general election against Republican David Alger, Sr., who ran unopposed in the Republican primary.

Alger isn’t likely to pose a threat to either Democratic nominee given that Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly two to one in the district, which includes parts of central Phoenix and south Scottsdale.

LD24 House By The Numbers

28,481 votes cast


Ken Clark 18 Percent

Fred Dominguez 5 Percent

Marcus Ferrell 8 Percent

John Glenn 9 Percent

Denise Link 10 Percent

Jennifer Longdon 21 percent

Amish Shah 29 percent


David Alger, Sr. 100 Percent


Pandemic’s role unknown in rise of early voters

In this March 10, 2020, file photo, a King County Election worker collects ballots from a drop box in Seattle for the primary election in Washington State, where elections are all mail. In Arizona, where voters can ask for a mail-in ballot, Democrats and some Republican election officials are calling for an all mail election, at least for this year as the coronavirus causes anxiety for face-to-face contact at the least and sickness and death at the worst. PHOTO BY JOHN FROSCHAUER/ASSOCIATED PRESS
In this March 10, 2020, file photo, a King County Election worker collects ballots from a drop box in Seattle for the primary election in Washington State, where elections are all mail. In Arizona, where voters can ask for a mail-in ballot, Democrats and some Republican election officials are calling for an all mail election, at least for this year as the coronavirus causes anxiety for face-to-face contact at the least and sickness and death at the worst. PHOTO BY JOHN FROSCHAUER/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Election officials say it’s nearly impossible to know if the pandemic has led to an increase in voters who have registered to the state’s Permanent Early Voting List compared to other election years because nobody keeps track of that data.

Some counties update information in real time, but do not save information from previous days, months or years – and that includes the Secretary of State’s Office. As of May 5, there were 2,772,998 early voters, according to the office. But with no information to compare that data to, there’s no statistical way to know how many people have joined since COVID-19 kicked off nor how many people on average sign up in any given election year.

However, in Maricopa County they have daily information readily available on the recorder’s website and seem to at least track the first week of every month. Updated numbers from May 7 show 1,748,152 early voters in the state’s largest county. That’s an increase of 2,668 from one month ago and an increase of 37,111 since February 7. Though some county officials estimate a higher increase can be from preparing for voting in the Democratic Presidential Preference Election on March 17.

David Stevens, the Republican county recorder in Cochise County, said his county saw an increase of about 10% of voters on the list, but those mostly came in February.

“It always increases as you get closer to an election,” Stevens said.

Yavapai County Recorder Leslie Hoffman, also a Republican, said because counties don’t ask voters why they are signing up for the list, there’s no actual way to know if they are signing up due to the pandemic or because an election is approaching.

Hoffman said one thing she has noticed, though, is the interest in joining the list has increased.

“The biggest thing we’ve had are people calling asking ‘How do I get on it?’” she said.

Yavapai County already has 77.6% of its registered voters on the permanent early voting list, which Hoffman says is the largest percentage in the state.

Maricopa County has 73.6% of its voters on the list, and the state has a rate of 70.6%.

A further breakdown from the Secretary of State’s Office shows the highest percentage of PEVL voters are Republicans at 37% compared to Democrats at 35%, Libertarians at 1% and other party or non-party affiliated voters at 27%.

For Pima County, Christopher Roads, the chief deputy recorder, said numbers have increased from 411,110 last December to 420,239 as of May 5.

After Arizona Capitol Times inquired to the Secretary of State’s Office, a spokeswoman said they would likely start keeping track of this data monthly to prepare for future questions about the information. But no reason was provided as to why the data was not being tracked already.

Hoffman also wanted to clarify misreporting regarding the Maricopa County Elections Department, asking the board of supervisors to approve a new plan for early voting in August.

She said it’s being reported that Maricopa County Elections Director Scott Jarrett asked for approval to extend early in-person voting by 14 days, but state law already requires early in-person voting to be open for 27 days before an election.

Hoffman said what Maricopa County was trying to do is open more voting centers for 14 days before the primary on August 4.

Megan Gilbertson, a spokeswoman for the elections department, confirmed what Hoffman said. Jarrett was asking the board of supervisors to open 75 to 100 voting centers to help prevent further coronavirus spread and increase social distancing, much higher than the previous election.

“In 2018, we provided anywhere between five to 35 voting locations prior to Election Day,” Gilbertson said.

Hoffman said in Yavapai County they will have 25 voting centers open for the primary, but that could change if they can’t find enough poll workers. A problem she said extends to the entire country.

Stevens said Cochise will have 17 voting centers open.

Voters who are interested in signing up for the list can still do so and can also request a one-time ballot by mail for the August primaries since it’s more than likely there won’t be a universal ballot by mail option due to Republican elected officials opposing the idea.

Non-party affiliated voters can vote in the primary election by choosing which party’s ballot they want to receive, which is different from presidential preference elections where voters must be registered to that party to vote.

Latest figures released by the Secretary of State’s Office show Democratic voters now outnumber independents by about 28,000, likely due to the Democratic-only election that was held in March.

Pratt handily winning in Legislative District 8

Frank Pratt
Frank Pratt

Early voting poll results show Frank Pratt handily defending his seat in the Arizona Senate against a Democratic challenger.

Pratt, a Casa Grande Republican, has a commanding lead over Sharon Girard, an emergency room physicians assistant running for the Senate in Legislative District 8.

The eastern Arizona district, which stretches from Coolidge to Globe, has long been considered a swing district, and thus a potential pickup for Democrats. But it’s grown more conservative over the years, a trend reaffirmed by Pratt’s early lead.

Pratt was one of three Republicans to win seats in LD8 in 2016, earning a clean sweep of the district for the GOP.

Democrats had hoped Sharon Girard could reclaim the seat they last held two years ago, when Kearney Democrat Barb McGuire represented LD8.

But the district’s Republican leanings, and Pratt’s sizeable financial advantage, are proving too difficult for Girard to overcome. Pratt raised nearly $83,000 this election cycle, while Girard received the standard $42,000 as a participating candidate with the Citizens Clean Elections Commission.


LD8 Senate by the numbers

Early votes


Frank Pratt 58.2 percent


Sharon Girard 41.8 percent

Riggs squeaks out victory in SPI Republican primary

Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas chats with a constituent's son at the Arizona Capitol Times' Meet the Candidates event on Aug. 1. Douglas is seeking re-election this year, but she faces four Republican challengers in the August primary. PHOTO BY KATIE CAMPBELL/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES
Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas chats with a constituent’s son at the Arizona Capitol Times’ Meet the Candidates event on Aug. 1. Douglas is seeking re-election this year, but she faces four Republican challengers in the August primary. PHOTO BY KATIE CAMPBELL/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES

With five Republican contenders dividing the vote, the GOP primary race for Superintendent of Public Instruction ended in a tight victory for Frank Riggs.

Final results as of September 5 show that Frank Riggs took a lead of less than one percentage point over the runner up, Bob Branch. Just 359 votes separated the two candidates.

Incumbent Diane Douglas trailed closely behind Branch. Only 3,498 votes separated her and Riggs. The race for the Democratic nomination wasn’t as competitive; Kathy Hoffman beat David Schapira by nearly 22,000 votes.

With both Riggs and Branch receiving just shy of 22 percent of the vote, it appears Arizonans looking for a change were unable to rally behind just one alternative to the incumbent, who herself won about 21 percent of the vote. Additionally, Tracy Livingston garnered another 20 percent, and Jonathan Gelbart rounded out the pack with just shy of 15 percent.

Douglas never quite escaped criticism after clashing with Gov. Doug Ducey early in her first term over the firing of two State Board of Education employees, and she has continued to irk many in the state, even in her own party, over the years. Most recently, she offended public school teachers after criticizing the Red for Ed movement’s decision to strike and suggesting teachers’ certifications may be at risk because of it.

Still, political observers had speculated she would benefit from sheer name recognition in a crowded Republican field.

Riggs will now face off against Hoffman in the Nov. 6 general election.


Superintendent of Public Instruction By The Numbers


570,927 votes cast

Diane Douglas 21.22 percent

Bob Branch 21.77 percent

Frank Riggs 21.84 percent

Jonathan Gelbart 14.94 percent

Tracy Livingston 20.23 percent


484,748 votes cast

Kathy Hoffman 52 percent

David Schapira 48 percent

Sandra Kennedy, Kiana Sears win Corp Comm Democratic primary


Former Corporation Commissioner Sandra Kennedy has easily claimed one of two Democratic nominations for two open Arizona Corporation Commission seats.

But while she surged ahead in the Aug. 28 primary, her fellow former commissioner, Bill Mundell, struggled to secure his comeback nomination.

Mundell was neck-and-neck with Kiana Maria Sears throughout the race, with less than 1 percentage point separating them. Unofficial results show that he failed to secure the second spot in the Democratic primary by just 6,011 votes.

Sears has been accused of being an Arizona Public Service plant in the Democratic primary. That accusation threatened to be particularly harmful to her campaign at a time of heightened public scrutiny around the commissioners’ relationship with the state’s largest public utility.

But Mundell has baggage of his own, having previously served on the commission as a Republican. He has said he switched after recognizing the influence APS had over the other Republican commissioners. He and Kennedy ran as a team pledging to change the status quo.

The Democrats will face Justin Olson and Rodney Glassman in the Nov. 6 general election. Olson and Glassman defeated incumbent Tom Forese in the Republican primary.

Arizona Corporation Commission By The Numbers

667,307 votes cast


Sandra Kennedy 45 percent

Bill Mundell 27 percent

Kiana Maria Sears 28 percent


814,3176 votes cast

Tom Forese 16 percent

Justin Olson 25 percent

Rodney Glassman 23 percent

Jim O’Connor 22 percent

Eric Sloan 15 percent


Sen. David Farnsworth easily holds off challenger in LD16 Republican primary

Sen. David Farnsworth (R-Mesa)
Sen. David Farnsworth (R-Mesa)

Sen. David Farnsworth cruised to an easy victory over a challenge from San Tan Valley Republican Michael Hernandez for re-election to the state Senate.

Farnsworth is running for his third full term in the Senate representing Legislative District 16, which covers parts of Mesa and San Tan Valley, and Apache Junction and Gold Canyon.

After Farnsworth faced no primary election opponent in 2016, Hernandez emerged to try and oust him, citing the incumbent lawmaker’s opposition to incorporating San Tan Valley as his reason for entering the race.

Hernandez also garnered the endorsements of the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona and the Arizona Police Association, but it wasn’t enough to sway voters to give the boot to Farnsworth, who’s now held the seat since he was appointed in September 2013.

Farnsworth also served a term in the Arizona House of Representatives from 1997 to 1998.

Farnsworth will face token opposition from Benjamin Carmitchel, the lone Democrat running for the state Senate in LD16. Republicans hold a two-to-one registration advantage among voters in the conservative East Valley district.

LD16 Senate by the numbers

21.079 votes cast


David Farnsworth 77 percent

Michael Hernandez 24 percent


Benjamin Carmitchel 100 percent

Shooter political comeback falls short

Don Shooter testifies during a hearing, June 14, 2018, in Judge Rosa Mroz’s Maricopa County Superior Courtroom, Phoenix.
Don Shooter testifies during a hearing, June 14, 2018, in Judge Rosa Mroz’s Maricopa County Superior Courtroom, Phoenix.

Ousted lawmaker Don Shooter’s political comeback attempt fell well short.

Shooter sought a swift return to the Capitol since he was voted out of the Legislature in February after a House investigation found he serially sexually harassed colleagues and lobbyists.

But the Yuma Republican quickly fell back on election night, and wound up a distant third, more than 5,000 votes behind incumbent Sen. Sine Kerr, a Buckeye dairy farmer in her first race for the Legislative District 13 Senate seat. Kerr has represented the district since January, when she was appointed to the Senate to fill a vacancy.

Shooter also trails Brent Backus, a Waddell Republican, in the primary election.

The election-night loss is a rebuke of Shooter, who sought to rally support for his campaign by leaning heavily into the accusations against him.

Shooter, who represented LD13 in the Senate from 2011 to 2016, touted a poll he said was conducted while he was deciding whether or not to run again, in which he asked prospective voters whether they would be more or less likely to vote for a lawmaker they knew was thrown out of office for sexual harassment. He boasted that the voters responded that they would be more likely to vote for such a lawmaker. And a billboard west of Yuma urged voters to elect Shooter to “make a liberals head explode.”

Kerr has an easy path to winning the general election. Republicans hold a nearly two-to-one advantage among registered voters in the district, which stretches from northern Yuma County to northwestern Maricopa County.

Michelle Harris, an Air Force veteran, is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

LD13 Senate by the numbers

Yuma County: 100 percent of precincts reporting

Maricopa County: 58 percent of precincts reporting


Brent Backus 30 percent

Sine Kerr 49 percent

Don Shooter 21 percent


Michelle Harris 100 percent

Steve Gaynor defeats incumbent Michele Reagan for Secretary of State nomination

Steve Gaynor
Steve Gaynor

Political newcomer and wealthy businessman Steve Gaynor defeated incumbent Michele Reagan in the secretary of state’s race Tuesday.

Gaynor’s win showed Reagan, Arizona’s sitting secretary of state, struggled to distance herself from a series of elections-related blunders that occurred during her first term.

A relative unknown on the state’s political scene, Gaynor poured $1.5 million of his own money into the race, using that to blanket the airwaves with negative commercials tying Reagan to a slew of elections mistakes that occurred in the past four years.

After his win Tuesday, Gaynor tweeted a thank you to his friends and supporters. “You have entrusted me with the task of fixing the #AZSOS office and I will not let you down,” he tweeted. “On to November 6th!”

Reagan called Gaynor to concede the race, said Reagan consultant Kyle Moyer.

“She wishes Gaynor well,” he said.

Despite the negativity that came out ahead of the primary election, Reagan has vowed to support Gaynor in the general election.

But the evening’s results didn’t weigh on Reagan as she was in good spirits even after the race was called for Gaynor, Moyer said.

“She’s really looking forward to going back into the private sector and to the next stage of her life,” he said.

Reagan was on defense in the lead up to the primary, but doing so with significantly less cash than her self-funded opponent.

Gaynor repeatedly criticized Reagan for her 2016 failure to send out 200,000 ballot pamphlets before voters received their early ballots. Reagan owned up to the error, but the snafu came up time and again as Reagan was locked in a heated primary challenge.

One of Gaynor’s ads also tied Reagan to the long lines Maricopa County voters had to wait in during the 2016 Presidential Preference Election. Reagan tried to distance herself from the incident because choices about polling places are up to county recorders, but Gaynor said Reagan deserved some of the blame as the state’s chief elections officer.

Gaynor, who owns a printing plant, said he was recruited to run by Republicans who felt Reagan was a weak candidate who would lose to a Democrat in the fall. Now that he seems to have secured the Party’s nomination, Gaynor thinks Republican donors will come out in force to support his campaign.

On the campaign trail, Gaynor fashioned himself as an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump and touted his National Rifle Association membership and his pro-life views — issues that don’t pertain to the Secretary of State’s office.

Gaynor will face state Sen. Katie Hobbs in the general election. The winner will become secretary of state and second-in-command to the governor.

Secretary of State

By The Numbers

Votes cast: 486,506


Michele Reagan: 33 percent

Steve Gaynor: 67 percent

Stringer survives controversy

Rep. David Stringer, R-Prescott, answers questions Wednesday about his comments which were interpreted by some as racist. Stringer said he was not a racist but simply was detailing his views on the effects of rapid immigration on the country. With him is the Rev. Jarrett Maupin who agreed to let Stringer explain his comments to leaders of the African-American community in Phoenix. PHOTO BY HOWARD FISCHER/CAPITOL MEDIA SERVICES
Rep. David Stringer, R-Prescott, answers questions in June about his comments which were interpreted by some as racist. Stringer said he was not a racist but simply was detailing his views on the effects of rapid immigration on the country. With him is the Rev. Jarrett Maupin who agreed to let Stringer explain his comments to leaders of the African-American community in Phoenix. PHOTO BY HOWARD FISCHER/CAPITOL MEDIA SERVICES

Rep. David Stringer emerged unscathed following controversy over comments he made about race and immigration earlier this summer.

Stringer and Rep. Noel Campbell, both of Prescott, defeated political newcomer Jodi Rooney in the GOP primary for the two House seats in Legislative District 1.

Stringer ran for re-election despite calls for his resignation from state party leaders after he told a GOP gathering in June that there are “not enough white kids to go around” in Arizona’s minority-laden public schools, a comment widely condemned as racist, but one Stringer insists was taken out of context.

In a 51-second snippet of his speech, which Tempe City Councilman David Schapira, a Democrat running for Superintendent of Public Instruction, posted on Twitter, Stringer says immigration is “politically destabilizing” and “presents an existential threat” to the country.

Stringer said his intent wasn’t to make a racially charged statement but was an attempt at having an honest discussion about race. And while he apologized to anyone he offended with his comments, he said pointing out that 60 percent of students in Arizona’s public schools are children of color is “not a racist comment, it’s a statement of fact.”

After his comments emerged, Arizona GOP Chairman Jonathan Lines and Gov. Doug Ducey called for Stringer to resign, which did not occur.

Instead, hoping to put the controversy behind him, Stringer met with a group of African-Americans to tell them he is working on issues of interest to their community and his comments about immigration and assimilation were misconstrued or misunderstood.

But he didn’t exactly apologize for anything he said, blaming the dust-up on a “Democrat hit piece” that excerpted 51 seconds of a 17-minute speech he gave in which he also spoke about criminal justice, education and touched on his accomplishments during the 2018 session.

And since the 51-second snippet made the rounds on social media, Stringer has doubled down on his remarks in a 60-second radio spot posted to his Facebook page on Aug. 14.

The controversy, however, appears to have had little impact on the race in what is a considered a safe Republican district.

Phil Goode, first vice chairman of the Yavapai County Republican Committee, said Stringer’s comments have instead energized the Tea Party segment of the GOP party in Yavapai County, Stringer’s voting base.

Campbell and Stringer will will face off against Democrats Ed Gogek and Jan Manolis in the Nov. 6 general election.

The district, which includes the majority of Yavapai County, Prescott, Prescott Valley and Chino Valley, and parts of northern Maricopa County, is heavily conservative. Registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats in LD1 by nearly 45,900 voters.

LD1 House By The Numbers

62,949 votes cast


Noel Campbell 43 percent

David Stringer 37 percent

Jodi Rooney 21 percent


Ed Gogek 42 Percent

Jan Manolis 58 Percent

Ugenti-Rita wins LD23 Senate Republican primary

Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale)
Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale)

Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita will likely remain at the Capitol as she has a solid lead in the GOP primary for Senate in Legislative District 23.

The Scottsdale Republican faces a challenge from a former state agency chief, Tim Jeffries, who’s in second, and political newcomer Kristina Kelly, a distant third.

With 60 percent of precincts reporting, Ugenti-Rita leads the pack in a contentious race that saw her trade blows with Jeffries, who was forced out as director of the Department of Economic Security in 2016 amid reports that he illegitimately fired hundreds of state workers.

From the start, Jeffries made his campaign about Ugenti-Rita. Initially that meant drawing policy comparisons between the two Republicans, but by the end of August, the gloves were off for both.

Jeffries attacked Ugenti-Rita’s reputation, citing a sexually-charged joke she once made during a legislative hearing and reports of a relationship she had with a then-House staffer.

And a political action committee, funded by donors with ties to Jeffries, sought to discredit Ugenti-Rita’s accusations of sexual harassment against ousted Rep. Don Shooter.

Ugenti-Rita hit back at Jeffries for his record at the state’s welfare agency, which he ran for nearly two years. He was forced out after reports that he fired hundreds of state workers and used a state plane to fly to Nogales to celebrate with employees who gave up their job protections.

Ensuing reports also led to an investigation of the excessive amounts of ammunition stockpiled at the agency during his tenure.

If victorious, this would be the fifth time voters in LD23 elected Ugenti-Rita. She previously represented the district, which includes most of Scottsdale and Fountain Hills, for eight years in the House.

The winner of the GOP primary will face Daaria Lohman in the general election, though the district’s demographics make an upset unlikely for the lone Democrat in the race.

Republicans boast a nearly 36 percent voter registration advantage in LD23, compared to just 20 percent for Democrats.

LD23 Senate by the numbers

Early votes


Timothy Jeffries 36 percent

Kristina Kelly 23 percent

Michelle Ugenti-Rita 41 percent


Daria Lohman 100 percent

Wendy Rogers wins CD1 Republican primary

Wendy Rogers
Wendy Rogers

After an ugly primary campaign involving accusations of sex trafficking, fake polls and threats of lawsuits, Republicans in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District elected Wendy Rogers as the GOP nominee.

Unofficial results show that Rogers beat state Sen. Steve Smith by just 3,160 votes, but her vote count was more than double that of Tiffany Shedd

It was a hard-fought victory for Rogers after taking heat for accusing Smith of working for a company that engaged in sex trafficking and inappropriate conduct with minors.

But she left that behind in a statement declaring victory Aug. 29, turning her attention instead to Democratic incumbent Tom O’Halleran.

“Both Steve Smith and Tiffany were fierce competitors for whom I have great respect,” Rogers said in the statement “It is time to unite, so we can defeat radical leftist Tom O’Halleran.”

She will face O’Halleran, who did not have a primary challenger, in the Nov. 6 General Election.

Arizona’s 1st Congressional District By the Numbers

59,820 votes cast


Wendy Rogers 43.27 percent

Tiffany Shedd 18.81 percent

Steve Smith 37.92 percent


56,992 votes cast

Tom O’Halleran 100 percent

What Arizonans want in our election system

Voters deliver their ballot to a polling station, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Voters deliver their ballot to a polling station, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

November’s election sparked vigorous debate about our voting and election systems. Arizona legislators have filed at least two dozen related bills.

At the Center for the Future of Arizona, we believe data should drive decisions. Toward that end, I’d like to share what we learned from voters in the months leading up to the election about some of our election processes.

In partnership with the Gallup organization, Center for the Future of Arizona surveyed a representative sample of Arizonans from across the state in August and October and asked their views on the most important actions we can take today that will create a stronger and brighter future for our state. We heard from 3,586 Arizonans representing the geographic, demographic and political spectrum of Arizona. We will release the full results of the CFA Gallup Arizona 2020 Survey in April, but thought it timely to share what we learned about the views of Arizonans on our election processes now. The findings below are based on the survey results.

Arizonans do not appear to believe that the current system is serving them well. Only 37% said Arizona leaders focus on long-term, visionary planning. One-third said our leaders represent diverse voices, and just over one-fourth said that their elected representatives work across party lines. Republicans showed greater trust in elected leaders than did Democrats or independents, but less than half of them were positive about the state’s leadership.

Leaders are elected. And if there is low confidence in those leaders there is a strong argument that can be made that it is the election process itself that may be at least in part to blame. A system that is more accessible to all voters and that helps elect leaders who more closely represent the views of their constituents could lead to greater confidence in those leaders. Our survey showed significant support for reforms that make voting more accessible and that lead to outcomes that better reflect the full breadth of political views of all Arizonans.

  •         Nearly four in five survey respondents expressed support for early in-person voting. State law currently leaves the decision to offer early in-person voting to the discretion of county officials. The survey findings indicate that the vast majority of Arizonans want early in-person voting as a permanent feature of Arizona’s election system.
  •         Almost as many support automatically registering residents to vote when they apply for a driver’s license or state ID, rather than leaving it optional.
  •         Three in four survey respondents support mailing all registered voters a mail-in ballot, while maintaining in-person voting options.
  •         Three of every five respondents support ranked choice voting in which voters rank multiple candidates in order of preference regardless of party affiliation. It is similar to the intent of top-two voting systems in reducing the influence of party loyalists on election outcomes and in creating election processes that recognize the large number of independent voters in Arizona.
  •         Same-day voting registration was supported by 59% of respondents.
Sybil Francis
Sybil Francis

Not surprisingly, support for these ideas varied by age, income, race and ethnicity as well as party. There were little differences between the responses of urban and rural residents.

Millenials – those between the ages of 18 and 34 – were the strongest supporters of all five reforms, from 88% for early in-person voting to 66% for ranked choice voting.

Among income groups, those at the lower end of the scale were more supportive of the reforms than were the wealthiest Arizonans. About seven in 10 of those making less than $60,000 favored ranked choice voting, for instance, while only half of those making more than $120,000 did.

Latino residents were generally more supportive of the reforms than were other racial or ethnic groups, sometimes narrowly and sometimes by large margins. Latinos were the strongest supporters of early in-person voting (87%) and of mailing all voters a ballot (85%).

While political affiliation clearly played a role in the responses, there is a striking consensus across party lines in support for making voting more accessible. For example, roughly two-thirds of Republicans supported early in-person voting and automatic voter registration when getting a driver’s license. Just under half of Republican supported mailing all registered voters a ballot. However, while 41% liked the idea of ranked choice voting, only 36% were keen on same-day voter registration.

What does this all mean? These data suggest to me that voters want voter registration and voting to be easier. Support for ranked choice also indicates that a strong majority of Arizonans want to reduce the impact of party loyalists on state elections and to better represent the growing independent outlook of Arizona voters.

You may find other meaning in this data, as may legislators. Whatever you take away from it, I hope we can agree that listening to what Arizonans want should inform our thinking and our actions in addressing election processes.

Sybil Francis is president and CEO of the Center for the Future of Arizona, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization.