Behold, it’s election year, that hallowed time when aspiring leaders come together, in celebration of democracy, to thoughtfully and respectfully debate …
Oh, who am I kidding?
2024 is going to be a total mudbath. And Arizona, with consequential elections up and down the ballot that could well determine the direction not only of the state but the country?
We stand a pretty good chance of being at the epicenter of the cesspool.
Here are a few of the races I’ll be watching.
Having spent three years insisting that he really won Arizona in 2020, you can expect a full-court press by Donald Trump to win back the state that helped put him on the map in July 2015, when thousands flocked to a downtown Phoenix campaign rally to see the reality TV star who had just announced he was running for president.
Biden, meanwhile, will fight to reclaim the state he won by just 0.3% in 2020, but the border chaos he seems incapable of addressing will likely be his undoing with even Democratic mayors across the country pleading for relief, saying the current asylum system is unsustainable.
My prediction: Assuming he’s not a convicted felon by then, Trump will take Arizona.
Will Democrat-turned-independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema run for reelection? If she does, polls suggest she’ll siphon more votes from Republican Kari Lake than from Democrat Ruben Gallego.
But polls also suggest that she doesn’t stand a chance, which just goes to show you. We may say we want centrist leaders who can get stuff done, but we really don’t.
Gallego’s liberal voting record should make it tough for him, which is likely why he’s now talking tougher about the border of late and now using words like “crisis.”
Meanwhile, McCain-minded voters have long memories and Lake’s celebrated stake remains wedged in their hearts. That’s a problem for her, as are the scores of motivated young voters likely to hit the polls, hoping to protect abortion. Imagine what’ll happen when they learn of her support last year for both Texas’ “heartbeat” law and Arizona’s “great” abortion law — that 1864 ban that criminalizes abortion even in the case of rape and incest.
My prediction: Sinema takes a high-dollar gig with a venture capital firm and Gallego takes the Senate seat.
District 1. Rep. David Schweikert is one of 18 Republicans nationally who represent districts that supported Biden for president in 2020. In 2022, the northeast Valley returned him to Congress with just 50.4% of the vote.
In 2024, he is a tantalizing target, with a collection of Democrats lining up to knock him off, including former Democratic Party Chairman Andrei Cherny, former TV anchor Marlene Galán-Woods, state Rep. Amish Shah and Conor O’Callaghan.
O’Callaghan, a business executive making his first run for public office, was the last of the six Democrats to enter the race. Since then, he’s raised more money than any other candidate, including Schweikert.
My prediction: It’ll be Schweikert vs. O’Callaghan come November.
District 2. As with CD 1, Democrats are itching to snag this southern Arizona seat after Republican Rep. Juan Ciscomani won it in 2022 with just 50.7% of the vote. He’s a rising star in Republican ranks, but former state Democratic Sen. Kirsten Engel is preparing for a rematch.
My prediction: Ciscomani wins, barely.
District 8. This heavily Republican northwest Valley race promises to be Arizona’s version of the Hunger Games, featuring a pair of carpetbaggers (Abe Hamadeh and Blake Masters), a fake elector (Anthony Kern), an ex-congressman who asked female staffers to carry his baby (Trent Franks) and House Speaker Ben Toma, who really needs a nickname of his own.
Toma has a conservative record of accomplishment and the endorsement of retiring Rep. Debbie Lesko and former Sen. Jon Kyl. What he doesn’t have is the golden ticket. Trump endorsed Hamadeh, who lives in Scottsdale.
My prediction: Hamadeh wins, to the disappointment of both the eventual Democratic nominee and the QAnon Shaman, who is running as a Libertarian.
With Republicans holding an oh-so-slim one-vote edge in each chamber and in open warfare with Gov. Katie Hobbs, look for Democrats to push hard to grab control of a chamber — something they curiously didn’t even try to do in 2022.
Keep your eyes on:
Legislative District 2. Republican Sen. Shawnna Bolick, who was appointed to the seat when Sen. Steve Kaiser resigned last summer, and Democratic Rep. Judy Schwiebert in this northwest Valley district.
LD 13. Chandler has the state’s most competitive district, and both parties will come hard here. Democratic Rep. Jennifer Pawlik, the highest vote-getter in the 2022 House race, is not running for reelection, which is great news for Republicans. GOP Rep. Julie Willoughby, who was appointed after Rep. Liz Harris was expelled, will likely team up with former Rep. Jeff Weninger, who left in 2022 to run for state treasurer.
A pair of Democrats have also expressed interest. But curiously, no one has yet popped up to try to knock off Republican Sen. J.D. Mesnard.
LD 17. This Tucson-area district shouldn’t be competitive, given the Republicans’ nearly 10-point registration advantage. Yet the area’s three hard-right representatives, Sen. Justine Wadsack and Reps. Rachel Jones and Cory McGarr, didn’t win their 2022 races by much.
Wadsack, whose family home is in a different part of town, rented a room in the district and knocked off incumbent Sen. Vince Leach in the 2022 GOP primary. But she beat her Democratic opponent with just 51.2% of the vote. Leach is expected to come looking to retake his old seat, which presumably would improve the Republicans’ chances of holding onto the Senate.
Democrats, meanwhile, will be coming after Jones and McGarr.
LD 23. This Yuma district is heavily Democratic, so it’s a mystery (to me, at least) how GOP Rep. Michelle Pena won here in 2022 — a surprise development that allowed Republicans to hang onto control of the House.
I’m guessing Pena won’t get much help from the Republican Party. She was one of 18 Republicans who voted to expel Rep. Harris, prompting her own district’s grassroots activists to censure her, declaring her unfit to serve.
My prediction: Democrats will land a seat at the power table in 2024.
The Make Arizona Elections Fair Act is a proposed ballot initiative that would eliminate partisan primaries, a welcome change for any voter who has looked at their November ballot and wished None of the Above was an option.
My prediction: The parties hate it, so it should pass. But then, that could be wishful thinking.
The Arizona Abortion Access Act, a proposal to enshrine abortion as a constitutional right, is likely to land on the ballot. Voters in seven states have thus far moved to protect abortion in some manner since the demise of Roe v. Wade.
My prediction: Having this on the ballot will impact every legislative and congressional race as abortion becomes a major focus of 2024. And if the Arizona Supreme Court declares that an 1864 law now applies and doctors who perform abortions on rape victims must now go to prison?
Well, buckle up, Arizona. It’s going to be a buuuumpy year.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: 2024 election could change Arizona. Here’s how it could shake out
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