Overall, Democrats in Arizona did do well in the November 3, 2020 elections.

  • Joe Biden became the first Democrat since Bill Clinton in 1996 to win Arizona in the Presidential Election.
  • For the first time since 1953, Arizona will be represented by two Democratic Senators (Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly.)
  • Anna Tovar will bring an added Democratic Voice to the Arizona Corporation Commission.
  • Christine Marsh will add to the Democratic numbers in the Arizona State Senate.
  • Proposition 208Invest in Education passed.
  • Pima County Democrats retook the Sheriff’s Office with Chris Nanos reclaiming his former office.
  • Rex Scott captured District One of the Pima County Board of Supervisors.
  • Dr. Donna Michaels won the District Three Yavapai Board of Supervisors Race.

This is all good news for supporters of the Democratic Party. Arizona is Bluer today than it was on November 2, 2020. However, Democrats in Arizona and across the country are less than thrilled with the overall election results.

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Why?

Because the Blue Wave many (including Republicans) thought would materialize did not occur across all levels of elected contests.

A blue ripple

While there are more Democrats now in the United States Senate, Arizona State Senate, and various county offices, Democratic candidates failed to:

  • Gain control of the Arizona State Legislature.
  • Expand their representation in the House of Representatives.
  • Grow their influence in Maricopa County. In fact, they lost the Recorders office.

Were Democrats, as Elvia Diaz postulated in her November 12 column for AZ Central “cocky?”

No.

When you have the advantage on the issues, money, quality candidates (Maricopa County, for example, had highly qualified candidates for every office this year,) and ethical behavior, most people (including some Republicans) expected a Blue Wave type night.

Some Democrats, like LD6’s Colonel Felicia French and Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, actually earned more votes in their 2020 campaigns than their previous ones.

Why then did the Blue Wave fail to materialize? There are many reasons. Some or all of them may have been a factor depending on the geography of the voters. These reasons include:

  • Polls were unreliable, and Trump energized his base.
  • Democrats followed public safety protocols and did not canvass as much as Republicans.
  • Disenchanted Republicans and independents disappointed with Trump and McSally did not research down-ballot race candidates and voted Republican on the other races.
  • Did Voters fall for “Defund the Police” and Democrats are Socialists?
  • Arizona Democratic Candidates in the State Legislature did not run on a coordinated program. 
  • Not fully outreaching to Arizona’s exurb and rural communities.

The polls were unreliable, and Trump energized his base

While Democrats did turn out at record numbers, so did Republicans. For example, polls before the election showed Mark Kelly with close to a six-point average lead over Martha McSally. He won by about two and a half points.

Trump, with his COVID 19 super spreader rallies, was able to energize his base to turn out in unanticipated numbers in centrist and conservative-leaning districts.  It may have helped David Schweikert in his Congressional District Six Race against Dr. Hiral Tipirneni. Trump’s turn out the base strategy undoubtedly aided local candidates like the Republicans in Legislative District Six.  It probably helped Jim O’Connor gain a seat on the Corporation Commission. It also gave fringe candidates like Justine Wadsack in LD Ten and Don Hawker in LD 18 larger support than anticipated.

Democrats followed public safety protocols and did not canvass as much as Republicans.

Democrats in some races may have paid the price for not canvassing door to door as much this campaign season due to the Coronavirus.

Science denying Republicans mostly had no such concern and canvassed more regularly, reaching more of their voters.

Brittany Oliver, the spokesperson for the Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (ADLCC) commented:

“COVID-19 was an unexpected challenge that impacted our organizing work that transitioned from door-to-door to online in March.”

One activist from LD 18 commented:

“While Trump was a huge motivating force in getting people to vote, the ability to truly canvass and work on down-ballot races was hampered by the pandemic. Our responsible decision as a party (LD, County & state) to not canvass in person was probably one of the factors. Republicans ignored safety guidelines and continued to canvass in person throughout the election.”

Edder Diaz-Martinez, the Communications Director for the Maricopa County Democratic Party offered the below insights on the November 3, 2020 elections:

“Yes – many of our countywide candidates came within one or two points of winning their races. We also had a full countywide and county district slate for the first time in Maricopa County Democratic Party (MCDP) history.”

 “Additionally, we doubled the number of people who took action and became involved during this election. In 2016, records show we had just under 800 certified Precinct Committee Members (PCs). Today, we have a total of 1,500 PCs. These figures indicate the energy, enthusiasm, and support for Democratic values and policies within Maricopa County. People are excited about our ideas and vision. It’s time to sustain the momentum we have created across the county.”

 “Going into 2020, we felt excited and prepared for this election year. Like any other traditional election year, we planned to host fundraising events, promote our candidates, and encourage Maricopa County residents to become active members of their local Democratic legislative district organization. Thanks to this work, our party continues to grow.”

 “Unfortunately, the current administration fumbled its response on COVID-19 in mid-March. Organizations like ours had to make critical changes to the way we conducted our business with little to no information from top decision-makers. Early on, out of an abundance of caution, we decided to stop any in-person activity. This decision meant no in-person canvassing, voter registration, or physical in-person outreach events.”

 “We continued this activity digitally. We invested thousands of dollars into digital programs that elevated our platforms. Unfortunately, these programs are no substitute for in-person, door-to-door voter contact. Moving forward, we must find a way to continue in-person voter education and outreach efforts. Our Party must become innovative and find a safe way to continue connecting with county residents across the valley.”

Down-ballot race candidates overlooked.

Again, geography and the way districts are ideologically drawn played a factor here. While Joe Biden, Mark Kelly, and Anna Tovar could draw on voters from the entire state, congressional, legislative district, and county candidates had no such luxury.

With Republicans still having a registration advantage in Arizona, that helped them in local races.

Voters may not have adequately researched or paid attention to these down-ballot races and just voted along party lines. This is especially sad because these voters:

  • Let David Schweikert get away with 11 ethics violations.
  • Told Republicans skipping on Clean Elections Debates is nothing to worry about.
  • Did not pay as much attention to the vital issues in the local races as they should have.

Some Democrats have voiced concern that the Party’s primary concern was electing Joe Biden and Mark Kelly and not the down-ballot races.

Commenting in Andrew Oxford’s November 15, 2020, AZ Central article, Corporation Commissioner Sandra Kennedy said:

“The concern was Kelly’s race and nobody else’s.”

Kennedy pointed out that while Joe Biden and Mark Kelly won LD 17, the State Senate Candidate (AJ Kurdoglu) did not. Jennifer Pawlik, the incumbent State House Democrat did win.

That drew a response from Charlie Fisher, the head of the ADLCC, who advised that a lot of financial and support resources were allocated to the battleground local districts.

He said to AZ Central that:

“Clearly we misjudged something significantly with the electorate, with who was going to show up, with the enthusiasm Trump is still able to muster with his base,”

Maricopa County Democratic Party Chairperson Steven Slugocki, commenting to Oxford in the same article, was proud that the party, for the first time in a while, fielded highly qualified candidates for every county and local office.

He also said:

“(The results) cement the fact that Maricopa County is absolutely a battleground for the future…We have to find a way to get more attention on down-ballot races,” he said. “I think the party is in a good position for the future and that we have shown that we can win here.”

 Did Voters fall for “Defund the Police” and Democrats are Socialists?

Not one Arizona Democrat running in a battleground district championed defunding the police or becoming a socialist party.

Unfortunately, that message, popularized by the agents of the Trump Zone, Fox Island, and Disinfowars probably resonated with the energized misinformed base Trump turned out and the voters who did not adequately research down-ballot races. That probably hurt Democrats in local swing districts like CD Six, LD Four, LD Six, LD Eight, LD 11, LD 17, LD 20, LD 21, and LD 23.

One prominent Democrat from LD 11 speaking on background noted:

“The first question is whether 2020 is a trendsetter or merely an anomaly due to the weirdness of circumstances.  The impacts of COVID and Trumpism on voter decisions down-ballot are difficult to parse and analyze without a whole lot of follow-up polling and interviewing.”

“My gut, however, is telling me that moderate Republican and Independent voters hated Trump (and McSally by extension) but feared a dramatic shift to the left.  The GOP did a great job of hammering Americans with the false notion that any policy shift toward a progressive agenda would amount to Cuban/Venezuelan Socialism.  Not enough were convinced that Dems down ballot were focused on their best interest but, instead, had ulterior ideological motives.  This should be the top marketing priority of the entire Democratic Party for 2021.”

“Another factor was the violence that erupted out of the peaceful BLM protests across the country.  For many voters, it lasted too long and caused too much damage.  The polling began to shift from favorable to unfavorable pretty quickly.  Had the protests not been kidnapped by violence, the public’s impression would have been much different.  We have to find a way to keep the BLM agenda highlighted in a peaceful and constructive way.”

“I’m disappointed with a lot of the AZ election results but I think we need to take a big picture view.  For the first time since 1996, AZ’s electoral votes are going to a Democrat.  For the first time since the 1950s, AZ has two Democratic U.S. Senators.  We added a second Democrat to the ACC, maintained a 5-4 U.S. House delegation, and still have a chance to add a State Senator.  Overall, I still am convinced AZ is headed Blue – I see 2020 as a step along that path.”

 Readers should also click here on the clip from Barack Obama’s interview on 11/15/20 with Sixty Minutes where he worries that some Trump Supporters are being persuaded with a different set of “facts” (translation: realty or disinformation) than most of the other voters.

Picking up on that theme, readers should click here on Arizona Mirror’s Jim Small’s November 13, 2020 article called “Lies, damn lies and the Republicans destroying our elections.”

Arizona Democratic Candidates in the State Legislature did not run on a Coordinated Program. 

Unlike 2018, the Arizona Democrats (incumbent or otherwise) vying for a seat in the Arizona State Legislature did not put out a united general election program. They had released a program to deal with COVID 19 and law enforcement reform but fell short of conveying a united message to the voters.

Not fully outreaching to Arizona’s Exurb and Rural communities.

The Democrats maintained their hold on urban areas in the state and made great strides in the suburbs. However, several sources indicated that the outreach to the Exurb and Rural parts of the Grand Canyon State could have been better.

Commenting on the election, former LD State House District Eight Candidate Sharon Girard, whose district has a substantial rural population, wrote:

“Arizona is ecstatic.  We now have two Democrat senators and are a bright blue on the electoral college map.  We came out and voted and should be proud of what we have achieved.  But our state will not really be blue until we have flipped our state legislature.  Our legislature and county board of supervisors have more to do with our daily lives than any senator up in Washington DC, sorry Mark Kelly.  I am happy for the successes of Judy Schwiebert and Christine Marsh, yet we did not gain one seat in the House and only one in the Senate.  We need to do some soul searching here.  We had high hopes we would flip the House for the first time since 1966.  We should have!”

 “ADLCC focused on only two-House seats to flip, the minimum necessary, essentially putting all their eggs in one basket.  Many top candidates brought in record six-figure fundraising dollars, setting a steep precedent for future races.  I am proud of the historical $108,000 I raised with only 10% of PAC money.   PACs gravitated towards the top races, leaving the rest of us to fend for ourselves.”

 “Democrats have a good foothold in Pima and Maricopa County, now, let’s work on the rest of the state.  My LD was considered a swing district yet with benign neglect Pinal County has become redder.  When Field Team 6 was hanging out in the state it barely came to my district.  Many endorsing groups didn’t come in because they felt it wasn’t worth their time.  It’s not that we don’t have the Democrats, we do, enough to win if they come out and vote.  Sadly turnout numbers lag behind those districts in urban areas.  We didn’t get what we needed to flip one seat.  We even lost our last Democrat County Supervisor.”

 “If we are to ever have the chance to flip the legislature we need to work on our rural and exurban districts. 60% of the state is not the whole state, we in the 40% count too.  We need bodies and focus, not just money.  We need people to come up and down to canvass, phone bank lit drop and engage our voters, to apply all the lessons learned this year.  We don’t have an abundance of volunteers, organizations, or even coordinated LDs.” 

 “We need your engagement, energy, and attention now more than ever.  We have many disenfranchised left-leaning voters who are just waiting for the party to make them a priority.  Our campaigns did what we could with the money and resources we had.  It wasn’t enough.   We are your next success story.  Turning us blue will turn the entire state and that will be the best story of all.”

David Lujan, a former Democratic leader at the Arizona State Legislature and current head of the Arizona Center for Economic Progress echoed Girard on the need for better outreach to exurb and rural areas. He relayed:

“The election results to me show that Arizona is a purple state that is moving toward blue. Arizonans showed once again that they support progressive policies by raising income taxes on the rich to fund public education and to legalize recreational marijuana, just like they passed a new minimum wage law in 2016.  We need to do a better job of connecting those progressive policies to the candidates who will support them in the legislature.  It is also notable that the urban areas of Maricopa and Pima counties voted overall to support Prop 208 while rural areas overall voted against Prop 208. I find that interesting because rural areas have fewer taxpayers that are in the wealthiest 1 percent who will be taxed by 208, and they stand to gain a lot by the new revenues since in many small towns the public schools are often among the largest employers. That tells me that we have work to do to talk about the benefits of progressive policies for rural economies.”

Moving Forward

Voters in Arizona did make history on November 3, 2020. Democratic, Independent, and like-minded Republicans made the Grand Canyon State bluer with the elections of Joe Biden, Anna Tovar, and Mark Kelly.

However, Democrats from Joe Biden to the candidate running for dog catcher need to start working now on the successes of November 3 if they want to maintain their 2020 gains and build to expand them in 2022, 2024, and beyond.

In moving forward, Brittany Oliver of the ADLCC wrote:

“During the next election, we will engage our communities more and strengthen our baseline candidate services so they can continue to fight for our state and communities.”

 Edder Diaz-Martinez relayed that Maricopa County Democrats would:

“Moving forward, we face many challenges. With redistricting looming, we look to our five-point plan to initiate this rebuilding phase. This plan focuses on building our relationships, bench, financial resources, Democratic electorate, and volunteer base. We will execute this plan while simultaneously sustaining efforts to register voters, knock on doors, and maintain a sustained presence within communities across the county, even during off-election years. Our job is to support the momentum created by the voter enthusiasm of 2020. Historic voter participation is exciting, but we will work to continue breaking records for years to come.”

 “We will begin a discussion among our Executive Board and staff regarding canvassing, face-to-face voter contact, and community outreach. This work is critical to sustaining our momentum in 2021. Constant presence and participation from all 20 Maricopa County Democratic Legislative Districts will aid our efforts to ensure Democrats are shaping policy within our county.” 

As Diaz-Martinez stated, The Democratic Party also has to ensure that the Independent Redistricting Process for the new Legislative and Congressional District boundaries are fair.

After the completion of the redistricting process, Democrats, in accomplishing their long term goals, need to do better with:

  • Connecting with the working-class voters that agree with them on the issues but are turned off the party for one or more reasons. Please click here to access a clip from Real Time with Bill Maher New Rules on 11/13/20, to see where the potential issues are.
  • Reaching out to members of the exurb and rural communities that seem to think Democrats do not have their interests at heart.
  • Maintaining support and gains in the suburbs, cities, and Native American Nations like the Navajo.
  • Educating voters on down-ballot races and reinforcing the facts that are the true reality and that local races do matter.
  • Improving on their voter registration game. A source from the Arizona Democratic Party commented: “In AZ the voter registration gap remains a priority. D’s need to overtake R’s on registration to become less reliant on I’s and moderate R’s for down-ballot races.”

Democrats in Arizona and across the country have time to learn from the election results.

Hopefully, what they learn will lead to additional Democratic gains in 2022, 2024, and afterward.

Arizona turnout in the 2020 elections was just under 80 percent. It should be at that or higher going forward.

The time to start working on improving Democratic Candidate’s future performance is NOW.

Do not let the Republicans get the upper hand framing the issues on uninformed voters with their lies and disinformation campaigns through their Trump Zone, Fox Island, Disinfowar, and other alt-right media outlets.

The main job of you, the voter is to stay engaged, remained informed from real news sources, and not grow complacent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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