In the week since the 2018 Midterm Election, pundits have been judging the size and very existence of the predicted Blue Wave . To determine if the Blue Wave of newly elected Democrats was a tsunami or a just ripple, the media has focused primarily on Congressional and gubernatorial races–with little or no mention of state legislatures.
With voter turnout at 60%, there is no doubt that a Blue Wave washed over Arizona on Nov. 6, 2018. Democratic women won major victories: US Senate (Kyrsten Sinema), CD2 (Ann Kirkpatrick), Corporation Commission (Sandra Kennedy), Superintendent of Public Instruction (Kathy Hoffman), and maybe but still too close to call Secretary of State (Katie Hobbs). The incumbent Republicans for three of these seats– Corporation Commission (Tom Forese), Superintendent of Public Instruction (Diane Douglas), and Secretary of State (Michelle Reagan)– all lost in the primary. Now, Democrats will hold those seats.
In the Arizona House, the Blue Wave was more of a tsunami. Seven Republican incumbents will not be returning to the Arizona Legislature in January 2019.
Soon-to-be-former Reps. Paul Moseley (LD5), Darin Mitchell (LD13), Don Shooter (LD13), and Drew John (LD14) all lost in the August primary. In the General Election, the Democrats flipped four House seats with: Domingo DeGrazia beat Rep. Todd Clodfelter in LD10; Jennifer Jermaine beat Rep. Jill Norgaard in LD18; Aaron Lieberman beat Rep. Maria Syms in LD28; and Jennifer Pawlik beat Nora Ellen (House Speaker J.D. Mesnard’s Mom who was running for his old seat in LD17). (For the record, in 2018, one Democratic incumbent Rep. Ken Clark lost his seat to another Dem.) Nationally, Democrats reclaimed 250 seats in state legislatures.
On Inauguration Day 2019, the Legislative balance of power will be 31R/29D in the Arizona House and 17R/13D (unchanged) in the Senate. House Democrats have not been in this position since 1967!
This dramatic shift in the Legislature is a repudiation of Republican policies, in my opinion. These seven defeated Republican Legislators (along with most of their cronies) voted for:
- Expansion of school vouchers
- Risky water policies
- Tax breaks that drain our general fund
- Fetal resuscitation
- A Constitutional Convention of States
- Limiting local control by overturning local ordinances and taking HURF funds
- Maintaining Arizona’s status as one of the stingiest states in the country in terms of cash assistance to the poor (TANF)
- Weakening teacher certification and student evaluation requirements
- Funding the Koch Brothers Freedom Schools at the universities
- Making the Citizens Initiative process more difficult
- Weakening the Clean Elections system and reducing campaign finance oversight
- Denying abortion access and referral to pregnant homeless women
- Budgets that are crafted behind closed doors and built on side deals, not fiscal responsibility
And they voted against:
- Red for Ed budget amendments to raise teacher and staff salaries and establish stable, long-term funding for public education
- Debating ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)
- Meaningful gun violence prevention
- Using $56 million in federal childcare subsidies to help Arizona’s poor
- Protecting the environment and our water supply
- Election reforms proposed by the County Recorders
Maybe… just maybe… Arizonans want stable funding for public education, equal pay for equal work, safety from random gun violence and the freedom to make medical decisions without government interference.
The 54th Legislature will be interesting. Neither caucus is a solid voting block. On the more ideological bills– like school vouchers or fetal resuscitation–the votes fall along party lines. Other than that, there are many bipartisan “yes” and “no” votes. We could see some real changes in this state now that the voters have cracked the GOP blockade on the Legislature. I know that there are people on both sides of the aisle who want prison reform, changes to marijuana and medical marijuana laws, and a review of the tax giveaways.
Since 48% of the members in the Arizona House will be Democrats, I am expecting that newly elected Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers will allow more Democratic bills to be heard in committee and voted upon on the floor of the House. In the name of fairness to the voters who elected the 29 House Democrats, I also am anticipating that Speaker Bowers will balance committee membership and stop packing every committee with a super-majority of GOP members. And how about a pledge not to negotiate the budget behind closed doors?
I can’t tell you how many years have I heard the lament: “If you want to change Arizona, you have to change the Legislature”, after which, everyone within earshot releases a dejected sigh.
But not this year. Thank you so much for your volunteerism, your votes, and your true grit, Arizona! You did this. Your votes defeated seven incumbent Republican Legislators and three incumbent Republican statewide officeholders.
You changed your state government significantly. No one predicted 31/29 in the Arizona House, Dems taking three statewide seats, and Dems taking the CD2 and US Senate seats.
Now, let’s see what we can do in Phoenix and DC with this new mix of people and ideas.
[NOTE: At the time of this writing, the LD28 Senate race between Senator Kate Brophy-McGee and Teacher of the Year Christine Marsh is too close to call with the incumbent winning by ~500.]
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