The 2018 Midterm elections were good for the Democrats in Arizona, especially if you were a woman in a state or citywide race whose first or last name began with a “K.” With the final results now determined, Kyrsten Sinema (United States Senate), Katie Hobbs (Secretary of State), Kathy Hoffman (Superintendent of Public Instruction), and Sandra Kennedy (Corporation Commission) emerged victorious in their statewide races. With a first-place showing in the initial round of the Phoenix Mayoral Race, Kate Gallego seems well positioned to win the runoff election in March over Daniel Valenzuela. Democrats also gained four seats in the Arizona State House making that chamber the closest between the two parties since 1966. Many Democrats also performed well in races for local school boards, judgeships, justice of the peace, and local constables.
Maricopa County Democratic Party Chair Steve Slugocki, in the middle of preparing for the annual reorganization elections for the county party, offered his perspective on the 2018 election results and where the party will go from here. The questions and responses are below:
1) To what extent are you and your staff satisfied with the election outcomes from November 6?
“We were pretty happy with how it turned out. The turnout exceeded expectations, Democrats won 4 statewide campaigns, we picked up 4 seats in the legislature. Everyone worked extremely hard for this victory, everyone should feel good about this. Democrats ended one-party rule in Maricopa County in 2016, and we ended one-party rule in the state this election. “
2) To what extent are you and your staff amazed at the voter turnout in 2018?
“The turnout was almost 65%, breaking the record for a midterm. The amount of volunteers out knocking doors, making calls, sending texts, really helped drive turnout to historic levels. Some districts had Presidential election year turnout levels, it’s really exciting to see the engagement and new level of voting and activism.”
3) What are the districts that you were especially elated with after the election?
“Every single district should be proud, everyone made incredible progress, and everyone contributed to these wins. To name a few, LD 18 (includes parts of Tempe, Phoenix, Chandler, and Mesa) is a blue district now! Incredible, hats off to them. LD28 (includes parts of Phoenix, Paradise Valley, and Glendale) won both house races and came extremely closing to winning the Senate seat. Jennifer Pawlik was the top vote-getter in LD17 (includes parts of Gilbert, Chandler, and Sun Lakes), finally making that a purple district.”
4) Which districts did better than you thought?
“The turnout in LD 23 (a district that includes parts of Scottsdale, Fountain Hills, Paradise Valley, and Rio Verde) was incredible. The voter contacts in LD15 ( a district that includes parts of Peoria, Paradise Valley, Phoenix, Cave Creek, and Deer Valley) were higher than ever, while both of these districts fell just short, they were a major impact on the statewide races. It was great to also see the “blue districts” perform better than they have in the past as well. “
5) Which districts did worse than you thought or made no improvement?
“I wouldn’t say anyone did “worse” but I was really hoping we could pick up a seat in LD20. They had some great candidates and they all worked extremely hard to pick up a seat but came a little short. LD20 (a district that includes parts of Phoenix, Glendale, and Deer Valley) is the next district to flip and I know they are working hard to learn the lessons of 2018 and will be successful in 2020.”
6) LD 18 is now totally blue with the election of Jennifer Jermaine to go along with Mitzi Epstein and Sean Bowie? To what extent do you see LD 17 and 28 becoming totally blue by 2020 or 2022?
“Re-electing Jennifer Pawlik in 2020 is key, same with Aaron Lieberman and Kelli Butler, we have to keep those seats. It took LD18 years to get to this point and they should be proud of their work, and I know with hard work LD17 and 28 can join them. 2020 is the last election for these current districts the way they are drawn so 2022 is a whole new ballgame.”
7) What are the names of other Districts in the county that you can see going to blue in the next two cycles?
“LD20 is the next district to flip. Maricopa County will flip from purple to blue in 2020.”
8) Do you think candidates that did not fare as well in 2018 should run again for LD offices in 2020?
“They should take time off, recover from a hard-fought campaign and make the best decisions for themselves and their family. I sincerely hope they do, we need their leadership and experience. Candidates tend to do better their 2nd time around with prior experience. I would LOVE to see these amazing people run again and I would be fully supportive.”
9) Do you think Joan Greene, Anita Malik, and Dr. Hiral Tipirneni should run again for the House in 2020 and how will the county assist them if they decide to do so?
“I would give the same answer as for the legislative candidates. Would love to see them take up the fight again, all 3 ran competitive races in “red districts” and outperformed previous Democratic candidates. We worked very closely with the Hiral campaign this year and I would start working for her again without hesitation. Anita ran a fantastic campaign and was a real leader for CD6. Joan Greene inspired an entire area with her campaign against Biggs.”
10) To what extent are you surprised that the biggest state voter recipient among the Democrats appears to be a political novice, Kathy Hoffman?
“Kathy was everywhere in this state. She worked hard every day from the moment she declared to run. The people over Arizona wanted someone who will fight for public education and was an educator herself. I was not surprised honestly how well she did. She showed the differences between herself and Riggs and the people of Arizona spoke loud and clear. I am so proud of Kathy and I look forward to her leadership in this critical position. She is going to be great”.
11) Do you think January Contreras, Steve Farley, or David Schipara should compete for the McCain Senate Seat in 2020?
“All 3 were great candidates and helped make these victories possible. They all have powerful voices who would be incredible candidates for the 2020 cycle. I would love to see them run again for this seat, or any seat in 2020.”
12) What strategies and tactics from 2018 will you use for 2020 and what new ones will you employ or improve upon?
“Once we get all the data back and we can take a deep dive into the results, we will be in a better position to evaluate. I think everyone learned lessons that will carry with them into 2020. I think we have seen the power of grassroots activism in a way we never have been.”
13) Do you think David Garcia’s candidacy hurt other races down the ballot? Please explain.
“Absolutely not. David was outspent by $15 million of negative, false attacks ads. This is why he lost. We can debate messaging but when you are vastly outspent by your opponent it is tough to overcome that. David ran a progressive campaign and inspired a new generation of activists. I was proud to work for him and I know he will be back stronger than ever. “
14) What are the names of potential Democratic candidates that should start thinking about running for governor in 2022?
“That is a tough one, so much can happen between now and then. It’s really hard for me to take a guess at this point, but I know we will have a strong Democratic nominee for the seat in 2022, (if Katie Hobbs is not Governor by then).”
“Finally, I want to take a moment to say thank you to everyone for all they did. This was a long and sometimes brutal election cycle, but we are stronger than ever and 2018 was a stepping stone to turning Arizona blue in 2020.”
Chairperson Slugocki is right to credit the grassroots activism that fueled the record voter turnout that resulted in a victorious Democratic performance this year. He is also right that everyone should learn from what worked in the campaign and what did not. From there, Democrats can take their progressive message to the people in 2020 and 2022 and finish the job they started in 2018 and take the legislature, governors office, and other state and federal offices. It is paramount that the people remain engaged and for the party and its candidates to spread an inclusive and progressive message that will gravitate the people to support the Democratic Program.