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What the Devil won't tell you

Revenge of the Greens: Sinema's petard & other takeaways from Tuesday's voting

The Blue Tide rolled but the wave failed to splash over the hillsides of MAGAland.

It was a split decision for Democrats who will start woulda, coulda, shoulda-ing about how they missed a chance to boost a wave into a tsunami. The party of “I’m sorry, what’s a strategy?” won back the U.S. House of Representatives but let key governorshpis and Senate races slip away.

Trump, to be fair, did a good job of keeping Red States red and establishing a counter storyline that he won the race by preventing a tsunami.

Democrats lost some big-name races but they won legislative seats and gubernatorial races in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. I wonder if those states will play a role in 2020. Hmmm. I’d say they would play a bigger role than Georgia, Montana and Indiana but who am I to offer a contrary reality to Dear Leader Donald?

What does all this mean to you?

Very little.

Hardly anything will change at the state level because the Legislature, governor's office and Arizona Corporation Commission remained as they were and those are the races that affect your life the most. It will be more gridlock in Washington, killing any chance major legislation will be signed into law. Migrants and border communities may see more action on our side of it as Trump feels emboldened. But Democrats will be able to haul the Department of Homeland Security before the House to dress them down if the crew-cut gang goes too far.

Locally, Pima County residents won't get see additional investment in the form of a road-bond package but change may be afoot in the Tucson Unified School District.

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And our open U.S. Senate seat continues to hang in the balance, as stacks of ballots are yet to be counted.

Locally and statewide, I have some quick takeaways from what went down.

Revenge of the Greens

Here in Arizona, the greatest irony of the night anywhere in America is just who seems to be shanking U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema’s bid to become the first Arizona Democrat to win a U.S. Senate seat in 30 years. Turns out, it’s not the moderates she should have worried about.

U.S. Rep. Martha McSally holds the narrowest of margins against Sinema. McSally spent months trying to sink Sinema’s candidacy by reminding voters of the Democratic candidate's political origins in the Green Party. She even accused Sinema of protesting the Iraq War and promoting the Taliban. None of it sank Sinema’s poll numbers; probably because most of Arizona wishes they were protesting the Iraq War in 2003 rather than ordering Freedom Fries.

Turns out, the Greens are determining this election’s outcome.

As I’m typing this, Sinema is running about 15,000 votes behind McSally and the third party insurgency – the Green Party candidate Angela (go figure) Green – is pulling in 38,000 votes.

The Greens themselves may swing this election to McSally.

Man, is that ironic.

See, Sinema has spent years carefully and strategically rebranding herself a “Blue Dog” moderate who votes with Trump more often than not. Turns out, the vegan pacifists noticed and were not amused. Screw us, Kyrsten? No. Screw you.

Greens? No. That was just a phase, see. She wasn’t into them anymore, see. Her new color was “purple.” She’ll punch hippies to make them yelp, sure she will. Government shutdown to defund Obamacare? Sure. Syrian refugee ban? Can’t trust the shifty refugees. Support Trump’s decision to point combat troops at the huddled masses heading north? Punt, defer, wink, nod (sure she does).

What’s the Left going to do about it? Huh? Huh? Mwah. Hah. Hah.

Oh. That’s what the Left is going to do about it.

It appears she's being hoist upon her own petard but a much different implement than McSally had in mind.

Ordinarily, I'd have a problem with this kind of purity test among liberals. However, I know one person quite well who stared at his ballot, hemming and stewing over her tacit support of pointing the military at huddled masses yearning to breathe free in America. His pen circled McSally's name, then Green's before marking in the bubble next to Sinema, cussing under his breath about "if it were any other president."

I have a feeling that Green vote includes a bunch of liberal Democrats who said to themselves, "if I want a Republican, I'd vote for McSally."

Who is Chuck Huckelberry?

Pima County went exactly the way a first-time elections reporter would have told you it would go down.

Former U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick took the “former” out her title and won her fourth term but the first in her new district. The Flagstaff transplant beat Lea Marquez Peterson and flipped McSally’s old district to the Democrats.

U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Democrat, won his ninth term in Congress, easily dispatching Nogales businessman Nicholas Pierson.

Pima County’s bonds failed … again.

I don’t know why Pima County failed again on the bonds but if you would have asked me yesterday I would have predicted they all would. Voters just don’t like something about Pima County government and I’m not sure they know what it is.

Smart people will say it’s Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. Do they seriously think the average voter could pick him out of a lineup if he held a sign in front of him that read: “Hi, I’m Chuck?”

So county leaders are stuck asking: “Now what?”

Despite putting together a commercial for the bonds featuring strange political bedfellows Ron Barber and Jim Click, backers didn't make much of a public case for putting more money into Pima County roads. Here's a hot tip: You've gotta tell people why they should vote for or against stuff. I hear political ads are mighty affordable on a certain local news website that's read by every influencer and smart cookie in town.

One major change worth watching is on the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board, where social worker Leila Counts won a seat for herself — leading all candidates, including longtime member Adelita Grijalva — and eight-year incumbent Michael Hicks lost.

Applying the term vaguely, Michael Hicks was the board's conservative. He, Mark Stegeman and Rachael Sedgwick have formed something of a governing majority on the five-member board.

Counts seems a natural ally for the board's liberal voices — Grijalva and Kristel Foster — but who the hell knows? It's TUSD and nothing would shock me.

Two years ago, I opined that Sedgwick could be a stabilizing force on the board, so I got a fool-me-once thing going on over here.

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Here's to hoping, anyway.

Hi, I'm Ann, you don't know me but ... 

As for newly elected U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, she should heed an old Latin phrase.

Sic transit gloria mundi.” So passes the glory of the world.

Yeah, she won. That seat is still just one Republican wave year from flipping right back and I don’t have the sense that the community embraces her as one of their own just yet.

She had best get herself season tickets to Arizona Wildcat basketball games (two pair, and one to give away). She’d best make herself a fixture Downtown. She’d best get to know the good people of Cochise County and go hang out at Rex Allen Days. She’d best not spend a single weekend in Washington, D.C.

She’s got her work cut out for her.

Not so saucey

Gov. Doug Ducey cruised, largely because he made a loud spectacle of himself swirling about the key state issue of school funding.

It was smart.

He didn't fundamentally change the bottom line of where Arizona ranks against other states in school investment. But he did start the conversation and politically that proved wise. 

It didn't hurt that his opponent, Democrat David Garcia, got no love from the fundraising base. He was a progressive running a liberal campaign in an emerging state and somehow failed to realize his inner Beto. Garcia raised just $2 million for the race. And didn't have a solid answer when asked what his education funding plan was, despite that being his signature (only, really) issue.

It also didn't hurt that Ducey managed to keep the Trump sauce off him. The governor craftily managed to avoid a stage with Trump until mid-October. He just kept his head down in this corner of the country and old 45 never seemed to notice.

McSally dove into a vat of Trump honey mustard and almost drowned there. In any other year, with any other president, I think McSally would have coasted to a 5-7 point victory.

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Or maybe it's something else.

Purple Valley Majesty

Something is happening in Maricopa County that could affect us all.

Here’s what I mean. To understand party affiliation, don’t look at the marquee races. Look at the races pitting candidates voters are clueless about against each other. All most voters know is the party affiliation.

Think Frank Riggs. The dude may be a cool dad and neighbor but he’s hardly a household name. Voters likely only knew he was the Republican candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction.

He won Maricopa County by .06 percentage points.

In fact, Republicans in only one those down-ticket races opened up a 10-point lead over the Democrat this year – state treasurer. Sinema was leading in Maricopa County. The rest were within a five or six points.

Once upon a time, Democrats would run into brick walls in Maricopa County. The 2006 midterms proved a great year for Democrats running for Congress, governor and attorney general but Republicans running for state treasurer, superintendent of public instruction, mine inspector and secretary of state won Maricopa County by about 20 points. Ditto in 2010.

By 2014, those races narrowed to margins less than 10 points.

Arizona may not be moving purple as a whole but Maricopa County sure seems to be following the "blue city mouse, red country mouse" trend. The last two major metro counties in the nation to withstand Democratic takeovers have been Maricopa and Harris (Houston) counties. Harris has since surrendered.

The rest of the state is reddening, so tiny Democratic wins in Maricopa County won’t translate into progressive victories. Maricopa voters also sent three Republicans to the House of Representatives.

But it’s a trend worth watching. Sinema’s one-point lead won’t send her to the Senate. Five-point wins in the Great State of Maricopa will pose a challenge to the GOP.

Could we be heading to the days when the swing votes in Arizona are to be found in Apache and Navajo counties? Both tend to swing one way and then the other, depending on who inspires the tribes.

So all this talk about Latinos being the key demo in Arizona. What if it’s the Navajo? Didn’t see that coming, did you?

Guess you know how Sinema feels.

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist who worked in daily journalism for nearly 20 years and is the former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t.


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have your say   

3 comments on this story

3
2 comments
Nov 13, 2018, 10:15 am
-0 +1

Re: the Greens impact on this election - My numbers may not be up to date, but last I checked there were somewhere in the neighborhood of 600,000 registered Democrats that were too busy, lazy, self-absorbed, or otherwise civically-challenged to vote for in this year’s Senate race. So, other than cutesy snark value, mocking the those that actually bothered to vote, albeit for the Green Party, is neither helpful nor does it even come close to calling out the real reasons for the close race for Senate.

2
1 comments
Nov 9, 2018, 5:42 pm
-0 +0

“Two years ago, I opined that Sedgwick could be a stabilizing force on the board, so I got a fool-me-once thing going on over here.” I am sorry you feel that you were fooled, Mr. Morlock, but I would like to know why. The fact is that I have been a stabilizing force on the board, and TUSD is doing better and better every day. Yeah, we (I) had a rough start, but as you so eloquently pointed out previously, I am human (and was a neophyte).

Now I can claim a part in stabilizing TUSD—not least because I voted to rid the District of (more than one) overpaid elitist, to hire an honest and hard-working superintendent, Dr. Trujillo—a truly stabilizing force in TUSD. Why would you refuse to recognize that? Granted, TUSD still has a long way to go before it gets to all-around great, but that does not justify ignoring the tremendous progress that has been made.

Although the Board is not often featured in the news anymore, I figured you, of all people, would understand that “no news is good news,” that one reason for the silence is that there are few fireworks to report from our board meetings. TUSD is on the up-and-up. And, the personality wars are over, if I have anything to say about it. (And I do.)

Also, I don’t think the question is whether we can or should hope Ms. Counts will help (we can and should); instead, it is whether Ms. Counts has the backbone, as she claims she does, to stand up to “power” and do the right thing, in the name of our students, educators, and community members. Or will she go weak in the knees and vote in a “liberal” block, as though her popularity depends on it?

You recognized in 2016 that I faced a “personal crapstorm” after I got elected and, to survive it, had to reach out to all sides. See: http://www.tucsonsentinel.com/…/sedgwicks-surprise-win-may…/ Will Ms. Counts face the same crapstorm? If not, why not? To whom will she owe the favor of a clean face? Or will she get dirty? Will Ms. Counts have the fortitude to vote with or against Foster and Grijalva, as is best for TUSD? Will she allow the District to continue its upswing under the leadership of Dr. Trujillo? Or will she cow-tow to power, to back-scratching, and secret deals that will benefit her personally at the expense of our public school system? I am not sure. Hope does spring eternal though….

1
4 comments
Nov 9, 2018, 5:27 am
-2 +0

Folks living in Home Owners Associations finally woke up and voted No on Pima County Road Bonds.  They pay monthly fees for services, special assessments for streets, garbage collection and the likes, yet also get robbed to pay city and county taxes.  Why should they vote for more property taxes on top of their association monthly dues and fees?  Homeowner developments are a way for developers to have an easy way to avoid many city or/and county land restrictions and let the City and County off the hook to provide services.  Lots of voters are waking up to the unfair practice of paying for other folks services and the high month HOA fees as well.  Now that they had some organized opposition watch how difficult Bond and tax measures are going to be getting passed.

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Pima County Republicans on election night.

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