Democrats jump to early advantage in bid to flip Az Legislature
The first batch of votes brought good news for Democrats in their quest to control the legislature for the first time in more than half a century.
Following the initial count of early ballots received before Election Day, Democrats led in a handful of key legislative districts for control of both the House of Representatives and Senate. Democrats need net gains of two seats in the House and three in the Senate to take control of the chambers.
In some of those races, Democrats jumped out to huge early leads. Christine Marsh leads Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, by about 7,400 votes in District 28, with 54% of the vote counted. Brophy McGee narrowly held her seat in their first matchup two years ago, defeating Marsh by just 267 votes in the north-central Phoenix and Paradise Valley-based district.
Democrat Judy Schwiebert also started in a strong position to snag a House seat in District 20, which covers parts of Glendale and north Phoenix. Schwiebert leads Rep. Shawnna Bolick, R-Phoenix, by about 5,800 votes, while Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, trailed his seatmate Bolick by about 1,700 votes for the second House spot in the district.
Other races were closer, but saw Democrats with early leads. Challenger A.J. Kurdoglu leads incumbent Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, by about 2,000 votes in Chandler-based District 17, while Democrat Doug Ervin leads his rematch against Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, in District 20 by nearly 2,600 votes.
Both the House and Senate races in District 6, which covers Flagstaff and parts of Gila and Navajo counties, saw Democrats leading key races. Republican Wendy Rogers, who defeated incumbent Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, in the GOP primary trails Democrat Felecia French by more than 1,500 votes.
On the House side, Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans sported a lead of more than 3,600 over Rep. Walt Blackman, R-Snowflake. Blackman leads fellow Republican Brenda Barton, a former lawmaker, by about 2,500 votes for the second House seat in District 6, despite an onslaught of outside spending by the Democrats, who hit Blackman with nearly $800,000 worth of attacks.
Democrat Kathy Knecht held a more tenuous lead in Peoria and Sun City-based District 21, leading incumbent Rep. Kevin Payne, R-Peoria, by more than 1,600 votes, while trailing Republican Beverly Pingerelli by about 2,100 votes.
Even in conservative District 11, which covers parts of Pinal County and Tucson's northern suburbs, Democrats are in the lead in the House and Senate races. Democrat JoAnna Mendoza leads Sen. Vince Leach, R-Tucson, by more than 2,200 votes, and Felipe Perez leads the House race, topping Rep. Bret Roberts, R-Maricopa by about 3,000 votes while Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, trails Roberts by about 800 votes.
Democrats are also leading in Pinal County-based District 8, which is competitive on paper but where the Democrats weren't expected by many observers to gain any ground. Though Republican Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, leads former Democratic lawmaker Barbara McGuire in the Senate race, Democrat Sharon Girard has a 900-vote lead over GOP lawmaker Frank Pratt for the top spot in the House race, while scandal-plagued incumbent Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, trails Pratt by just 151 votes.
The Democrats are in danger of losing one House seat in District 4, which stretches from Tucson to Yuma and up into western Maricopa County. Republican Joel John is in third place but trails incumbent Rep. Gerae Peten, D-Goodyear, by just 269 votes. House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez holds a comfortable lead for first place in the district.