U.S. House: Redistricting, midterm malaise tighten congressional races in Arizona
Unofficial early returns Tuesday night showed leads for Democrats Ruben Gallego, Greg Stanton and Raúl Grijalva of the 3rd, 4th and 7th Congressional Districts, respectively, in bids to hold their party’s seat majority in the House of Representatives.
Two races were uncontested, with Republicans holding both seats. Of Arizona’s nine seats in Congress, eight are held by incumbents.
Stanton on Tuesday night declared victory over Republican Kelly Cooper at the Social Hall in Tempe.
“We need more from our elected leaders than bickering on Twitter,” Stanton said. “We have to do the work to build the infrastructure of tomorrow to make Arizona the semiconductor capital of the United States, to lift up our schools, to lift up our kids, to secure our water for future generations.”
Arizona’s Democrats faced the triple challenge of redistricting, a retiring member (Ann Kirkpatrick) and the usual midterm backlash against the party holding the White House. Democrats hold a slim majority in the House, with 220 seats.
Republicans hold 212 seats, with three vacancies, and they need to gain six seats nationwide to retake control of the House and block the Democratic agenda. The GOP aimed to capitalize on President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings and the fact that the president’s party lost seats in all but two midterm elections – 1998 and 2002 – since World War II.
The races for Arizona’s newly redrawn 1st, 2nd, 4th and 6th districts were considered key going into the election.
Multiterm incumbent Rep. David Schweikert, R-Fountain Hills, faced a stiff challenge from newcomer Jevin Hodge in the district, which includes Scottsdale, Cave Creek and Paradise Valley. If elected, Democrat Hodge would be the state’s first Black congressman.
“Democracy is not a spectator sport. Democracy is a contact sport,” Hodge said at the Democrats’ watch party. “And we got to get people involved. We got to get people engaged. We got to get people excited. We got to get people motivated. We got to get people empowered.”
Schweikert was the only Republican member of the delegation who was expected to face a challenge. He was also the only Trump-endorsed Republican who voted to accept the state’s election results in Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.
The District 1 seat was on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue” list of targeted seats to flip, and Hodge raised $2.2 million in his bid to unseat Schweikert, who reported raising $1.7 million for his campaign. In August, a poll cited by FiveThirtyEight said the two candidates were even, while the Cook Political Report called the race a toss-up the day before the election.
The Hodge campaign had made an issue of Schweikert’s ethics violations, with the incumbent being fined by both the Federal Election Commission and the House Ethics Committee for misuse of campaign and office funds. Despite redistricting, the 1st District had a clear GOP majority, with Republicans accounting for 37.9% of voters to Democrats’ 28.4%.
Redistricting could cost Democrats another seat, after Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Sedona, saw his northern and eastern Arizona district redrawn to pick up more Republican voters in Yavapai County. The three-term incumbent faced an aggressive challenge from Republican Eli Crane, a Trump-endorsed ex-Navy SEAL and first-time candidate. As of Tuesday night, the race was still tight.
The District 2 race drew national attention, with Crane named one of the “young guns” by the National Republican Congressional Committee, while O’Halleran made the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s list of “frontline” candidates. The 2nd District, which includes a large number of tribal lands, is now 37.2% GOP voters to 31.3% independents and 30.6% Democrats.
O’Halleran raised more than $4 million to Crane’s $3.5 million, but the NRCC pumped in more than $1.7 million to oppose O’Halleran, while the DCCC spent just $580,394 in the Democratic incumbent’s defense.
O’Halleran, a one-time Republican, former cop and former state lawmaker, survived long odds before, but Real Clear Politics rated the race as likely going to the Republican. Crane had a narrow 1 percentage point lead in an August poll, the most recent available.
Another frontline district for Democrats is District 4, held by Stanton, where Democrats’ 31.5% of registered voters narrowly trails Republicans’ 32.1%. Real Clear Politics called the race a toss-up, while the Cook Political Report said it is likely Democratic.
The two-term Stanton, a former Phoenix mayor, raised more than $4 million to Republican challenger Kelly Cooper’s $2.2 million, according to the FEC, which said outside groups had spent more than $1.5 million to oppose Cooper. An August poll cited by FiveThirtyEight gave Stanton a 7 percentage point lead.
For the past four years, Democrats enjoyed a 5-4 advantage in the state’s nine-member House delegation, after Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Tucson, took the seat vacated by Republican Martha McSally when she made an unsuccessful run for Senate in 2018.
But Kirkpatrick, former 2nd District representative, announced in early 2021 that she would not be seeking re-election, opening the door to a possible GOP takeover. In the southeastern Arizona district, now the 6th District, Republicans make up 35.7% of registered voters to 31.9% for Democrats and 31.7% for independents.
In the 6th District, Republican Juan Ciscomani, a former aide to Gov. Doug Ducey, faced off against environmental lawyer Kirsten Engel, a Democrat and one-term state senator who stepped down from the Legislature to run for Congress.
Ciscomani’s campaign raised over $3 million, compared to $2.2 million for Engel, according to the most recent filings with the FEC. The FEC also reported an additional $1.8 million in outside funding in the campaign to either support Ciscomani or oppose Engel.
Rep. Debbie Lesko of Peoria for the 8th District and Paul Gosar of Prescott for the 9th District faced only write-in opposition and retained both seats. The remaining incumbents – Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert of the 5th District, and Reps. Gallego of Phoenix and Grijalva of Tucson – both held what were considered safe seats.