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Who won and who lost with the new Arizona legislative districts?

Some lawmakers face unexpectedly tough re-election fights, while others saw improvements over the draft map

Political fortunes for a number of incumbent lawmakers shifted last week when the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission approved its final legislative map, granting a reprieve to some who were facing trouble and giving others new headaches as they head into their re-election campaigns.

Two of the new districts are shaping up to be intraparty free-for-alls, one for each party, with multiple incumbents pitted against each other.

On the Republican side, District 7, which cuts a swath across rural Arizona, from southern Flagstaff through eastern Pinal County, is the district to watch, in the races for both the House and Senate. 

A last-minute change by the redistricting commission set the stage for what might now be the most hotly anticipated race of the 2022 election cycle, between Sens. Wendy Rogers and Kelly Townsend. Rogers and Townsend, who are both from the GOP’s right wing, currently represent separate districts — Townsend lives in Apache Junction, while Rogers calls Flagstaff home — and seemed poised to run in those districts next year. But on the last day of the AIRC’s work, Republican Commissioner David Mehl asked to move a small chunk of southern Flagstaff out of heavily Democratic, predominantly tribal District 6.

The change moved Rogers into a safe Republican district, but one with another incumbent GOP senator. Neither Rogers or Townsend responded to messages from the Arizona Mirror

Townsend lives near the boundaries of a couple other districts where she could feasibly move, but the day after Christmas, three days after the AIRC finalized its legislative map, she filed paperwork with the Secretary of State’s Office stating her intent to run in District 7.

Oftentimes, lawmakers from the same party will agree to switch legislative chambers to head off primary battles. In this case, moving over to the House from the Senate isn’t an option for either Rogers or Townsend because there are already more Republican incumbents than there are House seats.

GOP Reps. Brenda Barton, David Cook and John Fillmore currently all represent different districts. But the trio must run against each other for the two House seats in District 7. A fourth Republican incumbent in the district, Rep. Walt Blackman, is running for Congress.

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Cook, who lives in Globe, told the Mirror that he believes voters will see that he’s been a strong voice for rural Arizona, making real improvements on issues like education funding and wildfire protection. 

“I focus on the problems that really have large impacts on these people’s lives,” Cook said. “I’m looking forward to the race. I’m looking forward to making new friends and the people that are outside of my current district.”

In central Phoenix, four incumbent House Democrats face a similar scenario in the new District 5. The new district combined portions of the old District 24, represented by Jennifer Longdon and Amish Shah, and District 28, represented by Kelli Butler and Sarah Liguori. Now, all four face the prospect of slugging it out for the new district’s two House seats.

Longdon, who serves as assistant House minority leader, said the quartet plans to talk it out and find out what everyone’s plans are, though they haven’t had time to do so since the AIRC finalized the new legislative map last week. Sen. Lela Alson plans to seek re-election in the district, blocking off the Senate as a possible avenue for any of the four. 

“It’s not unknown. Every 10 years some incumbents face this,” Longdon said. “What’s most important for me is that we make sure that, should we all end up running for these two seats, … it’s a very positive campaign on everyone’s part. And I trust the voters of LD5 to make the best possible decision.”

Reps. Richard Andrade and Diego Espinoza are termed out of the House and looking to move up to the Senate, which wouldn’t have been a problem in previous years, when they lived in different districts. Now, both are in District 22 in the West Valley, covering parts of Avondale, Glendale, Phoenix and Tolleson. Espinoza is running as a team with his current seatmates, Sen. Lupe Contreras and Rep. Lorenzo Sierra, who are running for the House.

Sierra, of Avondale, noted that District 22 is extremely similar to the district he, Contreras and Espinoza have represented for years. Andrade is a good lawmaker, Sierra said, but he and his two seatmates have run as a team for the past two election cycles, and will do so again in 2022. 

“He’s been a great member of the House, as my seatmate Espinoza (has been), so it’s just one of those things where that’s the crowded field in this particular one,” Sierra said. 

No other district seems like to force incumbents to battle in the 2022 primary. Republican Reps. Frank Carroll, Beverly Pingerelli and Ben Toma currently call northwest Valley-based District 28 home, as does GOP Sen. David Livingston. But Toma is building a new home in neighboring District 27, heading off a crowded Republican primary. 

Carroll will run for the Senate seat in District 28, which includes Sun City, Sun City West, much of Peoria and part of north Phoenix, while Pingerelli and Livingston, who recently dropped out of the race for state treasurer, run for the district’s House seats. Rep. Kevin Payne, R-Peoria, who is the only other incumbent in District 27, has filed to run for the Senate. 

District 21 in central Tucson has two Democratic senators, Rosanna Gabaldon and Stephanie Stahl Hamilton, who was recently appointed to fill a vacant seat. Stahl Hamilton said she plans to run instead for the House, to which she was elected in 2020. 

Directly to the north, District 18 is home to three incumbent Democratic House members, Pamela Powers Hannley, along with the newly appointed Morgan Abraham and Christopher Mathis. It’s unclear, however, whether Powers Hannley is seeking re-election — she hasn’t filed a statement of interest yet — and Abraham told the Mirror that he may move to a new district. 

While most of the incumbent-on-incumbent matchups the commission created will be in the primary, some will wait for the general election.

Republican Sen. Nancy Barto and Democratic Sen. Christine Marsh both live in the new District 4, which runs from the Camelback Mountain to Pinnacle Peak Road in the north. The district is one of the most competitive in the state but leans toward the GOP, likely giving Barto an edge, especially in 2022, which is widely expected to strongly favor Republicans. 

Rep. Andrea Dalessandro, D-Sahuarita, who has represented a heavily Democratic district for the past decade, now finds herself in District 19, a Republican stronghold that covers much of southeastern Arizona. Dalessandro said some supporters have urged her to move into a neighboring, Democratic district, which she’s considering. Either way, she won’t be running in District 19. For her, it’s a new district or nothing. 

“Been there, done that in 2008,” Dalessandro said, referring to her first, unsuccessful legislative campaign in a Republican district. 

Some lawmakers now find themselves in more competitive districts that they’re used to. Sen. Tyler Pace, R-Mesa, is moving from an overwhelming Republican district to one of the state’s six competitive districts. He’s the only incumbent in the district, and it’s unclear who he might face in the general election.  

Sen. J.D. Mesnard, a Chandler Republican, saw his safe Republican district become increasingly competitive over the past decade, to the point where its voters elected Democrat Jennifer Pawlik to the House in 2018 and 2020. But his new District 13 is now the most competitive district in the state, based on the metrics the AIRC used to measure competitiveness. 

Mesnard said he isn’t concerned. He would’ve preferred that the AIRC kept earlier versions of his district, disagreed with its decision to slice off the southeastern piece of Chandler, and said the commission focused too much on making District 13 competitive to the detriment of communities of interest. But regardless of what the commission’s metrics say, he doesn’t view his new district as more competitive than his old one from the map that was in use from 2012-20

He noted that President Joe Biden won 51.1% of the in the old District 17 — the only legislative district where voters went Democratic in the presidential election but elected a Republican to the state Senate — and would have won 51.5% in the new District 13. In 2020, he was the Democrats’ top target, facing more than $1.3 million in outside spending against him.

“In many respects, I’m just assuming kind of the same situation, although I think 2022 is going to be a good year for us,” Mesnard said. 

Pawlik disagrees that the new district isn’t more competitive than the old District 17. Though the district only loses seven precincts and gains just three and a half from neighboring areas, she views it as more competitive. She feels that her chances are at least as good in District 13 than in the predecessor district, and certainly no worse, though she acknowledged that 2022 is likely to be a tough year for Democrats.

“I think it feels really comfortable compared to what we’ve had in the past decade, really,” Pawlik said.

Some lawmakers who faced perilous re-election scenarios under the draft map that the commission approved in late October saw their situations improve when the final map was improved. 

Republican Reps. Tim Dunn, of Yuma, and Joel John, of Buckeye, and GOP Sen. Sine Kerr, of Liberty, were drawn into Democratic districts under the draft map. For John, it was a familiar situation, having won election in a Democratic district in 2020. For Dunn and Kerr, it was an unwelcome change. 

All three are now in the new District 25, which stretches from Yuma into the West Valley. Kerr won a reprieve when Mehl and Republican Commissioner Doug York requested that the unincorporated community of Liberty be moved into District 25 with neighboring Buckeye, saying they’d been “inundated” with requests to make the change. 

GOP Reps. Steve Kaiser and Justin Wilmeth, both of north Phoenix, also found themselves in a more favorable situation when the final maps were approved. Under the draft map, the two seatmates were in a district with two other incumbent House Republicans in District 3, which covered north Scottsdale, part of north Phoenix, Cave Creek and Fountain Hills. 

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The final map moved their part of north Phoenix into neighboring District 2. Their new district is far more competitive than their current one or the one they were drawn into under the draft map — Democratic Commissioner Shereen Lerner unsuccessfully fought to reverse late changes that moved the area into the district and made it somewhat less competitive — but eliminates the four-way primary battle they’d faced in District 3. 

Kaiser is now running for the district’s open Senate seat, while Wilmeth and Democratic Rep. Judy Schwiebert, who was also drawn into District 2, will seek re-election to the House. And with Barto, who had been drawn into District 3 under the draft map, now in District 2, Kavanagh will pursue his previous plan to run for the Senate. 

By reshuffling the districts, the AIRC has left a number of open seats, creating new opportunities for incumbent lawmakers. 

Rep. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, was previously in a district with Republican Sen. Warren Petersen, of Gilbert, who is running for re-election to the legislature’s upper chamber. But they’re now in separate districts, and Hoffman’s new District 15 has no incumbent senator. He has filed to run for the Senate.

In east Mesa-based District 10, Republican Rep. Jacqueline Parker is the only incumbent who is seeking re-election. Her seatmate is House Speaker Rusty Bowers, who cannot run for re-election due to term limits. Bowers currently shares a district with Pace, who is running for re-election to the Senate. But with the Senate seat wide open, Bowers told the Mirror that he is considering running for the upper chamber. 

In District 23, a Democratic, Latino stronghold stretching from Yuma to Tucson, with a small part extending north into the West Valley, newly appointed Rep. Brian Fernandez, D-Yuma, is the only incumbent. He recently filed to run for the Senate.

This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.

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have your say   

1 comment on this story

Dec 30, 2021, 11:40 am
- +

Why pretend? In 2031 why don’t we just let the state Republican Party draw the lines, just like they did this year?

If these gerrymandered districts don’t end up in court, then someone in the Hispanic caucus is sound asleep.

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Screenshot via Arizona Mirror

Incumbents in the proposed legislative districts under the draft map

*Does not include lawmakers who aren’t seeking re-election or who are termed out, except for those who are running for a different legislative chamber.

District 1

Senate - None

House - Judy Burges (R); Quang Nguyen (R)

District 2

Senate - None

House - Steve Kaiser (R); Judy Schwiebert (D); Justin Wilmeth (R)

District 3

Senate - None

House - Joseph Chaplik (R); John Kavanagh (R)

District 4

Senate - Nancy Barto (R); Christine Marsh (D)

House - None

District 5

Senate - Lela Alston (D)

House - Kelli Butler (D); Sarah Liguori (D); Jennifer Longdon (D); Amish Shah (D)

District 6

Senate - None

House - Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren (D); Myron Tsosie (D)

District 7

Senate - Wendy Rogers (R); Kelly Townsend (R)

House - Brenda Barton (R); David Cook (R); John Fillmore (R)

District 8

Senate - Juan Mendez (D)

House - Melody Hernandez (D); Athena Salman (D)

District 9

Senate - Tyler Pace (R)

House - None

District 10

Senate - None

House - Rusty Bowers (R); Jacqueline Parker (R)

District 11

Senate - Rebecca Rios (D)

House - Marcelino Quiñonez (D)

District 12

Senate - None

House - Mitzi Epstein (D)

District 13

Senate - J.D. Mesnard (R)

House - Jennifer Pawlik (D)

District 14

Senate - Warren Petersen (R)

House - Travis Grantham (R)

District 15

Senate - None

House - Neal Carter (R); Jake Hoffman (R)

District 16

Senate - T.J. Shope (R)

House - Teresa Martinez (R)

District 17

Senate - Vince Leach (R)

House - None

District 18

Senate - Victoria Steele (D)

House - Morgan Abraham (D); Pamela Powers Hannley (D); Christopher Mathis (D)

District 19

Senate - David Gowan (R)

House - Andrea Dalessandro (D); Lupe Diaz (R); Gail Griffin (R)

District 20

Senate - Sally Ann Gonzales (D)

House - Andrés Cano (D); Alma Hernandez (D)

District 21

Senate - Rosanna Gabaldon (D); Stephanie Stahl Hamilton (D)

House - None

District 22

Senate - Lupe Contreras (D)

House - Richard Andrade (D); Diego Espinoza (D); Lorenzo Sierra (D)

District 23

Senate - None

House - Brian Fernandez (D)

District 24

Senate - None

House - César Chávez (D)

District 25

Senate - Sine Kerr (R)

House - Tim Dunn (R); Joel John (R)

District 26

Senate - Raquel Terán (D)

House - Robert Meza (D); Christian Solorio (D)

District 27

Senate - None

House - Kevin Payne (R); Benjamin Toma (R)

District 28

Senate - David Livingston (R)

House - Frank Carroll (R); Beverly Pingerelli (R)

District 29

Senate - None

House - Joanne Osborne (R)

District 30

Senate - Sonny Borrelli (R)

House - Leo Biasiucci (R)


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