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Opinion

What the Devil won't tell you

Every vote will count in Ciscomani-Engel race in Az's CD 6

Southeastern Arizona congressional race has been closer than closer before

Former Democratic state Sen. Kirsten Engel and former Gov. Doug Ducey senior assistant Juan Ciscomani are destined for a high-noon showdown to decide who serves Arizona's 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

We just have to understand "high noon" means when the polls close on Nov. 8.

All midterm elections hinge on turnout.

Democrats tend to vary in their participation during non-presidential elections. So Democratic demoralization will play a big role. Then again, if the U.S. Supreme Court pissed them off by overturning Roe v. Wade, then that could blunt any Republican surge.

Engel and Ciscomani easily took their respective primaries on Tuesday.

Engel is an accomplished woman. The University of Arizona law professor beat a polished and formidable young opponent in state Rep. Daniel Hernandez. I just don't know that she's going to inspire huge turnout. She owes a big thank you to the Supreme Court. If former President Donald Trump announces his candidacy for 2024 soon, that could further energize Dems.

Ciscomani has to keep his base charged but his base is pretty agitated because Democrats are in power. He's free to bag on inflation straight through Election Day. That's fair. Democrats would do it if the situation were reversed.

Southeastern Arizona and Tucson's East Side have seen knock-down, drag-out races for Congress before. Gabrielle Giffords narrowly shouldered her way to a seat in the U.S. Capitol. Ron Barber took an even edgier path — then lost a recount of a recount that he wanted to recount in his next outing.

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Midtown Tucson has a smaller effect in the new CD 6 and the days of Democrats over-performing in places like Cochise County are probably done — Douglas has been shuffled over to Raul Grijalva's district, thanks to the GOP's handing of the redistricting process. (Not that Grijalva's complaining much, mind.)

Then there's the big X-factor being missed by national pundits. Former President Donald Trump's antics accelerated Arizona's drift leftward. The state has become swingy as a reaction against Trump and Trumpism. 

Then again, Ciscomani's biggest and best weapon is President Joe Biden's disastrous approval rating. 

So those Foothills and East Side voters who broke big for Biden after having supported Mitt Romney just eight years earlier may shift again at the first sight of orange. Will they simply decide that they are Democrats now or will they revert to form, finding Biden old and ineffective?

At the end of Election Day, though, the numbers in the 6th are soooo narrow. And the national mood seems to be breaking to the Republicans.

Neither party enjoys a cushion. It's bone grinding on bone. 

The 2020 vote in what was then CD 2 went to Biden by less than 100 votes. The redrawn district is slightly more GOP than it was, but includes a long list of voters who aren't registered with either party.

If a bat flutters to the right in the Chinese night, the atmospheric ripples will be enough to turn the district from blue to red.

A dolphin doing a backflip off the Azores could lead to a Ciscomani defeat in 2024.

But all voters have agency. Anyone who thinks their vote won't count, stop thinking that. In this district, every vote will count. It wouldn't shock me if this race is settled by less than 200 votes.

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So get that 'I voted' sticker, Southern Arizona. Tell the world you voted on Nov. 8.

The day of the Reich (no, not that Reich)

Unfortunately, all politics is now national. So the question is, which way will the winds be blowing toward the end of 2022.

What would be more in line with the 2020s than the Nov. 13 Sunday shows featuring panels asking "How did Republicans blow this?"

The GOP should win 50 seats in the House, five in the Senate and that wave should sweep Democrats from office across Arizona. That's exactly what happened in 1994 and 2010. There's no reason it shouldn't happen again.Remember the 1993 AFC wildcard game between the Houston Oilers and Buffalo Bills? The Oilers were up 35-3 early in the third quarter. Early in the fourth quarter, the Bills had the lead. Backup quarterback Frank Reich ended up leading Buffalo to a 38-35 victory.

The Republicans started the summer up 35-3.

No president in my lifetime has had a worse year than what Joe Biden has endured between the fall of Kabul to the summer. That includes Richard Nixon's Watergate year and he had to resign his office. 

The U.S. fled Afghanistan in chaos. Transitory inflation took up permanent residence. Gas prices shot up. Much of his agenda in Congress crumbled. Voting rights died. Crime is rising alongside reformist prosecutors going easy on some types of misdemeanors. The country may be heading into a recession. Through it all, the president has been responding with shrug after shrug declaring there's little he could do about any of it.

Voters understand a nation facing tough times. They won't abide president in full duck and cover.

And yet, Roe v. Wade got overturned. Abortion is no longer a right and ripe for state prohibition. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin has resurrected the climate and health care provisions of Biden's agenda and it just might pass (depending on which Sen. Kyrsten Sinema takes to the Senate floor). The Jan. 6 hearings are letting Trump's former staffers tell a horror story of presidential malfeasance and, perhaps, criminal behavior.

And yet, Biden just aced out top al-Qaeda terrorist Ayman al-Zawahri in a drone strike in Kabul this weekend. Gas prices are dropping, and fast. Unemployment is low, low low.

All of a sudden, Democrats can't stop scoring points and Republicans can't hold onto the ball.

The abortion issue is a perfect encapsulation of what the GOP is doing to blow the un-blowable midterm. They could have said "relax everyone. We'll pass common-sense regulations on abortion. We're not going to ban it in the cases of rape, incest or life of the mother."

Instead, state legislatures have been passing total bans on abortion that force sisters to give birth to their brothers, victims to deliver rapist's babies and women to die in emergency rooms because ... what's a mom's life worth really?

Oh, and next up? Republicans like Masters are pledging to go after the right to contraception. 

The backlash started on primary night in Kansas. It could be coming to an election near you.

Equally, the Republicans have turned hostile to democracy. So voters can't just make a typical midterm correction without wondering if they are forever forfeiting their say in how they governed.

No one did that to the country but the Republicans.

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The score is 35-24 and the Republicans have just been forced to punt.

The rest of the state

The rest of Arizona looks like a mixed bag.

In the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, Blake Masters seems to have ridden former Trump's endorsement to a victory in a crowded field.

Democracy might have gained an edge in the GOP gubernatorial primary, where election denier and Trump-o-phile Kari Lake looks to have been beaten by Karrin Taylor Robson.

But the path to victory just got harder for Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. She now has to face what passes for a normal Republican in what should be a good Republican year, rather than drawing a clear contrast with Lake.

No matter what readers think about Robson, she is much more likely to certify an election, even if her candidate loses.

The future got brighter for Sen. Mark Kelly, who gets to face one of those "Oh-my-God" candidates in Masters. Masters looks like a straight-up super villain sent from Cut-Rate Central Casting. He's got a lights-out IQ and a moral compass we will generously call "nouveau," what with praising the genius of the Unabomber and such.

I'm habitually expecting a truckloads (or Chinese planeloads, for the tin foil set) of late Arizona ballots to be counted over the next few days. So I'm not ready to predict the the doom of sort-of local boy Rodney Glassman, perennial multi-party aspirant who grabbed at the attorney general's race in this outing, at the hands of Trump-stamped Abe Hamadeh.

Republican state representative, insurrection supporter and Oro Valley's own Mark Finchem appears heading for a win against the field in his charge to become secretary of state. He would then be in a position to decide our votes only count if we elect candidates he prefers. I'm sure he'll explain it some misappropriated line from Patrick Henry and the anti-federalists dating back to 1787.

He'll have to get through either former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes or state House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, with Fontes up in the race in the Democratic primary.

Finally, the turnout was low in this primary despite contested statewide races all over the Republican ballot. Democrats didn't have those kind of choices but appear to have kept pretty close to the GOP in total numbers. 

Just looking at the candidates in the gubernatorial primary, the Republican vote total at 11 p.m. Tuesday stood at 475,000. Democrats in a dull race Hobbs was destined to win turned out 442,000. 

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Is that something? What's this mean for November? 

The most honest answer is, "Who the hell knows?" 

That's up to you, the voter.

My advice to whomever wins the Arizona 6th is simple: Rent. Don't buy.

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.


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Former Doug Ducey protege Juan Ciscomani would seem to have the wind to his back after his primary win. But the Republican's party might just blow it for him, with Democrat Kirsten Engel ready to work for every vote.

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