If Alabama can go D, what about Arizona?
The Deep South has not elected a Democratic senator since 1992, but the state of Alabama apparently drew the line at "If She's Old Enough to Pee, She's Old Enough for Me" on Tuesday. Doug Jones, who prosecuted two KKK perpetrators of the 1963 church bombing that killed four African-American girls, beat Roy Moore, who was wildly unqualified even before allegations of stalking adolescent teens emerged.
The natural question for readers here is, If this can happen in Alabama, why not in Arizona?
I'll take my victories where I can get them, to paraphrase Soleri. But this race had special circumstances. Republican turnout was lower than normal, depressed by the prospect of the odious Moore. And African-Americans overcame vote suppression to turn out in large numbers and put Jones in office — if only for three years.
Arizona lacks these advantages. The people who actually vote are overwhelmingly old, Anglo, and right-wing. This is why Democrats don't hold a single state-wide office. It's why the Republicans have controlled the Legislature for decades and never paid a price for the ongoing failure of "conservative" policies. These are the voters who reelected Joe Arpaio again and again, despite his lethal brand of "law enforcement."
The Hispanic vote, the holy grail of hopes to turn Arizona purple, even blue, has never materialized. Hispanic turnout is always shockingly low, even in city of Phoenix elections. It was not nudged by the attack of SB 1070. Arizona lacks the infrastructure of powerful political organizations and unions that bring large numbers of Latinos to the polls in, say, California. Most Hispanics are poor, and poor people vote in far fewer numbers than other income groups. And it can't be assumed that Hispanics are a lock for Democrats anyway. I heard from a number of Mexican-Americans who quietly supported SB 1070.
Arizona is also vulnerable to vote suppression, from partisan and/or incompetent county election officials to a Republican secretary of state, in charge of statewide elections. In that office, a brazen Jan Brewer was co-chair of George W. Bush's reelection campaign in Arizona. As usual, she got away with it. Under the Voting Rights Act, Arizona was the only state outside the old Confederacy — although Arizona Territory was claimed by the CSA and had a delegate to the Confederate Congress — to face federal supervision of elections. But the Supreme Court overturned that in 2013.
I took heat on Twitter on Tuesday night when some thought I was endorsing Kyrsten Sinema for the race to replace Jeff Flake. But she has distinct advantages: She's a blue dog, she's attractive, and she had a Mormon upbringing (and the Saints never give up on their own). A Bernie Bro candidate might satisfy purists, on the way to a drubbing in November. Now we would need the Republicans to have an internecine battle like Conlan-Steiger fight which led to the election of Dennis DeConcini, or for the party to nominate an extraordinarily off-putting candidate. Both big "ifs."
You tell me?
The column was first published on Rogue Columnist.
Jon Talton is a fourth-generation Arizonan who runs the blog Rogue Columnist. He is a former op-ed and business columnist of the Arizona Republic, and retired as the economics columnist of the Seattle Times in 2019. Talton is also the author of 12 novels, including the David Mapstone Mysteries, which are set in Arizona.