In-state experts and national state legislative organizations alike will have their eyes trained on Arizona's down-ballot races this election season. With Donald Trump at the top of the Republican ticket, the DLCC will be looking to capitalize on the presumptive nominee's toxicity and could flip control of the state Senate and while gaining ground in the House. With the "Trump effect" in play, Arizona politicos are saying "all bets are off in the down-ballot races."
With Donald Trump atop the November ballot, Arizona politicos say all bets are off in the down-ballot races, where the ripples from the “Trump effect” could turn into giant waves that wipe out the status quo at the Capitol.
Insiders in both political parties agree that, love him or hate him, Trump will likely drive voter turnout in November, and that a strong showing of pro-Trump or anti-Trump voters could turn previously uncompetitive state legislative districts into real battlegrounds.
Republicans say this year they may see a wave akin to 2010, when Republicans took a two-thirds majority in both the state House and Senate.
Democrats, on the other hand, argue that this could finally be the year where they take back the Senate, and at least significantly increase their numbers in the House.
But Pima County Republican Party Chairman Bill Beard was perhaps the most realistic when describing how the “Trump effect” will affect down-ballot races for the Legislature.
“Anybody that goes into their political analysis of what that means down ballot, their guess is probably as good as the drunk passed out on the corner. You’ll get wiser political analysis from the drunk,” he said.
Still, each side is reading into the situation what they want to happen.
And with pie-in-the-sky hopes, both Republicans and Democrats see a rare opportunity to significantly sway the balance of power at the state Capitol.
SPLITTING THE SENATE
The politics of a presidential election year, particularly with presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in the mix, have local and national Democrats hoping to turn the state Senate from red to blue.
Arizona was among two states that the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee had set as long-term targets for flipping the Senate from Republican to Democrat, but DLCC officials are rethinking that strategy, according to Carolyn Fiddler, spokeswoman for the DLCC.
While it’s unclear what resources will be made available by the DLCC in each state, Fiddler said Arizona and Florida, which had been targeted to flip by 2020, are now each considered in play in the 2016 election cycle.
In Arizona, that’s primarily because of Trump, Fiddler said.
“There’s a lot of anti-Trump backlash,” she said. “He uses a lot of extremist language, and frankly racist language, when it comes to many communities, including but not limited to the Latino community, and that is definitely starting a backlash.”
Democrats see a chance to pick up Senate seats in only a handful of districts, but they only need four seats to take a majority in the upper chamber.