Biden carries Arizona, toppling long-standing Republican stronghold

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Biden’s victory in the state that propelled Republican leaders like Barry Goldwater and John McCain to national rank could predict problems for the party in the future. Three key changes in the state have helped Democrats this year: a growing Latin American population that leans towards Democrat, an increase in voters moving to Arizona from more liberal states like California and the ‘Illinois, and how suburban voters radically broke with someone-led Republican Party. like Trump.

Arizona, turning blue, moves closer to its northwestern neighbor – Nevada, where Democrats have taken control of almost every aspect of government – and moves away from the state’s traditional right-wing leaning .

The Democratic victory – declared days after CNN projected Biden’s victory in the presidential race – was anchored by Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and nearly 60% of all residents of the state. Maricopa is the fastest growing county in the country, transforming over the past two decades into a sprawling mass of metropolitan centers, sunburnt planned communities, and bustling shopping malls.”Maricopa County won the state of Arizona for Mark Kelly and Joe Biden,” said Steven Slugocki, president of the Maricopa County Democrats. “Here at Maricopa, we have committed our resources to reaching out to voters of color, women and traditionally under-represented groups statewide. Our strategy has proven to be effective.

Biden is only the second Democrat to win Arizona since 1948, when Harry Truman won. Bill Clinton narrowly won the state in 1996, but Arizona went further in the next two decades, electing diehard immigration supporters like Governor Jan Brewer and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and passing laws like SB 1070, a controversial state law that required officers to perform immigration checks while enforcing other laws if there is a “reasonable suspicion” of illegal immigration.

The Democratic victory builds on the work of grassroots organizations on the ground in Arizona, many of which have focused on the state’s growing Latin American population by uniting around opposition to Arpaio and crackdown of immigration. These groups provided the democratic apparatus of the state – which had few victories to boast in 2010 – with the building blocks needed to become an influential force capable of winning a Senate seat in 2018, and, two years later, the other. Seat of the Senate and presidential race.

“This year has been a victory for over ten years of working in this state,” said Laura Dent, executive director of Chispa Arizona, one of the many organizations that have formed a coalition called Mi AZ, an alliance of six groups. who have worked to involve voters, especially Latinos, for years. “It has been a decade of construction and the sustained organizational work between electoral cycles has been critical. ”

Dent said the organization around SB 1070 was a “catalyst” for these groups to come together around something and “build this collective power” on display this year. Since 2018 alone, Chispa Arizona alone has registered 44,000 voters and made 1.3 million voter calls this year in Arizona.

That change in Arizona will also be felt in Washington, DC, as top party operatives try to figure out how they lost a state like Arizona, which just six years ago was seen as a Republican lock. The key question: Will the state’s rising Democratic organization put Arizona even further out of reach in the years to come?

“I thought by 2024 Arizona would be a real swing state,” said Yasser Sanchez, an immigration attorney who volunteered for Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. in 2012 and worked for McCain’s 2016 re-election to the Senate before rejecting a Trump-led Republican party and helping organize Latino voters for Biden. “Every time I heard it would be before, I thought it was wishful thinking. ”

The legacy of McCain, an Arizona mainstay whose “maverick” conservatism has driven a coalition of Democrats, Independents and Republicans for years in the state, threatens Biden’s victory. Trump and McCain had a strained relationship, and when the senator voted against President Obamacare’s repeal bill, the tension exploded, leading Trump to double his mocking attacks on the Republican senator, even after his death in 2018. along with comments Trump allegedly made about the military and veterans, prompted McCain’s widow Cindy McCain to support Biden, an endorsement that was making headlines in the state.

Republicans like Chad Heywood, the former executive director of the Arizona Republican Party, have argued that the Democratic victory does not presage a significant change in the state.

“It was a purple state that looked red during Obama’s years,” Heywood said, adding that if the president ended up losing the state by less than 3 percentage points, it wasn’t ” a radical change in Arizona ”.

But Arizona was considered so red in 2014 that a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California at Los Angeles dubbed Mesa – a sprawling suburb east of Phoenix – the “most American city in America. conservative ”.

“Ten years ago, if you wanted to be politically relevant and if you wanted your vote to have an impact, you did not make sense to be registered as a Democrat because they failed to field a candidate for some offices, ”said Mesa Mayor John Giles, a Republican registered in a non-partisan job. “And even then, it was just a matter of volunteering to be killed by the Republican in the general. ”

Over the past decade, however, Mesa – like much of the area around Phoenix – has become more racially and politically diverse, leading Giles to say, “It certainly isn’t anymore. now. He is extremely competitive. ”

One of the main reasons, Giles said, was people moving around the area – like Amie Schaefer, a Biden-backed transplant from Chicago who moved to Phoenix in 2019.

“I hope to change the blue state,” Schaefer said after voting. “Believe me, I have tried to transform everyone that I can possibly transform. ”

As much as Arizona changes because of people like Schaefer, as much as it changes because of registered Republicans like Joe Hudock, a 62-year-old computer engineer from Phoenix who voted for Romney in 2012 and was a huge McCain fan. But Hudock, along with his wife, Chris, voted for Biden in 2020.

“Trump is dangerous for the country,” Hudock said after voting days before the election. “Over the past four years, Republicans have shown their true colors. … I just wish there was a centrist party.

Another reason Democrats believe they were competitive in Arizona was the coronavirus, which rocked the state over the summer, in part because of the state government’s decision to leave its order of stay in the country expire in May.

Prior to the coronavirus, national Republican officials told CNN that there was “no doubt” Arizona was a key battleground but that they were “not concerned that Arizona turns blue ”.

That quickly changed as the virus spread statewide, with more than 160,000 cases and 3,600 people dying in Maricopa County alone.

The impact of the virus could be felt by both Trump and Biden supporters. Those who support the president have often given him the benefit of the doubt over the virus, arguing he was being unfairly maligned and suggesting that Biden would be too keen to shut down the economy again to control the virus. For many Biden supporters, the coronavirus was in the foreground and many blamed Trump, often citing personal experiences with the pandemic as part of why they chose to support Biden.

“The way Biden reacted to certain things (about the virus) gave me a different perspective on its importance,” said Nikki Towns, an 18-year-old girl from Chandler who voted for Biden. On Trump’s handling of the virus: “I feel like he hasn’t really handled it. He is ignored. ”

Biden’s victory in Arizona was not due to a lack of tries by Trump. The president hosted seven events in the state in 2020. Biden hosted an event after the Democratic National Convention over the summer, a bus tour around Maricopa in October.

For Slugocki, these visits did little to break voter focus on education, health care and the economy.

“Obviously, voters wanted something new from Arizona. Voters were motivated and excited to vote. The Maricopa County elections are safe, secure and transparent, ”said the county party chairman. “A bright future is ahead for Maricopa County and I couldn’t be prouder. “

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