How we’ll turn Arizona blue

2020 could be a watershed year for Arizona. With a strong US Senate candidate in Mark Kelly and a fighting shot at a win in the Presidential race, Arizona seems poised to shift from a pink to a purple state by year’s end. At the state legislative level, we have an exciting opportunity to win both the Senate and the House. EveryDistrict has endorsed in five districts so far, and Democrats only need to win five seats in total to capture both chambers. So, how did we get here and how can we win?

A Rising Arizona Electorate

Arizona has shifted quickly due to the emerging Latino population and Democrats’ growth among college-educated white suburbanites. And the speed of this shift has been impressive. Clinton in 2016 ran five points better in Arizona than Obama in 2012. Kyrsten Sinema, in winning statewide in 2018, won a majority of the vote in more than half of the state legislative districts in the state. Many of these districts had backed Republicans in 2016 and the cycles before. This rapid move toward Democrats mirrors the conditions that we have seen in states like Texas and gives us momentum as we enter 2020.

Democrats need only two seats in the State House and three seats in the State Senate to gain control. Winning districts in Arizona is relatively affordable. A viable State House race costs around $100,000, while a State Senate race comes in around $200,000. So, for only $800,000—a paltry sum compared to what has been spent on the presidential already—we could be locked and loaded to win. The map below shows how the growing Phoenix suburbs offer some opportunities for pickups in both the Senate and the House. After the break, we’ll talk in more detail about these districts and the candidates we’re supporting.

Phoenix-Area Senate Landscape

Phoenix-Area House Landscape

A Note of Caution

While Arizona is a top priority for EveryDistrict in 2020 and the number of districts needed to win is relatively small, this will still be a challenging pickup opportunity. While Senator Sinema claimed a majority of legislative districts, Republicans ran up some decent-sized margins in previous cycles. As a result, we rate several of the districts as favoring Republicans with decently GOP-leaning Legislative District Index scores. The chart below lays out the leanings of the core competitive districts and past election results.

EveryDistrict LDI-8-10-5-6+3
EveryDistrict RatingFavor RFavor RLean RFavor RLean D
2018 Senate Margin-1.8%-5.36%3.53%3.7%12.4%
2016 Presidential Margin-10.39%-14.38%-4.09%-8.01%5.3%
2012 Presidential Margin-13.36%-8.80%-14.16%-12.87%-8.97%
Democratic Gain (2012-2018)11.56%3.44%17.69%16.57%21.37%
*The House and Senate districts overlap in Arizona, with two House seats per district.

What this chart makes clear is this: key districts are seeing a dynamic pro-Democratic shift, as much as 20% over the past decade. However, Democratic majorities have only emerged in these districts very recently. It will take focused effort and strong candidates to capture these districts. Let’s turn to our first batch of endorsed candidates.

Our Priority Districts and Endorsed Candidates

We’re closely watching candidates in three State House seats and five State Senate districts who have the potential to reshape the Arizona political landscape.

Senate Priority Districts: SD6, SD8, SD17, SD20, and SD28

House Priority Districts: SD6, SD8, and SD20

This week, we’ve endorsed five strong candidates who are poised to win, with the right support. Below, we outline the candidates in each of the three legislative districts where we’ve made endorsements.

SD/HD6: Felicia French and Coral Evans

Legislative District 6 is the most Republican-leaning of the three Legislative Districts where EveryDistrict is announcing investments today: Senator Sinema narrowly lost the district by 1.8 points in 2018. We’re investing in this district because of the continued leftward shifts and the strong candidates running in both the Senate and the House. In 2018, EveryDistrict endorsed Felicia French when she ran for this House seat as a first-time candidate; she lost by an incredibly narrow 577 votes. Felicia is a nurse, educator, entrepreneur, sustainability scientist, and 32-year U.S. Army and Arizona National Guard veteran.

Coral Evans is running for the House seat. Coral is the Mayor of Flagstaff who got her start as a community organizer. Coral brings strong name recognition having served as a local elected official for the past 12 years.

SD/HD 20: Doug Ervin and Judy Schwiebert

Senator Sinema narrowly won Legislative District 20 by 3.7 points in 2018, making this a strong legislative flip opportunity in 2020. Doug Ervin ran for this Senate seat in 2018 and is running again in 2020. Doug brings a strong business background and is also an Ironman triathlete and volunteer for many community organizations including as a tutor for second-graders at a local public school. Judy Schwiebert is running for the House seat. She’s a teacher, co-founder of Theater Works, board member of a large church, and community center director.

SD 28: Christine Marsh

Legislative District 28 is Democrats’ strongest opportunity for a Senate seat pickup; Democrats currently hold both House seats. Secretary Clinton won the district by 5 points in 2016; Senator Sinema won it by 12 points in 2018. Christine Marsh, who ran for the first time in 2018, came heartbreakingly close, losing by only 267 votes. Christine has taught high school English for 26 years and was named Arizona’s 2016 Teacher of the Year.

How You Can Help

Democrats are in an incredibly strong position to flip the Arizona legislature this year. But they need your help to do so. First, you can help by making a donation. 100% of what you give will go directly to our endorsed Arizona candidates. You can also check out our volunteer feed, which is constantly updated with ways to get involved to support our candidates. Sign up for our email list to be the first to get updates about our work in Arizona.