Arizona map boosts GOP in two districts Democrats hold now
O’Halleran, Kirkpatrick districts pick up more Republican voters
Arizona’s independent commission finalized a congressional district map Wednesday afternoon that could give Republicans the chance to pick up two seats in the state.
Democrats hold five of the state’s nine congressional seats, but two of them, Rep. Tom O’Halleran’s and Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick’s, will become considerably more Republican. Kirkpatrick is not seeking reelection.
The map also puts more of the Phoenix suburbs into Republican Rep. David Schweikert’s Scottsdale-based district.
The Arizona Democratic Party criticized the map before its passage Wednesday, arguing that Republicans leaned on the process.
“As the Arizona GOP has become a proving ground for far-right extremist politicians, Independent Redistricting Commission Chair Erika Neuberg has delivered them the gift of the most imbalanced, gerrymandered congressional map that Arizona has seen in a generation,” the party said in a statement.
Arizona is one of a handful of states that has an independent commission in control of redistricting. GOP legislatures control redistricting in 19 states, compared to eight for Democrats.
A net loss of five Democratic seats in the U.S. House next year would give Republicans the majority, and redistricting could make the difference in many midterm elections.
The Arizona map could produce a 6-3 Republican split in a state where Democrat Joe Biden beat Republican Donald Trump by 0.3 percentage points in the presidential race last year. The Princeton Gerrymandering Project graded Arizona’s map a “C” for its Republican advantage and for splitting political subdivisions like counties and towns.
The group, along with anti-gerrymandering group RepresentUs, has argued that commissions produce more fair maps overall than legislatures.
Kirkpatrick was the first member to announce her retirement from the House this cycle, saying in March she would not seek another term. In 2020, Kirkpatrick won by 10 percentage points in a Tucson-area district. Kirkpatrick’s new district would have a 7 percentage point Republican lean, according to the Princeton Gerrymandering Project’s analysis, which used an average of the most recent presidential, Senate and gubernatorial results.
Arizona’s Aug. 2 primary is fairly late in the season, and candidates have until April 4 to file to run.
A few candidates had already begun raising money to run for Kirkpatrick’s seat. Republican Juan Ciscomani, a former adviser to Gov. Doug Ducey, raised more than $616,000 through Sept. 30.
The lead Democratic fundraiser, state Rep. Randall Friese, dropped out in September to tend to his medical practice. Two other Democrats, state Rep. Daniel Hernandez and former state Sen. Kirsten Engel, have raised more than $500,000 apiece.
In a tweet Wednesday, Engel said the map “may not be everything we hoped for,” but it made the district the most competitive in the state.
O’Halleran, who has held the seat since 2017, won reelection in 2020 with a 3.2 percent margin. As of Sept. 30, O’Halleran had $920,000 cash on hand in his campaign account after raising $1.1 million through the first three quarters of 2021.
A handful of Republican candidates have launched campaigns to challenge O’Halleran, including state Rep. Walter Jack Blackman, who has raised more than $475,000 and Arizona businessman Eli Crane, who has raised $404,000.
Voters in O’Halleran’s new district backed Trump over Biden by 8 percentage points, compared to a 2 point Biden victory in the current district. O’Halleran’s seat also has the highest percentage of Native Americans of any district in the country.