Arizona race ratings: GOP favored in two Democratic districts
Four districts face competitive races after redistricting by commission
Corrected 5:36 p.m. | ANALYSIS — While states such as Colorado are in their first bout of redistricting with a commission, Arizona is entering a third decade with the mapmaking process out of partisan hands. And after 20 years, it’s fair to evaluate whether the Grand Canyon State’s delegation is fundamentally different from those of other states that have clung to a more partisan process.
Advocates for redistricting reform typically have an explicit goal of creating more competitive districts and an implicit goal of electing more moderate members. Neither effect seems to have resulted in Arizona since the redistricting commission was approved by voters in 2000 and implemented prior to the 2002 elections.
Before the redistricting commission, there was a dearth of competitive House races in Arizona. Just one race out of 25 (4 percent) changed party hands in the 1980s, and two out of 30 (7 percent) resulted in a party switch in the 1990s.
[More House race ratings | Initial Senate race ratings]
Takeovers ticked up slightly from 2002 to 2010, once a commission started drawing the lines. Five out of 40 races (13 percent) resulted in a party switch during that decade. But takeovers ticked down to just two out of 45 races (4 percent) from 2012 to 2020. Both of those races occurred in the 2nd District, where Republican Martha McSally defeated Democratic Rep. Ron Barber in 2014 and Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick won McSally’s open seat in 2018.
Arizona’s House delegation has the same partisan breakdown (five Democrats and four Republicans) after the 2020 elections that it had after the 2012 elections, even though the statewide races have become more competitive. In 2020, Joe Biden’s victory over President Donald Trump was the first by a Democratic nominee in Arizona since President Bill Clinton in 1996. And McSally lost Senate races by less than about 2 points in both 2018 and 2020.
After 20 years of a redistricting commission, there’s limited moderation within the delegation. All four GOP members (Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar, Debbie Lesko and David Schweikert) were among the 147 Republicans to object to the ratification of Biden’s certified victory on Jan. 6. And all of them identify as members of the House Freedom Caucus, with Biggs a former chairman of the group.
For Democrats, Reps. Ruben Gallego and Raúl M. Grijalva are members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Rep. Tom O’Halleran is co-chairman of a small group of fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats, and Reps. Greg Stanton and Ann Kirkpatrick are part of the pro-business New Democrat Coalition.
The new congressional lines offer the opportunity for multiple seats to flip partisan hands. But, of course, the races have to play out, and only time will tell whether the ideological nature of the delegation changes significantly.
1st District (David Schweikert, R)
Seventy-five percent of the new 1st District is territory from Schweikert’s current 6th District, according to Daily Kos Elections, so the congressman is running for reelection in this seat.
The 1st, which includes part of downtown Phoenix, some northeast suburbs, Scottsdale and some rural parts of Maricopa County, got a little more Democratic by the presidential numbers. Trump won the old district by 4 points, but Biden would have won the newly drawn district by a single point.
In this political environment, Republicans shouldn’t have a problem holding the seat. But ethical controversies have made things complicated for Schweikert in both the primary and general elections. This might not end up being a serious race this cycle, but it could be more competitive later in the decade. Initial rating: Lean Republican.
2nd District (Tom O’Halleran, D)
O’Halleran was considered vulnerable in previous cycles, but the Democratic congressman is facing a new level of electoral danger. O’Halleran won reelection by 3 points in 2020 as Biden won the district by 2 points. But the congressman is running for a fourth term in a newly drawn district that Trump would have won by 8 points, 53 percent to 45 percent.
Nearly two-thirds of the newly drawn 2nd District is from O’Halleran’s current 1st District in the northeast quadrant of the state. But the addition of Yavapai County contributed to the new GOP lean of the seat. Republicans won’t select a nominee until the Aug. 2 primary, but this is one of the best GOP pickup opportunities anywhere in the country. Initial rating: Lean Republican
4th District (Greg Stanton, D)
Nearly 70 percent of the new 4th District is territory from Stanton’s current 9th District. But it is significantly more competitive with the loss of Scottsdale and parts of Phoenix and the addition of Mesa. Stanton won reelection in 2020 in a seat Biden carried by 14 points, but Biden would have won the newly drawn 4th by just 10 points.
Considering Democrats underperformed Biden by about 12 points in both the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races in 2021, these new lines put Stanton in the danger zone in a good GOP year. The congressman had $1.6 million in the bank on Dec. 31 but isn’t fundraising at a torrid pace. This is a good race to watch to measure the size of a Republican wave. Initial rating: Likely Democratic.
6th District (Open; Ann Kirkpatrick, D)
Nearly 70 percent of the new 6th is in Kirkpatrick’s current 2nd District, but the Democratic congresswoman is not seeking reelection. The combination of the open seat and a new Republican lean will make it a difficult seat for Democrats to hold.
The Tucson-area district in the southeast corner of the state voted for Biden by 11 points, while the newly drawn seat would have voted for Biden by the narrowest of margins (395 votes). This cycle, former state Sen. Kirsten Engel and state Rep. Daniel Hernández Jr. are facing off for the Democratic nomination. As a congressional intern, Hernández helped save the life of Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords, who represented this area, after she was shot at a constituent event in 2011. The initial GOP front-runner is Juan Ciscomani, a senior adviser to Gov. Doug Ducey. This should be one of the most competitive races in the country. Initial rating: Tilt Republican.
Races rated Solid Republican
- 5th District (Andy Biggs, R)
- 8th District (Debbie Lesko, R)
- 9th District (Paul Gosar, R)
Races rated Solid Democratic
- 3rd District (Ruben Gallego, D)
- 7th District (Raúl M. Grijalva, D)
Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst with CQ Roll Call.
This report has been corrected to show Rep. Andy Biggs is a former chairman of the House Freedom Caucus.