It’s neck and neck: Close Arizona races to watch during Election Day 2016
PHOENIX — It’s here. Election Day 2016 has arrived.
Some of you may have already hit the polls. Some of you may be on your way (here’s your voter guide, in case you want to do a little more research on the candidates or the issues). But after Tuesday night — barring any lawsuits or extremely close races — Arizonans will know who and what measures claimed victory in 2016.
But Tuesday is not expected to be smooth sailing for everyone or every ballot measure. Several races are expected to come down to the wire.
Here’s a little more about each one.
It’s no secret that Arizona has emerged as a possible battleground state in recent months. There’s a reason that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has visited the state seven times since announcing his candidacy last year.
Those seven visits from him do not include numerous appearances by his vice presidential nominee, Mike Pence, or others.
Considering that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has campaigned in the state twice and numerous other prominent people have appeared on her behalf, it’s clear the nominees see Arizona as a toss-up.
Some polls have said exactly that. Earlier this month, a poll from State of the Nation said Trump and Clinton were within 2 percentage points of one another.
However, the gap between the two seems to have grown in Arizona over the past weeks. Two polls released last week showed Trump with at least a 5-point lead over Clinton.
Maricopa County sheriff
The race between incumbent Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his challenger, former Phoenix Police Sgt. Paul Penzone, will likely be worth keeping an eye on.
Though reliable polling data on the race is scarce — some local polls have given Penzone a lead over Arpaio — the Republican lawman defeated Penzone by just 6 percent of the vote in 2012.
This year’s race has been marred by a lawsuit filed by Penzone claiming an attack ad funded by Arpaio’s campaign made false statements. Arpaio’s lawyers said Penzone’s attorneys were informed of the ad and its contents and asked to notify them of any falsities before it hit the air, but did not receive a response. Penzone denied that claim.
Arpaio is facing a criminal contempt-of-court charge as well. The case against him was filed as a misdemeanor, meaning should he be found guilty, he would not be forced from office.
Ballotpedia said there are three congressional seat races on which to keep an eye this election year: Arizona’s 1st, 2nd and 9th districts.
The most contentious will likely be Arizona’s 1st Congressional District, where Republican Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu will square off against Democrat former state Sen. Tom O’Halleran to claim the soon-to-be-vacated seat of U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick. She is challenging U.S. Sen. John McCain for his seat.
Polling results are scarce in Arizona’s 1st. One poll from the Global Strategy Group gave O’Halleran a large lead over Babeu, but only 400 people were surveyed.
However, the district — which more than 720,000 Arizonans call home — tends to lean Republican.
In Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District, Republican U.S. Rep. Martha McSally is facing Democratic former state Rep. Matt Heinz.
A poll released earlier this year gave her a nearly 20-point lead over Heinz. However, the poll was funded by McSally’s campaign and the Arizona Daily Star said the race is expected to be much closer.
Arizona’s 9th Congressional District could be the third fight for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Incumbent Democrat Kyrsten Sinema faces Republican businessman Dave Giles, who is seeking his first public office.
Ballotpedia did not give any polling data for the district, but its experts rated it safely Democratic.
The fight over the possible legalization of marijuana in Arizona will likely be one of the closer races of the election night.
The measure would essentially regulate the drug like alcohol, meaning it could be legally purchased, possessed and consumed by those 21 and older. It would be taxed, with the money earmarked for the state’s education system.
However, a debate has been raging since the measure was added to the ballot earlier this year.
Proponents argue the drug has little negative health side effects and the money generated by its sale would provide a windfall to the state’s thin education budget.
Opponents say it will lead to a rise in crime — particularly of people driving under the influence of marijuana — and that the funds headed to schools would not be enough after some of it is used for other programs.
(Editor’s note: Penzone has been a contributor to KTAR.com and a frequent guest on the air.)
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