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Phoenix political analyst says Dems can’t coast to hold Sinema’s seat

Dr. Steve Ferrara is the leading fundraiser among GOP candidates for Arizona's 9th Congressional District. (Facebook Photo/Steve Ferrara)

PHOENIX — A Valley political analyst said that while the race to replace Kyrsten Sinema in the U.S. House favors Democrats, he wouldn’t call the seat “safe” for the incumbent party.

“I think at this point, we would rate it as a likely Democrat. I don’t think we’d go as far as saying it’s a safe Democrat seat,” George Khalaf, president of Phoenix data analytics firm Data Orbital, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Monday.

Khalaf said two Republicans in particular, Dr. Steve Ferrara and radio host Seth Leibsohn, could make strong runs.

“Both of them have raised decent money, and both are running, I’d say, more robust campaigns than people in the past,” Khalaf said.

Dave Giles and Irina Baroness Von Behr round out the GOP field for the August primary in Arizona’s 9th Congressional District, which includes parts of Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe, Chandler and Scottsdale.

Sinema won every election for the seat since the district’s inception in 2012, but she is pursuing Jeff Flake’s U.S. Senate seat. Flake, a Republican, is not running for re-election.

“Anytime you have an open seat where you don’t have an incumbent, that naturally means that the party of the incumbent, which in this case would be the Democrat party, is going to lose a percentage share,” Khalaf said.

Still, the Republicans face an uphill climb against demographic trends and a strong Democratic front-runner in former Phoenix Mayer Greg Stanton.

On Monday, Data Orbital released a profile of District 9 that shows party, gender and age breakdowns favoring Democrats.

Of registered voters in the district, 32 percent were Democrats and 30 percent were Republicans. Those numbers represent a reversal from when the district first was drawn, Khalaf said.

Another indicator that favors Democrats is that there were more women than men, 51.3 percent to 48.7 percent.

“We have seen pretty consistent trend lines that show that female voters in this election cycle, particularly younger voters under the age of 55, younger female voters, are much more likely to support a Democrat. … It’s one of the additional sort of demographic points that lends the seat to be a likely Democrat seat,” Khalaf said.

While the millennial-heavy age breakdown — 28 percent for ages 18-34, 16 percent for 35-44, 16 percent for 45-54, 18 percent for 55-64 and 22 percent for 65-plus — also seems to favor Democrats, Khalaf said those numbers can be misleading.

Khalaf said younger voters tend to underperform when it comes to turnout, and older voters overperform. He sees no reason that will be any different in November.

“The last time that we actually truly had a genuine uptick in the [younger] vote was in the first Obama election of 2008, and we’ve seen it gradually decline as a percentage of the total share of the vote since then,” he said.

The bottom line, Khalaf said, is that the Democrats shouldn’t be complacent.

“No one should sit on their hands in any election, ever,” he said. “That would be something I’d advise any client, or anyone in any race, but particularly in this district.”

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