2024 election to have big implications for national, Arizona seats

Nov 7, 2023, 4:35 AM | Updated: 8:34 am

This is the second in a five-part series called “Arizona Votes 2024: One Year Out,” examining the lead-up to the upcoming election in Arizona. Read part one here.

PHOENIX — The race for Arizona’s U.S. Senate seat will certainly grab headlines in 2024, but the state legislature could also see a serious shift.

For years, Republicans have controlled both Arizona’s House and Senate. That’s still the case, but now they only have a one-seat majority in each chamber.

Can Arizona Democrats flip either chamber?

Political consultant Emily Ryan said the state’s Democratic Party has been targeting both for a while now.

“They’ve never been able to flip a chamber, but they’ve gotten the numbers pretty even,” she said. “I think that they have a chance of flipping at least one chamber if they stay focused.”

Ryan said that means the Democratic Party needs to avoid spreading itself too thin, protecting the seats it currently holds while chipping away at the Republican majority.

Political consultant Tony Cani also believes a Democratic majority in at least one of the two chambers could happen in 2024.

“There is a chance… there’s a lot of dysfunction at the national level when it comes to the Republican Party that’s really hurting the brand of Republicans,” he explained. “On the other hand, the president’s polling numbers are pretty low in Arizona … those two things are going to be competing.”

Flipping even one of those two chambers would be a big change, particularly in the dynamic that has led to a record number of vetoes from Gov. Katie Hobbs.

“All of a sudden the Republicans in the opposing chamber would have to really compromise,” Ryan said. “You have to change the way you operate and I think we’d see a lot more compromise and moderate ideas float up to the governor for signature.”

What implications could Arizona’s U.S. Senate race have?

A change in the state legislature would reflect Arizona’s recent purple shift. The race for U.S. Senate could do the same.

Democratic frontrunner and current Rep. Ruben Gallego, as well as Republican frontrunner and former gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, have both officially announced. However, the seat’s current holder, Independent Kyrsten Sinema, could still throw her hat in the ring.

Cani thinks Gallego could be an appealing candidate for voters across the state.

“He’s a veteran … he’s somebody who isn’t far left when it comes to gun rights, he’s someone who speaks his mind, he’s a child of immigrants,” Cani said. “I think he has an opportunity to really connect if he can break through and get to people.”

Cani acknowledges that as a Democrat, Gallego’s fate is at least partially tied to President Joe Biden, who is struggling in opinion polls.

When it comes to Lake, Ryan thinks she may struggle to add to her base in a general election.

“She started off as a household name, the friendly newscaster in everyone’s living room, but we all saw a different side of Kari Lake as she continued to run,” Ryan explained. “The flame-throwing, die-hard Donald Trump supporter.

“That’s what she’s most known as now, she can’t change that branding.”

Both Ryan and Cani agree that Sinema’s potential is particularly interesting, although they disagree on her viability.

“If anyone could pull it off and do it for the first time, my money would be on her,” Ryan said of Sinema’s chances as an Independent. “I feel like she would rob more votes from Kari Lake, because Sen. Sinema has done a great job of making conservative Republicans comfortable with the way she governs.”

Ryan also believes Sinema will draw Democrats and Independents, and the numbers could give her a shot at the seat.

Cani is more skeptical.

“She has very high name recognition … she’s on of the most famous elected officials in the country,” he said. “However, it’s going to be a challenge in the sense that a lot of voters who previously liked her have soured on her… they’ve kind of decided they don’t like the way she operates.

“It’s very hard for a political candidate to change peoples’ minds about that.”

Cani does have one fact of the 2024 election he’s comfortable predicting.

“If you don’t like political TV ads or radio ads,” he joked. “It’s going to be a tough year for you.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

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2024 election to have big implications for national, Arizona seats