PHOENIX — Despite hitting the polls Tuesday, Arizona voters have already turned their attention to the 2016 elections and the significant political offices up for grabs.
While Tuesday’s ballot covered relatively minor issues — schools bonds and overrides, a majority of which were approved by voters — 2016 will give Arizonans a say in the races for president, Congress and the state Legislature, among other offices.
Some of these races get really complicated, so we broke them down below. Remember to stick with KTAR News 92.3 FM through Election Day — Nov. 8, 2016 — for all your political news coverage.
After eight years in charge, President Barack Obama is in the twilight of his stay in the White House. The Democratic president has been politically divisive during his time in Washington, overseeing major national and international crises — such as a government shutdown and the storming of an American embassy in Libya — and the implementation of heavily-criticized reforms in both health care and immigration.
The race to take Obama’s seat has already captured headlines. The Republican Party had, at one point, as many as 16 candidates vying for the nomination, while two clear frontrunners — Dr. Ben Carson and mogul Donald Trump — have emerged in recent weeks. Both men represent a shift away from candidates with more traditional political backgrounds, such as Sens. Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has been leading the pack since the word go. While the nomination of the former secretary of state seemed a foregone conclusion, recent polls have shown a slight surge for 2016’s dark horse, Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Sen. John McCain will look to win his sixth Senate term since 1987 when voters hit the polls next year. The longtime Republican incumbent said he has a lot left in the tank at 78 years old, despite detractors saying his age is a cause for concern.
“Take a look at my 18-hour days, take a look at the hearings we have, take a look at my legislative accomplishments,” McCain said in April. “Listen, I’m just getting started.”
The candidates looking to take the steam out of McCain’s engine are Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who survived a close race in 2014 to represent Arizona’s 1st Congressional District.
State Sen. Kelli Ward, a Tea Party candidate, will look to capture McCain’s support from within his own party.
Two others — Republican business owner Alex Meluskey and third-party candidate J.L. Mealer — will also try for McCain’s seat.
The election could get tricky for McCain should either Reps. Kyrsten Sinema or David Schweikert opt to toss their hats into the ring. While it looks the Democratic former could sit this one out, the Republican latter is considering a run.
Arizona has nine seats in the House of Representatives, all of which are up for grabs in ’16. The current Arizona delegation is split 5-4 in favor of the Republican Party.
In seven races — Congressional Districts 3-9 — the incumbent faced no challenge as of Tuesday afternoon. The other two seats will likely be hotly contested.
In District 1, one Democrat, former state Sen. Tom O’Halleran, will square off against one of four prominent GOP opponents: State House Speaker David Gowan, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, former Sec. of State Ken Bennett and 2014 candidate Gary Kiehne.
In District 2, Republican incumbent Martha McSally will face either state Rep. Victoria Steele or former state Rep. Matt Heinz.
As of Tuesday, should no other candidates enter any race, Republican incumbents hold a 4-3 advantage over their Democratic colleagues, meaning Arizona’s House delegation majority is still in the hands of the voters.
Republicans have long since enjoyed a majority in both the Arizona House and Senate. The most-recent election in 2014 saw a total of 53 Republicans and 37 Democrats voted into the Legislature’s 90 seats.
The last time the Republicans did not have a unified Arizona government — both houses and the governor from the same political party — was between 2003-2009, when former Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano was in office. She left her post when she was tabbed by Obama to lead the Dept. of Homeland Security.
Editor’s note: Thanks to the folks over at Ballotpedia, whose breakdown of races was essential to this article.
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