By Sam Saunders
This race is potentially one of the most important in the whole of the US midterms, whether you look at it from a Republican or Democrat perspective, as the state and the race itself are symbolic of recent shifts in US politics.
Firstly, the demographics of the state are changing, as they are across America, with the growth of Arizona’s Latino population – a demographic that is traditionally more likely to vote for the Democrats. As with most states in America, there is also the possibility of a split between traditional Republican voters (those who are slightly more business-friendly and more liberal) and those who have rallied around Trump’s brand of populism. All of this means that Arizona, a state where there hasn’t been a Democratic Senator elected since 1988, is one of the seats to watch. It’s also extremely important for the battle for control of the Senate, as it’s one of the few Republican seats up for grabs that the Democrats have a fair chance of winning.
The incumbent, Jeff Flake, is not running in the seat that’s being contested, (John Kyl has been appointed to fill the other Senate seat, formerly John McCain’s, until a special election in 2020) which is good news for Trumpists as Flake was highly critical of the President both before and after Trump’s victory in 2016. The Republican candidate is Martha McSally, a former combat pilot, who is more supportive of the ‘traditional’ party values than an out-and-out Trump supporter and whose selection was championed by Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell. McSally’s beliefs are now broadly in line with the GOPs stance these days – still traditional but leaning further right due to Trump’s popularity. Opposing her is Democratic candidate Krysten Sinema, a business-friendly moderate who currently holds a House seat in Phoenix and was a Green party candidate in 2002. After surviving the midterms in 2014, Democrats are now hoping that Sinema, with her status and image of a professional woman, can attract Democrats as well as Republican voters who would have previously supported McCain and Kyl, but found no reason to support Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency two years ago.
The race has been hotly contested so far with McSally overcoming her initial deficit in the polls to overtake Sinema more recently, although only by around 0.6 – 2 points. As the polls are so tight, and with exciting Democratic candidates in the Gubernatorial and Congressional races, Arizona is a state to keep an eye on during the midterms.