Oct 25, 2022 - Politics

Legislative control in Arizona could come down to five districts

Illustration of the Arizona State Capitol with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

All 90 seats in the state legislature are up for election. But with most of them either dominantly Democratic or Republican, it's really just a maximum of 15 seats in five districts that are considered competitive and that will determine which party controls the Senate and House.

State of play: This will be the state's first election under its new legislative map, which was redrawn by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) late last year.

  • The commission determined districts' competitiveness using the outcomes of nine statewide races in the past three election cycles and the average vote spread — the difference between Democrats and Republicans in those nine races.
  • Republicans currently hold narrow majorities in both chambers, with advantages of 16-14 in the Senate and 31-29 in the House.
District 2

The north Phoenix-based district has a slight GOP lean of 3.8% in the vote spread.

Senate: Republican Rep. Steve Kaiser, who owns a commercial junk removal company, is running for the open Senate seat against Democrat Jeanne Casteen, the executive director of the Secular Coalition for Arizona.

House: Two incumbent representatives, Democrat Judy Schwiebert and Republican Justin Wilmeth, and Republican challenger Christian Lamar are vying for the district's two House seats.

District 4

Stretching from the Arcadia neighborhood through Paradise Valley and parts of north Phoenix and north Scottsdale, Republicans had a 3.4% vote spread.

Senate: Redistricting pitted two incumbent senators against each other in the general election. Republican Nancy Barto, who has served in the legislature since 2007, faces Democrat Christine Marsh, who is in her first term.

  • Barto has long been one of the legislature's most ardent champions of anti-abortion rights legislation, and Democrats are hoping that will work against her following the overturning of Roe.
  • Republicans have branded Marsh as anti-police and hostile to parental choice in K-12 education.

House: One Democrat, elementary school teacher Laura Terech, is running against Republicans Matt Gress, who served for years as Gov. Doug Ducey's budget director, and Maria Syms, a former legislator.

District 9

Based in west Mesa, it's the only competitive district with a Democratic lean, according to the AIRC's metrics. Democrats have a 2.6% vote spread over the GOP.

Senate: Incumbent Sen. Tyler Pace, a moderate Republican, was defeated in the GOP primary by Trump-backed Robert Scantlebury, which buoyed Democratic hopes of taking the district.

  • Scantlebury, a retired Mesa police officer, faces Democrat Eva Burch, a nurse practitioner.

House: This race features Democrats Lorena Austin, a student government adviser at Mesa Community College, and Seth Blattman, a small-business owner.

  • They are facing Republicans Mary Ann Mendoza, who became a prominent anti-illegal immigration advocate after her son was killed by someone who entered the country illegally, and Kathy Pearce, the president of Arizona Heroes to Hometowns, a nonprofit that assists wounded veterans, for the district's two open House seats.
District 13

On paper, this Chandler-based district is the state's most competitive, with a 1.6% Republican vote spread.

Senate: Incumbent Republican Sen. J.D. Mesnard is seeking re-election against Democrat Cindy Hans, a former teacher and school principal.

House: Rep. Jennifer Pawlik, a Democratic incumbent, is running against Republicans Liz Harris, a real estate agent who spearheaded a self-styled canvass of voters after the 2020 election, and Julie Willoughby, a nurse.

District 16

This Pinal County-centric district is likely the least competitive of the five. The GOP vote spread is only 3.6%, but Republicans won all nine of the races that the AIRC used as benchmarks to determine competitiveness.

Senate: Sen. T.J. Shope, the Republican incumbent, is seeking re-election against Democrat Taylor Kerby, a sixth grade teacher and school board member.

House: GOP incumbent Rep. Teresa Martinez and Republican Rob Hudelson, a pastor, face Democratic candidate Keith Seaman, a retired teacher.

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