Dec 8, 2022 - Politics

Arizona's first election under new redistricting maps a mixed bag for both parties

Illustration of the state of Arizona with shifting red and blue districts inside it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Arizona's first election under its new congressional and legislative maps was a mixed bag for both sides.

State of play: Republicans hold a 6-3 advantage in the state's Congressional delegation after winning two Democratic-held seats.

  • The GOP took the two seats considered genuinely competitive, with incumbent Republican David Schweikert narrowly winning reelection in the north-Phoenix and Scottsdale-based 1st Congressional District.
  • In the Tucson-based 6th Congressional District, Republican Juan Ciscomani edged out Democrat Kirsten Engel.

By the numbers: Democrats fared better than expected in legislative races, holding the GOP to its narrow 31-29 majority in the House and 16-14 edge in the Senate.

  • Of the 15 seats in districts that the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) considered competitive, Democrats won eight.
  • Republicans took three of the five competitive Senate seats and Democrats won six of the 10 toss-up House seats.
  • Five of 30 districts have bipartisan delegations, the most since 2008, according to The Arizona Republic.

Zoom out: When the commission approved its final maps in December 2021, the Arizona Democratic Party blasted them, saying the new districts gave the GOP an unfair advantage.

The intrigue: Voters in many of the competitive districts backed statewide Democratic candidates while sending Republicans to Congress and the legislature, according to an analysis provided to Axios.

  • Governor-elect Katie Hobbs won four of the five competitive legislative districts and U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly won all of them.

What they're saying: Longtime Republican operative and lobbyist Doug Cole tells Axios that the districts are more competitive than Democrats gave them credit for but says Republicans would've won more seats if they'd put up more moderate candidates.

  • "Districts do matter and redistricting does matter. But at the end of the day, the quality of the candidates rules the day," he says.
  • Arizona Democratic Party spokesperson Morgan Dick says the party's negative opinion of the maps hasn't changed but said it put up strong candidates while the GOP didn't.
  • "These races have gone to show us exactly what's possible next cycle," she says.

The bottom line: Erika Neuberg, the AIRC's independent chair, tells Axios that she's hesitant to draw many conclusions from one election but is pleased with this year's results and says the maps have something for both parties to be both excited and concerned about.

  • Neuberg says independents and centrists are the real winners with the new maps, noting that voters in competitive areas largely rejected candidates associated with Donald Trump.
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