Apr 16, 2024 - News

Arizona Democrats' Senate majority hopes at risk after candidate withdraws

Illustration of a donkey torn in half.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The lone Democrat running for an open state Senate seat in a solidly blue district withdrew her candidacy, complicating the party's hopes of taking control of the legislature.

Why it matters: Democrats need to win pretty much every competitive seat in order to control the Senate, and they can't afford to lose safe Democratic districts.

Driving the news: State Rep. Melody Hernandez (D-Tempe) announced on X Monday morning that she's ending her campaign in Tempe-based Legislative District 8.

  • Hernandez is the only Democratic candidate for the seat, which a Democrat won with nearly two-thirds of the vote in 2022.
  • That leaves Republican Roxana Holzapfel as the lone candidate left, however Democratic activist and former Tempe City Councilmember Lauren Kuby quickly filed to run as a write-in.

Between the lines: A recent lawsuit sought to block Hernandez from the ballot, alleging that she didn't collect enough signatures and is ineligible to run because of unpaid fines.

  • According to the secretary of state's website, Hernandez has racked up over $3,000 in fines for late campaign-finance reports, as of Tuesday morning.
  • State law bars people from running for public office if they have at least $1,000 in unpaid campaign finance violation fines. Hernandez did not respond to a message from Axios Phoenix.

Yes, but: Democrats can still get a candidate on the general election ballot through a write-in campaign during the July 30 primary.

  • Write-in primary candidates must get a number of votes equal to or greater than the number of signatures they would've needed to normally qualify for the primary ballot.
  • For Democrats in District 8, that number is 405.

Zoom in: Kuby tells Axios she hopes and expects that "Democrats will gain a majority in the state Senate and the House this year, and I want to be a part of that."

  • "But first and foremost, we need to hold the line and ensure that we protect this Democratic seat in LD8," she says.
  • She is confident she will get at least 405 write-in votes.

What we're watching: It's unclear whether other Democrats will file as write-in candidates. The deadline to do so is June 20.

Flashback: Republicans succeeded in nominating Jim O'Connor for Corporation Commission through a write-in campaign in 2020 after legal challengers left them without enough candidates.

The big picture: To win a legislative majority, Democrats need to flip two seats in each chamber if they also hold the seats they already have.

  • There are only three or four competitive Republican-held Senate seats.
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