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The biggest fights of the 2024 election are all converging in Arizona


Tuesday’s Arizona Supreme Court ruling upholding a 160-year-old, near-total ban on abortion sent a shock through the state — and cemented its place at the center of politics in 2024.

Arizona and its 11 electoral votes will be critical in the race between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. Voters will decide critical races for Senate and House with both chambers closely divided. The state looks set to have an abortion measure on the November ballot, putting a stark policy choice directly before voters. 

All of this will be happening amid years-long fights over election procedures and immigration that are still running hot. And the state’s rapidly changing demographics highlight many of the major trends buffeting U.S. politics

Arizona has the largest Latino population share of any core battleground state, according to the Census Bureau; the nation’s biggest battleground county in Maricopa County, a former Republican stronghold where more than 2 million people voted in 2020 and Biden narrowly won; increasingly MAGA-fied rural counties racing in the other direction; and the nation’s biggest university by in-person enrollment in Arizona State University.

In short, Arizona will show how different groups are grappling with the most pressing issues in the 2024 election — and could decide the balance of power in Washington next year and beyond. The presidential campaign there was decided by just 10,000 votes in 2020, and Biden and Trump’s campaigns already have their eyes on the state: Vice President Kamala Harris announced a Friday trip to Arizona hours after the state Supreme Court’s abortion decision.

“You understand how important that majority is in the U.S. Senate, right?” Republican Kari Lake asked the crowd at a March rally in Cave Creek. “We want President Trump to hit the ground running in January of ‘25,” she continued, casting her campaign as the one that could tip the balance.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump in Mesa, Ariz., in 2022.Mario Tama / Getty Images file

In a fundraising email Tuesday afternoon, Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego laid out the stakes for the Senate race just as clearly. “If Ruben wins Arizona we are that much closer to holding the Senate. And we need control in the Senate to stop any attempt at a national ban on abortion,” the email read. 

The campaigns

The already feisty battle to replace retiring independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema — Gallego’s a “swamp rat,” Lake says; she’s “heartless,” Gallego retorts — comes after three straight Democratic Senate victories in Arizona. A fourth would make clear just how much the state (and the Republican Party) has shifted since Arizona sent the likes of GOP Sens. Barry Goldwater and John McCain to Washington.

With Democrats barely holding onto a slim majority in the Senate and playing defense in states Trump overwhelmingly won in 2020, like Ohio, West Virginia, and Montana, the outcome of the Arizona race will have far-reaching repercussions outside the Southwest. 

And in the House, Arizona is also capable of shifting the balance of power. Democrats need a net gain of just four seats to take control of the House, and Republicans representing seats Biden carried in 2020 are at the top of their target list. Two of those Republicans are from Arizona: David Schweikert, whose 1st District includes Phoenix suburbs such as Scottsdale, and Juan Ciscomani, who represents the 6th District in the southeast corner of the state, around Tucson.

Democrats have targeted Schweikert in the past, and viewed him as vulnerable following multiple ethics violations for misusing campaign funds. After redistricting in 2022, Schweikert won a seventh term by just 1 percentage point, while Biden carried the district by nearly 2 points in 2020, according to calculations from Daily Kos Elections.

Sensing an opportunity, multiple Democrats are competing to take on Schweikert in November, and his opponent won’t be clear until the July 30 primary. Five Democrats have raised more than $800,000 so far, including former state Democratic Party chair Andrei Cherny, state Rep. Amish Shah and former TV news anchor Marlene Galan-Woods. Two more candidates, orthodontist Andrew Horne and investment banker Conor O’Callaghan, have largely self-funded their campaigns.

Ciscomani, who worked as a top aide to former GOP Gov. Doug Ducey, won his first term by nearly 2 points in 2022. He could face a rematch against former state Sen. Kirsten Engel, who is running again in the closely divided district, which Biden carried by one-tenth of a percentage point in 2020.

Both Schweikert and Ciscomani condemned the Arizona state Supreme Court’s abortion ruling on Tuesday, but Democrats were quick to highlight their past support for state action on abortion and their past votes on the issue. 

Republicans are also trying to hold state legislative majorities that could not be thinner: a 31-29 advantage in the Arizona state House and a 16-14 seat advantage in the state Senate.

The issues

Every single one of those candidates is likely to share Arizona’s ballot this fall with a proposed constitutional amendment which would create a “fundamental right” to receive abortion care up until fetal viability, or about the 24th week of pregnancy, with exceptions after that if a health care professional decides it’s needed to “protect the life or physical or mental health of the pregnant individual.” And after the state Supreme Court upheld what’s now one of the strictest bans in the country, the ballot measure could potentially drive an influx of otherwise disengaged young voters to the polls. 

The single biggest source of them could be the tens of thousands of Arizona State University students in Tempe. The Biden campaign has already started engaging youth voting groups on the ground, with Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff phone-banking alongside Keep Arizona Blue, a student coalition focused on voter turnout, earlier this week. 

It may not be on the ballot in the same way as abortion, but with Arizona sharing the most border with Mexico of any state besides Texas, immigration isn’t an abstract issue for voters in the state. Recent NBC News polling shows Trump with a huge lead over Biden when it comes to which candidate voters believe is better suited to control immigration, which could provide a boost down the ballot for Republicans. But Arizona’s rapidly shifting demographics could also play a key role. 

If Trump is making further inroads with Latino voters in 2024, as he did in 2020, Arizona may be the battleground state that will feel it most. NALEO Education Fund projected close to one-quarter of the Arizona electorate in 2024 will be Latino.

As the population changes, so are the voting patterns. Maricopa County, which takes in the metro Phoenix area and includes about 60% of the state’s voters , backed McCain and Mitt Romney in their presidential bids over Barack Obama by double digits. By 2016, Trump won the county by just a 3.4-point margin and hemorrhaged support four years later, losing the pivotal county even more narrowly to Biden in 2020.

Arizona has also been a hotbed for the issue of election denialism for the past four years, and it will once again feature many of the same voices prominently in 2024.

That includes Lake — who made her support of Trump’s unfounded claims that the 2020 election was stolen a centerpiece of her failed run for governor in 2022 — as well as Abraham Hamadeh, the GOP’s 2022 attorney general nominee who is now running for U.S. House, and Mark Finchem, the Republican secretary of state candidate in 2022 who is now running for the state Senate.

While Lake has largely avoided focusing on election denial in her Senate campaign (instead pushing for the importance of “honest elections”), Hamadeh, who focused most of his unsuccessful state attorney general race on false claims about the 2020 election, has maintained his focus on the issue in his race this year. (He’s also repeated false claims about his own narrow 2022 loss to now-state Attorney General Kris Mayes.)

That campaign — decided by just 280 votes — underscores the hyper-competitive landscape that will play host to so many pivotal races again this year.

And it punctuates the huge policy differences and consequences at stake in the campaigns. Just this week, Mayes vowed to not enforce the abortion ban upheld by the state Supreme Court — a position she ran on in 2022 that Hamadeh opposed.


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