Arizona boasts highly competitive races for US Senate, Governor, and various other statewide elections, but when it comes to its state legislature, there’s a noticeable lack of interest. Even the DLCC knows this: prior to redistricting, flipping a chamber in Arizona was item number one on their midterm to-do list. After all, the chamber has 16 Republicans and 14 Democrats. They’d only need to flip one of those seats in order to force a stalemate.
But redistricting was an absolute shinkicker to the Democrats. As a result the DLCC rolled back their investment, effectively demoting Arizona. While both the prior maps and the new ones had 15 districts that went to both Biden and Trump, only one of the old Biden districts won by a single-digit margin. Now, 3 of the 15 seats that went to Biden voted for him by a single-digit margin. Under the old lines, one third of the districts that voted for Trump were by a single-digit margin, and under the new ones, that was reduced to 4 out of 15.
Most parts of Arizona tend to be friendlier to downballot Republicans than their presidential counterparts. That, coupled with the impending doom of redistricting and what it means for Democrats in the days to come, and we’re left with a barely competitive chamber in the “Very Likely R” column – there’s now just a 6% chance of a tie in the chamber and a 1% chance of an outright Democratic majority. It isn’t zero, but it’s as close as the Democrats can possibly get.
Republicans flipped the Arizona Senate back into their column after the 2002 midterms following a brief tenure of Democratic control over the chamber. If precedent is any indication, it’s looking like they’ll maintain control of the chamber after this election. The State House is a different story; this chamber should be slightly more competitive than the Senate due to the presence of multi-member districts and the bizarre but endlessly fascinating candidates that they manage to bring out of the woodwork. For the purpose of sticking to the rivers and the lakes that we’re used to, we’ll only be reviewing the Senate in this piece and the 5 competitive districts within. Currently, our forecast favors Democrats in 12 seats and Republicans in 18, which would be a net gain of 2 seats for the Republicans.
District 23 is the only competitive seat not located in the greater Phoenix area, containing a large portion of the southern Border as well as parts of Tuscson, Yuma and Phoenix. It’s an open Hispanic-majority seat, with State Representative Brian Fernandez making a run to keep the seat for his party against Republican Gary Garcia Snyder. Fernandez is a solid recruit for this Biden +14 seat and should be moderately favored against Garcia Snyder in the general election. We’ve got this as a Lean Democratic hold – if Republicans manage to flip this seat, Democrats are in a lot more trouble with the Hispanic/Latino demographic nationally than we would have thought.
Another seat Democrats have to defend is in the Phoenix area in District 12, an open Biden +10 seat where Democratic State Representative Mitzki Epstein is running to hold the seat for her party. Republicans had a primary here which has not been called due to the closeness of the results, with David Richardson and Suzanne Sharer being neck-and-neck. We’ve got the seat as a Very Likely Democratic hold; unless the environment worsens for Democrats dramatically, they shouldn’t have much trouble holding onto this seat.
District 9 is a Biden +6 seat in Mesa, and it is the Democrats’ best chance at winning a 13th seat in the chamber. It’s a tall task; the downballot here tends to favor Republicans. Democrat Eva Burch will face Robert Scantlebury, who just cost Republicans their incumbency advantage in this seat; it would have been Lean Republican if the incumbent Republican, Tyler Pace, had won his primary. We currently have this race as a Toss-Up.
District 4 has the only incumbent vs. incumbent contest in a competitive seat. It’s located in the northern part of the Phoenix area and features a battle between Republican incumbent Nancy Barto and Democratic incumbent Christine Marsh. In 2020, Marsh narrowly unseated then-Republican incumbent Kate Brophy McGee while Barto was left uncontested in her safely Republican district. This district went to Biden by 1 point, and, this being a downballot race, we’ve got it as Likely Republican. This is the Democrats’ best bet at a 14th seat.
Democrats have a small chance at tying the Arizona State Senate, at which time a power sharing agreement would likely take place. District 13 is the seat that will decide whether this happens, as it is most likely the 15th seat for Democrats. Despite being two points bluer than the aforementioned District 4 (it voted for Biden by 3 points), it’s still the hardest seat that Democrats can possibly win. This is because incumbent Republican JD Mesnard is a force to be reckoned with; he outran Trump by a whopping 9 points in his old district in 2020, and the lines in his new seat are pretty much the same. Democrat Cindy Hans won the Democratic primary here and will face an uphill battle against Mesnard in the general: we’ve got this as a Likely Republican hold.