For 1st Time In Years, Arizona Faces Tight Presidential Race

Nov 8, 2016

Credit thefiscaltimes.com

Arizona voters have a chance to do something Tuesday that they have not done in decades — produce a close result in a presidential race.

The contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton could go down to the wire after Democrats spent heavily in Arizona and mobilized an aggressive get-out-the-vote effort in the traditionally red state.

Bill Clinton was the last Democrat to carry Arizona, and recent elections have been lopsided in favor of GOP candidates. The last Democrat to win before Clinton in 1996 was Harry Truman in 1948.

 

But the conditions were favorable for the former first lady and secretary of state, with Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric proving deeply unpopular in a state with a large Hispanic population.

Latino voters also were motivated to head to the polls with a minimum wage increase on the statewide ballot and Sheriff Joe Arpaio running for a seventh term in metro Phoenix. Many Hispanics revile Arpaio for his immigration patrols, which a judge found racially profiled Latinos.

Clinton made a campaign stop in Arizona six days before the election, followed a day later by running mate Tim Kaine, who delivered a speech entirely in Spanish in large part to woo Hispanic voters. Clinton also dispatched first lady Michelle Obama and Sen. Bernie Sanders to the state.

For his part, Trump visited Arizona seven times and appeared before boisterous crowds. Gov. Doug Ducey, former Gov. Jan Brewer and Arpaio were among those who introduced the billionaire businessman at his rallies.

Trump's hard-line comments on immigration and calls to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border played well among the state's GOP base, which has long been frustrated with illegal immigration.

Arizona has been a hub of drug and immigrant smuggling, driving Republicans in the state Legislature to pass a series of crackdowns that culminated with approval of its 2010 landmark immigration law, SB 1070. The courts threw out most of the law, but the issue is still alive for conservatives.

It has helped lead to the popularity of the longtime sheriff, who made a national name for himself as an immigration crime fighter. But Arpaio ran so afoul of the courts in the process that he was hit with a criminal contempt-of-court charge two weeks before Election Day for repeatedly defying a judge's orders.

The charge has led to the toughest re-election fight in Arpaio's two-decade career. He is facing off against Democrat Paul Penzone, a retired Phoenix police sergeant who has criticized the sheriff for the racial profiling case.

Arpaio and Trump have been allies during the campaign, but U.S. Sen. John McCain cannot say the same. He is seeking a sixth term after a tough race marked by harsh words with the presidential nominee.

  

Trump belittled McCain's war record and called him a "loser," but McCain didn't yank his support until a 2005 tape emerged in which Trump boasted about making unwanted sexual advances toward women. McCain has been leading Democratic U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, whose candidacy has struggled to take hold.

Clinton's path to success in Arizona depends on voters like Jenny Barrios of Phoenix.

The 26-year-old Hispanic woman is voting for the first time, an issue that has plagued Arizona Democrats for years as Latino voting numbers lagged. She favored Sen. Bernie Sanders and struggled to get behind Clinton, but Trump's comments about women and immigrants and his stance on abortion upset her. She's now firmly behind Clinton and stopping Trump.

"I figured if you wanna take someone down, you come together, you do whatever you can to stop that," she said.

 

Julie Brown of Gilbert sees Trump as the solution to the country's problems because she believes his business acumen is sorely needed in the White House.

She showed up at a recent Trump rally wearing a camouflage "Make America Great Again" hat, ticking off a list of the candidate's core issues that resonate with her, such as the Second Amendment, immigration, the economy and trade. And she thinks Clinton can't be trusted.

"I don't want to give her the power of the presidency because who knows where her corruption will end and what she'll try to accomplish," she said.

Rounding out the statewide ballot are two measures that have rallied young and Latino voters. Proposition 205 would legalize marijuana, allowing people to possess up to 1 ounce of pot. Proposition 206 raises the minimum wage to $12 by 2020.