US Politics

A Look-Ahead at Arizona’s 2018 Federal Elections

Following the death of former Sen. John McCain (R) and the retirement of Sen. Jeff Flake (R), Arizona will host several key elections in 2018. Will Congressional candidates be able to ride the pseudo-conservative movement that supported President Trump in 2016 or will negative rhetoric backfire on hopeful politicians and see the state awash in a blue wave? Tanner Kenney looks ahead to the battleground state’s federal elections.

BY: TANNER KENNEY

In the time since Donald Trump’s surprise election to the nation’s highest office, the state of Arizona’s dichotomous political history has been both magnified and amplified through the lenses of the mainstream media and local discourse as a microcosm of the rhetorical divisiveness gripping the nation, at large. As such, a great deal of importance has been placed on the upcoming federal elections in the state, primarily the potential successors to the state’s Senators, the recently-deceased John McCain and his soon-to-retire colleague, Jeff Flake.

Following services and prior to the November 6th elections, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey will name someone to fill the late Sen. McCain’s vacant seat until a special election is held alongside the midterms. Since his passing, a former aide to McCain has weighed-in on the subject, stating he believes McCain would have preferred a Latina woman to be appointed to the position – a testament to the former Senator’s support of inclusion and diversity.

On a local level, it appears as though voters have grown weary of the type of language that then-candidate Trump rode to the presidency as Trump-pardoned former Sheriff Joe Arpaio plummeted to last place in numerous polls just prior to his devastating Senate primary loss following his refusal to state that former Sen. McCain was an American war hero.

In yesterday’s primaries, Arizona Republicans roundly rejected Trump-esque candidate Arpaio and Trump-supported Kelli Ward, preferring to nominate the more moderate Martha McSally instead. Following her victory, McSally received a Tweet of support from President Trump and will square-off with Democratic primary victor Rep. Kyrsten Sinema in November.

Should McSally be elected to the Senate, she has the potential to impact numerous important legislative efforts such as entitlement reform and the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. On a national level, Arizona serves as a good political barometer in that it is emblematic of American demographic shifts, over time, in addition to possessing a diverse economy that relies upon high-tech research, development, and manufacturing as well as its tourism, finance, and service sectors.

Moreover, come November, there will be numerous seats open in the House of Representatives which are certain to be hotly contested as the Democratic National Committee was targeted in the state by Russian hackers in connection with the nation’s attempts to interfere in American democratic processes. Whilst analysts and polls have indicated conservatives will maintain their majority in the Senate, the Republican National Committee has also targeted several key races in Arizona such as the seat held by Rep. Tom O’Halleran, a Democrat, in Congressional District 1 as the RNC hopes to secure its majority in the House.

O’Halleran, a former Chicago police officer, will face off against Republicans Wendy Rogers and Tiffany Shedd – both of whom support the expansion of several Trump policies in the state – as well as Steve Smith, a conservative with support from Sen. Ted Cruz (R – TX). However, Arizona’s aging Republican base has also been a target for the DNC for years as it has long sought to flip the entire state blue.

Nationally, the Arizona electorate’s rejection of candidates that rely strictly upon directionless and/or off-color rhetoric can be seen in other races throughout the nation wherein campaigns designed solely to attack, devoid of any genuine advocacy or tangible policy proscriptions, fare poorly even when its opponent is embroiled in a bribery scandal. These types of races are not unique to any particular region or community as they occur in liberal and conservative states and towns throughout the nation.

With that being said, the firebrand politician’s popularity in the nation has not died – it has merely shifted. While the McCarthy’s of old may have lost favor in major metropolitan areas, rural areas and remote municipalities have embraced the type of language and logic that currently permeates the GOP whilst liberal leaders such as Sen. Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have pushed the boundaries of the rhetoric of the Left to new heights in their support of other like-minded politicians.

If yesterday’s primary elections in Arizona has taught the national political organizations anything, it is that the support of all Americans, primarily its most vulnerable populations, is not only necessary for the survival of any party, but the well-being of the nation, as a whole, as well.


Tanner Kenney is an energy and media professional with a background in journalism and received his M.S. in Global Affairs, Environment & Energy Policy from NYU’s Center for Global Affairs. Recently, Tanner has focused on the advocacy of sustainable development through renewable energy technologies, transportation efficiency, and inclusive public policy.

Please note that opinions expressed in this article are solely those of our contributors, not of Political Insights, which takes no institutional positions.

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