Stephanie Morse

Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018

Voters make final call in heated elections after heavy early voting

PHOENIX — Arizona voters had already cast more ballots before polls opened Tuesday than they had in all of 2014’s midterms, and they headed to the polls today to finish an unusually high-profile midterm election year.

Voters will decide whether to return Gov. Doug Ducey to office and which of two candidates will become the first woman from Arizona to serve in the U.S. Senate. They will also be electing the next Legislature, all of the state’s U.S. House members, statewide officers and settling a number of headline-grabbing ballot questions.

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The secretary of state’s office reported Monday that almost 1.59 million early ballots had been received, compared to 1.54 million for all of 2014.

Despite the focus on state races, however, this election is also being seen as a referendum on the first two years of President Donald Trump’s administration, with early polls indicating that Democrats could wrest back control of the House from Republicans for the first time since 2010.

A Democratic takeover of the Senate is considered less likely, but Arizona has one of the tightest and one of the more closely watched Senate races in the country.

That race pits Rep. Martha McSally , R-Tucson, against Rep. Kyrsten Sinema , D-Phoenix, in a contest to replace the seat vacated by Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, who is stepping down after one term.

A RealClear Politics analysis of six polls showed Sinema leading in two, McSally leading in three and the two tied in the sixth, with the leader in all the polls falling within the margin of error. As of Monday, McSally was holding a razor-thin lead of 0.2 percentage points over Sinema, according to RealClear Politics.

Sinema got a potential boost Thursday when Green Party candidate Angela Green, who was polling as high as 6 percent, dropped out of the race and endorsed the Democrat. Most political analysts said that was good news for Sinema, but some noted that it came after many registered Greens had already cast early ballots.

Regardless of who wins, Arizona will elect its first female senator. And the Senate race will also shuffle the state’s House delegation, as new members will be elected to fill the seats vacated by McSally and Sinema.

Democrats are hoping to pick up the 2nd District that has been held by McSally, according to the Associated Press, with two-time House member Ann Kirkpatrick, a Democrat, squaring off against Republican Lea Marquez Peterson. Democrats are expected to hold on to Sinema’s 9th District seat in Phoenix.

The state already got one new House member this year, when Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, won a special election to replace Trent Franks, a longtime Republican who resigned abruptly in the middle of an ethics investigation. Now, Lesko is defending the 8th District seat in a rematch of the April special election against Democrat Hiral Tipirneni. One recent poll showed Lesko leading Tipirneni by 4 percentage points, a number that’s within the margin of error.

On the state level, Ducey, a Republican, is up for re-election against Democrat David Garcia . Polls show Ducey with a clear lead.

Ducey has focused on border security and the state’s growing economy during the campaign while Garcia, an associate professor with the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University, has primarily focused on education policy and called for more education funding.

Ducey has pushed his work to raise teacher salaries after thousands of teachers and students hit the streets in the #RedForEd rallies this spring.

Five other statewide offices on the ballot include three – secretary of state, treasurer and superintendent of public instruction – where the incumbents are being replaced. The other two statewide offices, for attorney general and state mine inspector, feature incumbents defending their seats. There are also two seats open on the Corporation Commission.

There are four propositions on the ballot, which includes Prop 305 , which allows voters to decide whether to repeal or expand the state’s school voucher system, and Prop 127 that will determine the future energy makeup in the state.

Maricopa County election officials are promising a smoother voting process than in August’s primary election, when computer glitches at 62 locations caused voters to be relocated, wait in long lines and worry their votes might not be counted.

Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes blamed a shortage of third-party contractors for the problems in August, but said Maricopa County Elections Department employees will handle operations for the general election.

Polls will remain open Tuesday until 7 p.m. Voters must bring identification, such as driver’s license or government issued ID card, with them to the polls.

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