The secret swing state that could decide the election

Forget Florida, here's the action...

Welcome to Progressives Everywhere! We had some tech trouble with Sunday’s issue and many people didn’t get it, so I’m resending it — apologies if you’re reading it for a second time!

Today, you’ll read about:

  • Under-the-radar races that Dems can flip

  • Absentee voting laws and post office drama

  • Ending disenfranchisement

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Arizona Going Blue Would Be a Big, Big Deal

There are few states as politically charged right now as Arizona, which has been a hotbed of progressive organizing since teacher protests rocked the state back in 2018. Now, due to the incompetence of Trump acolyte Governor Doug Ducey, Arizona is one of the worst COVID-19 hotspots in the country, adding life-or-death stakes to what was already going to be a bruising election year.

While Ducey isn’t up for re-election, the state’s voters have a lot of decisions to make: Arizona will vote for a US Senate seat (things are looking good for Democrat Mark Kelly) as well as on a number of major ballot initiatives that could bring very significant changes to what was once known as solid-red territory. One of the initiatives would legalize recreational marijuana; another would make some big reforms to the state’s archaic criminal justice system.

The legislative elections there are huge, too. After making some big gains in 2018, Democrats need to win just three seats to flip the State Senate and two seats to flip the State House of Representatives. Democratic wins here would be historic — the GOP has controlled the State House every term since 1966, while the State Senate has been in Republican hands for all but eight years since that time.

If Democrats can sweep through Arizona, the path to the White House will be much, much easier for Vice President Joe Biden — forget Texas and Florida, if he can win Arizona and North Carolina, he’ll have the presidency. That makes these races absolutely essential to support.

Below the map, I’m diving into the most hotly contested (and most flippable seats) in the state legislature. One note: Unlike most states, Arizona has one set of legislative districts for both State House and State Senate. Each district elects two State House Representatives and one State Senator.

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District 28 

  • State Senate election decided by .3% in 2018 — 167 votes

    In 2018, Arizona teachers joined the national #RedforEd national movement, walking out of their underfunded classrooms for over a week to demand that the state drastically increase education investment. Leading the way was Christine Marsh, the 2016 Arizona Teacher of the Year, who earned something of a national spotlight with her fierce advocacy on behalf of students and teachers.

    Marsh ran for the State Senate that year, too, and came within just 167 votes of unseating Republican Kate Brophy McGee. Now, Marsh is running again to finish the job, while Brophy McGee deals with a bunch of Pizzagate-type conspiracy theorists over on the GOP side.

District 6

  • State Senate election decided by 1.8% in 2018

    We’ve got a really fantastic contrast in this race that makes it even more flippable than the already enticing 2018 vote differential suggests. Democrats are running Felicia French, an Afghanistan War vet and nurse, while Republicans have nominated Wendy Rogers, a perennial right-wing fringe candidate who ousted the incumbent in this district last week. Rogers is one of those child sex trafficking-obsessed conspiracy theorists who is making life miserable for Brophy McGee.

  • State House election decided by .3% in 2018

    This is another pickup opportunity that’s even better than the 2018 vote differential suggests. Democrats are running well-known Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans. The state’s coronavirus calamity will play heavily into this race, as Evans has taken a leading role in criticizing Gov. Doug Ducey’s terrible job dealing with COVID-19.

    Democrats only ran one candidate in the primary, which means that Republicans are guaranteed to win at least one of the two seats in the general election. That’s the case in every single election I’m highlighting, which is sort of a bummer. I suppose it makes sense to concentrate resources in some districts, but it feels like a real missed opportunity in this district, where the GOP is a total mess.

    One of the incumbent Republicans is retiring, while the other, Walter Blackman, is a far-right conspiracy-peddler who called Black Lives Matter a “terrorist organization.” The fact that he’s Black certainly complicates the politics of it, but he barely won in 2018 and seems even more vulnerable now.

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District 17

  • State Senate election decided by 1.8% in 2018

    In a state where immigration and education are both massive issues, Democrats nominated Ajlan Kurdoglu, a first-generation American whose wife is a public school teacher. He’s running against JD Mesnard, the former Arizona Speaker of the House.

District 20

  • State Senate election decided by 3.9% in 2018

    This is a rematch between the 2018 candidates. Democrats are again running Douglas Ervin against Paul Boyer, who is only in his first term. Ervin has long been a school volunteer and is focused on education and making the state’s finances more equitable.

  • State House election decided by 1.4% in 2018

    Democrats have a great candidate in Judy Schwiebert, who spent 27 years as a teacher and is very focused on education funding. In the primary, she received 2500 more votes than either Republican incumbent, one of whom is a real anti-LGBTQ bigot and weirdo who talks a bit too much about porn.

District 23

  • State House election decided by 3% in 2018

    The Democratic Party returns its 2018 nominee, Eric Kurland, who is — get this — a teacher! He got over 8,000 more votes in the primary than the second-place Republican thanks to a heated race between the QAnon-loving incumbent, Jay Lawrence, and the more moderate candidate who ultimately unseated him.

District 21

  • State House election decided by 5.2% in 2018

    Here’s another race where the Democrat in the primary earned more votes (3,000 this time) than the top Republican. Name recognition in this case certainly helped nominee Kathy Knecht, a long-time school board official who ran for State Senate in 2018 as an independent. Now, she’s officially on Team Blue — what else do you expect from someone involved in public schools?

District 15

  • State House election decided by 6.1% in 2018

    We’ve got another Democratic educator in the house! Kristin Dybvig-Pawelko actually works in higher education, having spent the last 20 years at Arizona State University. As such, she’s very concerned with the cost of public college in the state, which is mandated to be as low as possible. Dybvig-Pawelko had a nice showing primary, taking 5,500 more votes than the second and third place Republicans.

District 8

  • State House election decided by 7.2% in 2018

    This should be a super-tight race, far closer than the 2018 margin leads you to believe. Democrats nominated Sharon Girard, a retired physician’s assistant who got more than 4,500 votes than the top Republican vote-getter and 6,000 more votes than the closely paired second and third GOP candidates. The top GOP vote-getter, the incumbent David Cook, is perhaps the most endangered — the guy loves lobbyists and bribing fellow political officials.

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Big News You Need to Know

Here are some of the big headlines you may have missed over the long weekend and late last week.

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Elections (and Future Elections)

  • President Trump’s attack on the United States Postal Service — and voting by mail — continues unabated. Friday night saw an absolute massacre, as Trump mega-donor and newly appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy unveiled a plan in which a whopping 23 postal execs were either reassigned or given the boot. The plan gives DeJoy even more power, which he is currently using to cut costs, sabotage mail delivery, and throttle the absentee ballot system that has become so crucial this year.

    A very rich shipping magnate, DeJoy already had every reason in the world to destroy the postal service and empower private delivery services. Trump’s desperation to sabotage mail-in voting so that he might steal the election in November only hastens this assault, which has led to (somewhat limp) Democratic protests and even some Republican outrage.

    There is no disguising Trump’s paranoid attack on vote-by-mail — he’s been tweeting about it non-stop and has Republicans pumping $20 million into erroneous challenges of state laws while looking at a gamut of potential executive actions. According to one report, they’re pondering “everything from directing the postal service to not deliver certain ballots to stopping local officials from counting them after Election Day.”

  • The whole plot to steal the election from Democrats by slowing down the postal service has one big problem: Rural voters rely on the postal service more than anyone. Two Republican Senators last week called for DeJoy to reverse the directives that are crippling the USPS, which are bad for both business and their campaigns.

    Montana Sen. Steve Daines is likely especially anxious about it now that he’s being challenged by Gov. Steve Bullock and they’re running neck-and-neck. Bullock also just signed a law allowing counties to hold all-mail elections. Voters in urban areas (or “urban” areas in the case of Montana) are much more likely to receive mail and have their outgoing mail delivered in a semi-timely fashion, which could make a big difference in races where there are large differences in density. Think Texas, Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, and more.

  • The reality is that even if voting-by-mail goes relatively smoothly, the variety of rules around when ballots can be counted means that we may not know the winner of the election on November 3rd. It’s bound to get confusing, so here’s a great resource with all the necessary details about when states can begin processing their absentee ballots. I’d bookmark it!

  • In Pennsylvania, a smart alternative to pure vote-by-mail is coming together in a number of major counties: Early voting, in lots of places:

    Some of Pennsylvania’s largest counties are planning to create satellite election offices, where voters could request and submit a mail ballot on the spot, according to officials. That would provide for the first time a form of in-person early voting that is easily and widely available to all voters in those counties — at a moment when the coronavirusa surge in voting by mail, and troubling post office delays have cast a shadow on the very process of conducting the 2020 presidential election.

    As Democratic-controlled counties start doing this, Republican ones will likely rush to catch up, making it a defacto voting method in PA. Other states would be smart to copy them.

Voting Rights and Social Justice

  • Better late than never, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivered on her promise and signed an executive order that restores the right to vote to the state’s formerly incarcerated citizens. Iowa is one of three states where people who were convicted of felonies and have served their time are still permanently barred from voting; as we know, the mess in Florida continues to keep the Sunshine State on that ignominious list, as well.

    Reynolds’ order will give about 40,000 people the right to vote in this November’s election. Unfortunately, while Iowa has election day registration, the pandemic and national reliance on mail-in voting will make the jobs of activists working to enroll newly eligible voters much more difficult.

  • Meanwhile, Democratic attorneys general across the country are calling on Florida to clean up its act and allow the formerly incarcerated to vote, as the overwhelming majority of the state voted for in 2018.

  • In Texas, the Trump campaign is trying hard to win over Black voters. It’s not going so well. I recommend reading the whole story, but I’ve got to highlight this incredible lede:

On the door for the McLennan County Republican Party headquarters on a February night, a flyer read, “Black Voices for Trump.” Inside, 50 or so faces — virtually all of them white — looked up at the speaker before them.

“How many of you are tired of being called a racist?” asked the speaker, KCarl Smith, who is Black.

Almost everyone in the crowd raised their hands or nodded solemnly.

  • While Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp last week signed a law meant to protect police in the state (yes, that’s what they need right now), Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms just signed an order that aims to protect people from aggressive, violent police.

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