Unpacking the election

07 Nov 2012 10:55 pm
Posted by: Donna

As in 2008, last night was a bittersweet night for Arizona progressives. A Presidential victory and good Senate race outcome nationwide but not so much here.

Let’s take on some of the bitter first:

Dr. Rich Carmona’s loss to Congressman Jeff Flake wasn’t surprising since he was behind in the polls, but it was a huge disappointment and my sympathies are with his supporters and staff who worked their hearts out on his campaign. The former Surgeon General is a champion of science and women’s health and would have made a great Senator. Instead we get Jeff Flake, the Amiable Wingnut. This was because Flake is too savvy to say dumb things about rape. Oh no, he preened about “exceptions for rape and incest” as if that totally differentiates him from Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. In the Senate, however, Flake will vote exactly the way Akin and Mourdock would have on every issue, including women’s health. Awesome.

Paul Penzone’s loss to Joe Arpaio for Maricopa Sheriff was not unexpected either, given the pre-election polling, but it puts me in mind of a Chris Rock sketch from shortly after George W. Bush’s election where Rock expressed wonderment at Bush getting reelected despite “Fahrenheit 9/11” playing on multiple theater screens. “The movie showed how much Bush sucked at his job. You would never get away with this at your job.” Basically, Penzone’s entire campaign and the past couple years of news coverage of Arpaio have been a continuous movie of how badly he sucks at his job. Wrongful deaths in the jails, malicious harassment of judges and county officials, lawsuits costing taxpayers upwards of $100 million, botched child sex crime cases, etc. But hey, whatever! The timeworn “tough on crime” schtick and fancy PR machine pulled it off for America’s Worst Sheriff, once again.

The Corporation Commission race was a bloodbath. Congratulations, Arizona, we now have all 5 Corp Comm seats held by Republican fossil fuel hacks. At best they’ll be useless. At worst, say goodbye to the Renewable Energy Standard and the independence of the Commission. It’ll basically be a flow-through entity for trash-burning contracts for cronies and a rubber stamp for the utility companies. Yay.

Prop 204, the permanent one cent sales tax to benefit education and other important programs, failed. The initiative was swamped with outside money that produced a ton of ads warning of “sixteen pages of text” and other ominous-sounding nonsense. Where, pray tell, will Arizona get the desperately needed money for schools that Prop 204 would provide?

Voter suppression was a big factor in Arizona this season, with a record number of provisional ballots cast and a group calling itself Verify the Vote dispatching bullies to certain polls to intimidate uh I mean challenge voters. The thing is, you shouldn’t think of voter suppression strictly in terms of mustache-twirling villains at ALEC devising fiendishly discriminatory voter ID laws. I mean, that’s a big part of it but a lot of the suppression is simply putting into bureaucratic practice the privileged assumption that everyone has as seamlessly easy a time voting as a white suburbanite does.

And now for the sweet:

We may pick up 3 members of Congress. Ann Kirkpatrick has been declared the winner in CD1 and Kirsten Sinema is ahead by over 2000 votes as they continue to be counted in CD9. Ron Barber is running a few hundred votes behind Martha McSally in CD2 but there are thousands of uncounted votes in that district so I predict he will pull ahead. That would mean that 5 out of 9 members of the Arizona House of Representatives delegation will be Democrats.

Dems made gains in the AZ House and Senate. Not enough to split but enough to deprive the GOP of the supermajority in both chambers it has enjoyed for the past two years. That’s a good thing, contrary to the hand-wringing of certain newspaper columnists and others in this state who are convinced that “moderate Republicans” are the key to quelling GOP craziness in the state legislature. Actually, so-called moderate Republican lawmakers have a rather bad record on that, when their party is in a safe majority. It’s long past time to elect some Dems to force them to compromise.

This leads me to my two personal favorite results in an otherwise less-than-stellar electoral showing for AZ Democrats:

Prop 121, the top-two primary initiative, was soundly defeated. Supporters of this ill-advised scheme attribute it to the same “dark money” forces that defeated Prop 204. It is true that the same right wing characters that funded the anti-Prop 204 effort were funding Prop 121’s defeat, but I think the latter effort was simply a waste of their money. Partisan voters were already predisposed to dislike something that might produce a general election ballot featuring two candidates of the opposing party. Republicans in Arizona were actively hostile to it and the Democratic party officially opposed it, albeit in a more muted fashion. I see the defeat as a good outcome because, and I’ll just let one of my fave bloggers Digby say it, “If the Obama team learned anything from all this it should be that they cannot be all things to all people. We disagree in this country and that’s ok.” What Digby said. Furthermore, this notion that there’s a massive monolithic bloc of moderate and independent voters in Arizona whose interests line up perfectly with the Chamber of Commerce is just false. Paul Johnson and his pals found that out last night.

Jerry Lewis losing to Ed Ableser in LD26 was my other favorite outcome. Lewis went from “hero who vanquished Russell Pearce in the 2011 recall” to “anti-choicer trying to nab a Senate seat in a liberal district in 2012” the second he filed to run in LD26. Tempe voters shut him down! It’s important to remember that radical reactionary conservatism is a movement, not a person. Sorry, hero-worshippers, but Jerry Lewis doesn’t deserve a permanent hall pass with Democrats because he got rid of Russell Pearce. Especially not if he’s going to vote the way Pearce would on issues Democratic voters consider important.

Deee-licious schadenfreude:

Shane Wikfors’ Twitter feed.


  1. Comment by mike slater on November 8, 2012 5:59 pm

    As a conservative the votes in Arizona turned out pretty well. Flake won and my favorite one was Sheriff Joe won. Also props 121 and 204 lost big. The legislature is still controlled by Republicans.

    I’m hoping for a win for Vernon Parker and Martha McSally.

  2. Comment by mike slater on November 8, 2012 6:03 pm

    I forgot to add that the Corporation Commission is in the hands of the Republicans. Sweet.

  3. Comment by Suzanne on November 8, 2012 9:32 pm

    The Corporation Commission sweep was a heart breaker for me. I truly hoped for better results. C’est la vie, that is politics in Arizona.

  4. Comment by Liberal Democrat Friend of Bruce Ash on November 10, 2012 7:21 am

    As a liberal I’m super excited that Barack Obama is president. I love watching angry white guys freak out because the president is different from them.

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