Elections to watch: AZ-02

on Barber (D), after being injured in an assassination attempt on Gabrielle Giffords, was elected in June of 2012 to replace Giffords in Congress.  Barber was re-elected in November of 2012 by narrowly defeating Martha McSally by 2454 votes.  The final percentage of the vote was 50.41% – 49.57%.  Barber slightly outperformed President Barack Obama in the district.  President Obama lost the congressional district in the presidential election 49.9-48.4.  Due to the closeness of this race, the Congressional election in 2014 was hotly contested and ended up being the 6th most expensive House race in 2014.  In a rematch of the 2012 Congressional election, Martha McSally defeated Barber by less than 200 votes in 2014.  Unlike in many other districts and mid-term elections, the difference in the election was not merely because of a lack of turnout with the Democratic Party.  As we see from the below table, both candidates lost close to the same amount of voters from 2012 to 2014.

Candidate 2012 vote totals 2014 vote totals
Ron Barber 147,338 109,547
Martha McSally 144,884 109,714
Other 57 104
Total votes 292,279 219,365

Luckily for the voters of the Arizona 2nd Congressional District, Barber is not running for another chance of going against Rep. McSally.  The challenger for McSally in this cycle is most likely going to be State Representative Victoria Steele.  Steele has received the endorsement of 16 of her fellow state legislators as well as Congressman Raul Grijalva.  Steele still has to win the Democratic primary at the end of August against former state Representative Matt Heinz.

While serving in the Arizona House of Representatives, Steele has sponsored a number of progressive bills that would get the attention of a number of progressives, not only in Congress but, nationwide.   HB2546 was introduced on 05/05/2016 and has 17 sponsors.  The bill would increase the minimum wage for fast food employees.  The bill would increase the minimum wage for fast food employees beginning January 1, 2017 to $9/hour then increase it by$1/hour per year for year afterwards.  Additionally, there is a call for a minimum wage increase tied to the consumer price index which would be a cost of living increase.  If the cost of living increase was higher than the call for the minimum wage increase, then the fast food employees would receive the cost of living increase as their minimum wage.

She has signed onto other progressive causes and legislation, as well.  HB2177 was also introduced and sponsored by 21 members of the Arizona House of Representatives.  This bill calls for paid sick and safe time and would be accrued at the beginning of the employment.  SB1327 was introduced in April or 2015.  This bill would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or sexual identity for employment.  Essentially, this is a bill that has been called on for years which is the Employment Non-discrimination Act.  While there is almost certainly more progressive legislation that Steele has been a sponsor of, the last example I’m going to bring up which is HB2327 introduced in January of 2016.  This bill would allow for needy families to be able to receive cash assistance for a total of twenty-four months compared to a total of twelve months, previously.

Representative McSally has not been a conservative firebrand while she has been serving in Congress.  According to GovTrack’s analysis, she is closer to the middle compared to being on the conservative fringes.  Her own focus while in Congress has been to focus on immigration and veterans.  Her own bills include H.R. 2551 and H.R. 2835.  H.R. 2551 would relax standards for educational assistance for pre-apprenticeship programs for veterans.  This would allow veterans to receive additional educational assistance while they are trying to get back into normal civilian life.  H.R. 2835 would direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to increase their efforts to recruit members of the Armed Forces to be a Customs and Border Protection officer.  It would also include outreach from DHS to the Armed Forces.   The bill would also minimize the amount of time that a member of the Armed Forces would need to go through to get security clearance or background checks.  Both of these bills are worthy end goals.  If I had more time and space I would go over more of Rep. McSally’s bills that she has introduced and perhaps I will at a later date.

We will do a deeper dive into the policies and bills that Representative McSally and others have co-sponsored and voted on.  Initial polling of the state of Arizona showed that Donald Trump may have issues keeping Arizona in the Republican category and if that continues at all, this district may have more significance.  As we get closer to November, this election will be one worth watching and will be worthwhile for us to look at deeper so we can separate the candidates based on actual policies compared to what political party they happened to be registered with.