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PSC Midterm Election Reflections: Arizona

Katelyn Cai (PPS '26)

In 2020, the once-GOP stronghold Arizona turned blue, helping hand the presidency of the United States to Joe Biden. In 2022, Democrats are hoping to hold their gains in the Grand Canyon State while Republicans are trying to turn the tide in their favor.

Over the course of my short lifetime, I’ve watched my home state transform, from the gradual rise of the skyline metropolis in our capitol to the emergence of our election battleground status. My own US House District, District One, is competitive for the first time I can remember, a testament to the new political headwinds gripping the state.

There are two ways to look at the 2022 midterm elections in Arizona. One approach is to look at the issues bringing voters to the polls. Reproductive rights are the undoubtedly important part of this equation; in 2023, Attorney General Mark Brnovich plans to enforce a near-total abortion ban from 1864 with no exceptions for rape, incest, or the mother’s health. This looming threat is a huge motivator to get young people and suburban women to vote blue up and down the ballot. Another essential issue is inflation — Phoenix’s nearly 13% inflation rate is the highest among the nation’s metropolitan areas. As voters across the state grapple with rising daily costs, Republicans are capitalizing on this issue as one caused by Democratic mismanagement of the economy. Finally, to cap off the trio, immigration is almost always on the table in a border state like Arizona. Worries about border security from conservatives and migrant mistreatment from liberals present the two opposing forces influencing voters this November. There are also other pressing topics, like Arizona’s megadrought, a larger cultural struggle over the future of education, and rising crime rates, are also essential to voter calculus this November.

Another approach is to place the election in our wider political context and view it instead as a greater referendum on the future of America. Joe Biden said we were in the “Battle for the Soul of Our Nation” when it came to our constitutional democracy, and Arizona has become a central battlefield. Just this week, a federal judge appointed by Donald Trump drastically curbed the activities of conservative poll watchers who were engaging in what many called intimidation tactics. The state at large has become a hotbed for the far right’s response to the 2020 election: election fear-mongering, conspiracy theories, and voting restrictions. Arizonans face the stark choice between Democrats and Republicans, in competitive races for Governor, Secretary of State, US House, US Senate, and the state legislature among many. Will they choose to back candidates who push back against claims of election fraud? Or candidates seeking to permanently alter our political norms and emphasis on free and fair elections?

Whichever political analysis you subscribe to, the races in Arizona and across the country have never been more important. As a first time voter, I’m nervous, excited, and grateful to play a part in our sacred elections. There’s so much at stake, and the future of our country is truly hanging in the balance.

Katelyn Cai (’26) is an undergraduate student at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and a member of the Polis Student Committee. This piece was submitted as a reflection on the 2022 Midterm Elections. This content does not represent the official or unofficial views of the Sanford School, Polis, Duke University, or any entity or individual other than the author.