Arizona, Come and Rock The Single Shot

5 mins read

The Arizona House is one of the best chances for us to flip a chamber this year. Republicans hold just a one-seat majority in the chamber and there are a plethora of Democratic targets. But, the nature of State House elections in the Copper State leave very little room for error. Let’s find out why.

Arizona has 30 legislative districts – each electing one senator and two representatives. In House races, the top two finishers win their seats, regardless of party. But the parties don’t always nominate two candidates. In 2018, FNF commissioned a study that showed that when a party nominates only one person for a legislative district it can increase their vote share by up to 5%.

Of course, that decision, commonly referred to as single-shotting, has a huge drawback. You may increase your vote share for one seat by 5%, but you reduce your vote share for the other to 0%, along with your chance to win both districts.

Heading into 2020, there were three legislative districts represented by five total House Republicans where Kyrsten Sinema either won or came very close in 2018 – the 6th, 17th and 20th. If Democrats flip all of the seats in these districts they’d control the House 34-26. If they flip one seat in each district through single-shotting, they’d control the House 31-29. A majority is a majority, but single-shotting leaves you with little margin for error. All it takes is one misstep for you to be left with slim chance at flipping the House. But single-shotting does increase the odds of winning an individual seat. And I suspect that’s why Arizona Democrats opted to single-shot all of those districts.

Also we need a bit of explanation on our electoral maps. It’s difficult to register the ratings for both seats on the same map so I’ll give two below. In Arizona, the seat within a district that a Democrat is more likely to win is called the “A” seat while the district that a Republican is more likely to win is called the “B” seat. So in the 17th, which is represented by Democrat Jennifer Pawlik and Republican Jeff Weninger, Pawlik holds seat 17A and Weninger holds seat 17B.

So with that out of the way let’s go to the maps!

A Line Seats

And with Phoenix dwarfed geographically by the rest of the state let’s zoom in on Maricopa County a little more closely.

And here’s the B line of seats

Again, let’s enhance the view for Phoenix to take a closer look at those districts.

Safe Democratic: 22 Seats

Considering they only held 20 House seats after the 2010 elections, it’s notable just how far Democrats have come here.

Lean Democratic: 5 

As in the Senate, these are suburban seats that Democrats have solidified their position in during the Trump era but they aren’t safe yet.

Tilt Democratic: 2

2018 FNF endorsees Jennifer Pawlik and Aaron Lieberman have done a great job standing up to radical right wingers in the Arizona House and advocating to improve their constituents’ lives, but as freshman legislators they’re a little more endangered than the district fundamentals may indicate.

Tossup: 2

As noted above, Democrats are foregoing the possibility of sweeping the House seats in the 6th and 20th to have a better chance at splitting the delegations with Republicans. Of these two seats, they probably have a slightly better chance at the 20th because there’s an independent candidate running in the 6th that conservative voters disgruntled with the Republican choices (such as the candidate who compared President Obama to Hitler) could still vote for instead of the Democrat.

Lean Republican: 5

Of course, the 6th is marginal enough that the independent candidate could still win, which is why it’s listed as Lean Republican.  As are the 8th, 15th, 21st and 23rd: Democrats are single-shotting all of them — so while the districts all normally favor Republicans there’s a chance a Democrat catches lightning somewhere in the Phoenix suburbs.  Perhaps the likeliest place for them to do so is the 23rd, represented by the bizarre Jay Lawrence.

And that’s the lay of the land in Arizona.  If you appreciated this in-depth explainer then, as always, tips are welcome.


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