PHOENIX (AP) — Democrats have been asking the question for a long time: Is this the year Arizona turns blue? In 2020, the answer was “yes.”
Joe Biden won Arizona’s 11 electoral votes for president and Mark Kelly won a seat in the U.S. Senate, ushering in an era of Democratic leadership not seen since Republicans dominated the 1952 election in the state.
Whether Democrats would also dominate lower on the ballot was less clear — with key races for the U.S. House, the state Legislature and the state utility regulator up in the air but within reach for Democrats.
But Arizona voters decided to legalize recreational marijuana sales four years after rejecting it, going against the Republican political establishment opposed to having the state join other U.S. states with legal weed.
Voters also appeared poised to approve a tax increase for the wealthy to pay more to fund financially hurting schools. That was a strong rebuke for Republican Gov. Doug Ducey and the state’s business community that spent millions campaigning against the tax.
The outcome delighted Democrats and was sure to bring a reckoning for Republicans who have enjoyed decades of dominance in Arizona politics.
“Now people recognize that Arizona is in play, will always be in play,” said U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Phoenix Democrat who comfortably won reelection.
In turning toward friendly territory for Democrats, Arizona is following a path blazed by its neighbors Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. It’s also the Democrats’ brightest light among the Sun Belt states they tried to flip from the GOP this year.
A decade of work organizing Latinos to vote helped Arizona Democrats outperform other states where Democrats came up short, Gallego said.
Arizona Democrats benefited from the state’s changing demographics — with more young people and