Now we go to Arizona!
The District: The first district is large in size and in numbers. It takes virtually the entire eastern half of the state is actually the tenth largest in the country in terms of size.
When it comes to population, the 1st has approximately 760,000 people. By comparison, that is more than the entire state of Alaska.
This district also has two other distinctions I think noteworthy:
John McCain began his political career here in the early 1980s before becoming Senator in 1988.
This has the largest Native American population of any district in America at 25%.
Unlike the other districts up to this point it is also competitive!
No candidate has gotten to the 60% threshold this century. In fact, three times this century the winner received less than 50% of the vote because of solid third party candidates.
In 2016 Trump carried this district by one percentage point (48-47).
The Incumbent: Tom O’Halleran
O’Halleran is an interesting political figure in Arizona politics. He began as a Republican state Congressman and served one term in the state senate before losing a primary to Steve Pierce.
O’Halleran stayed in politics with a radio show in Sedona, Arizona but eventually broke off the Republican party in 2014. He even ran for the sixth district seat as an independent and narrowly lost.
O’Halleran decided he had to join a team if he wanted back in the fray of politics and announced his intentions for the first district seat in 2016 as a member of the Democratic party.
Now he in just his first term after replacing fellow Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick.
Considering that this is the first legitimately tight race we have covered, O’Halleran has some big responsibilities as a member of Congress. He needs to appease Democrats angry over Trump policies without alienating independents and the more conservative voters in his district.
It may not be enough to hide out and let the chips fall where they may in 2018.
Five Thirty Eight, as you would expect, has an amazingly easy page where you can track O’Halleran’s votes compared to Trump’s stance on the issue. As you can see, O’Halleran is right about at 40% approval with Trump issues which may seem high in our age of partisanship but is actually LOWER than would be expected from someone representing a district that voted for Trump.
O’Halleran is wisely being tough on illegal immigration, especially in a state like Arizona (although he did vote against defunding sanctuary cities) while being against the health care reform.
The Challenger: Kevin Cavanaugh
Well if you wanted a clear cut conservative, Cavanaugh appears to be your guy. Look at the front page of his website here.
If you are too lazy, let’s recap his bullet points: Build the Wall, Pro-Life, NRA Member, Strong Military, Religious Freedom, Fight Islamic Terrorism.
This guy is not backing out but instead is doubling down on his conservatism.
Now a Democrat might find a bit of irony putting Pro-Life and NRA next to each other or Religious Freedom next to Islamic Terrorism but these are the core issues of Trump’s Presidency so far and therefore Cavanaugh is a strong surrogate. I mean, Trump’s campaign sign is in the top of the banner of the website.
This makes the race a great litmus test for Republicans and Trump in general.
Cavanaugh is a former Sheriff’s Chief Deputy but has never run for a political office before.
Prediction: This race is a great one to follow for a few reasons:
- It features a district that split between Trump for President but a Democrat for the House.
- It features a clear pro-Trump Republican challenger.
- The district itself is a nice microcosm of America.
O’Halleran is not a typical Democrat, shunning his Republican party back in 2014 and therefore faces the same dilemma Democrats had in 2016. Will a moderate generate the turnout to stop an openly conservative candidate?
Given the anti-Trump sentiment in large swaths of America right now, I think Democrats have the edge here. Having an incumbent certainly helps them too because of the natural advantages that come with the position.
Ultimately though, this district is a must-win for the Democrat goal of picking up 24 seats in 2018.