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Analysis: The Battle for the Legislature

Updated: May 9, 2023

The Money Race for the Arizona House and Senate

While many people are focused on the thermometer blowing past the 110-degree mark, there’s something else that is heating up: the race for the State Legislature.

While most eyes in Arizona on Election Day 2020 will be on the competitive Presidential and Senate races here, perhaps the most impactful races will be further down the ticket. The battle for the State Legislature is shaping up to be one of the most competitive Arizona has seen in decades, with realistic chances for either party to win both chambers.

Democrats are leading the cash race for the State House with a Blue majority the closest it has been since the late-1960s. Republicans are still dominant, however, in the State Senate – leading Democrats by more than $1 million overall in an attempt to fend off Democratic control of this body for the first time since the early-1990s.

State House

With 31 seats, Arizona Republicans hold the slimmest majority in the 60-seat lower chamber of the Arizona Legislature as possible and are at risk of falling out of power for the first time in several generations. Not since 1966 have Democrats been in the majority in the State House, but if trends continue, they are going to have the best chance they have had in years to turn the chamber blue. Given public polling of State Legislative Districts is a scarce commodity, one of the better barometers of the race is to look at the state of the cash race there.

While Democrats make up all of the Top 3 best fundraisers, overall, both parties are in a fundraising dead heat. Arizona House Democrats (both challengers and incumbents) hold a narrow $100k lead over their Republican counterparts.

However, not all districts are created equally. There are a select few seats that have the potential to flip control between parties and thus control of the chamber itself. In these “competitive seats” – seats that were determined by less than 5 points in the 2018 Election – the Democrats’ fundraising lead is much larger than it is statewide.

In these districts (LDs 6, 7, 10, 17, 18, 20, 23, and 28), Arizona Republicans are being outraised almost 2:1. While this disparity may seem sharp at first, taking the fact that 9 of the 16 incumbents in these seats are Democrats to some degree to explain the difference between the two parties. After all, incumbents traditionally have an easier time fundraising than most challengers. Republicans make up 44% of the incumbents in these seats, but they currently have less than 38% of the money.

State Senate

Arizona Republicans are in a much better position in their defense of the State Senate. Currently, the party holds 17 out of the 30 total seats. Not only is the GOP in a better starting position – it is easier for an incumbent to defend a seat than for a challenger to flip one – they have a clear cash advantage, as well.

In an almost 180-degree reversal from the state of the House Race, Republicans comprise 6 of the top 10 most prolific fundraisers in the Senate as well as the entirety of the Top 3. Across all Senate races, Republicans are in an enviable position as well. As a whole, Republican State Senate candidates have taken in nearly double the amount of money as Democrats. This stands in stark comparison to the race for the House where Democrats hold a slim fundraising edge overall.

Exclude non-competitive seats from consideration and Republicans still retain their edge. In seats where the winner was decided by less than 5 points in 2018 (LDs 6, 17, 20, 21, and 28) Republicans are again outraising Democrats. However, this number is inflated by a very competitive primary in LD 6 where Republican Wendy Rogers is attempting to oust incumbent Senator Sylvia Allen. Together, the two candidates have raised more than $600k and account for more than half of the Republican money raised in these districts. That being said, even if Wendy Rogers’ total was excluded from consideration, Republicans would still be outraising Democrats by more than $100k in these seats. 

Stay tuned to OHPI – your one-stop shop for Arizona research – to get more in-depth analysis, like this, as election season heats up in the Grand Canyon State. 

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