The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission voted on Dec. 22 to approve a new nine-district congressional map for the state. Among the changes was redrawing the boundary of the district in which Page is located to include more Republican voters, as well as changing its designation from the 1st District to the 2nd District.
According to FiveThirtyEight, a website that focuses on political and sports analysis, the new state map creates “four solid Republican-leaning seats and two solid Democratic-leaning seats with three competitive districts, two of which are Republican-leaning and one that is more of a ‘toss-up.’”
The website noted that Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran’s district “gets a lot redder under this map, going from R+6 to R+15,” referring to the number of percentage points by which Republican candidates are likely to win elections.
According to an analysis by Bloomberg News, the new congressional map could lead to GOP gains in this year’s mid-term election on Nov. 8.
“We have a map on the table that is not perfect but yet I think encompasses many compromises and does more good than harm to our collective communities of interest,” Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission chair Erika Neuberg was quoted as saying before the vote on Dec. 22.
In the 2020 general election, Arizona’s 1st District voted for Joe Biden by 50% to 48%. Had the 2nd District been in place at that time, it would have voted for Donald Trump by 53% to 45%. O’Halleran, who has served as the U.S. representative for what was formerly Arizona’s 1st congressional district since 2017, was reelected in 2020 by 52% to 48%.
The news website Politico reported that the new map might pose a challenge for O’Halleran’s reelection efforts.
“The biggest unknown now is the fate of Rep. Tom O’Halleran, a three-term Democratic moderate, who must decide whether to seek reelection in a district that became significantly more Republican, or retire,” the website reported.
But retirement does seem to be on the mind of O’Halleran, who released a statement on Dec. 22 declaring, “I am running to represent AZ-02 in 2022.”
“We know this race will be tough, but I've never been one to back away from a tough race before, and I don't intend to now,” he said. “Even though our district is changing, the heart of rural Arizona remains intact in AZ-02. The families that live in our district are unique in their backgrounds, their careers, their creeds, and their political beliefs, but they are united by the maverick spirit of our wild, western lands.”
In the Nov. 8 general election, O’Halleran will likely face Republican candidate Eli Crane or Walt Blackman. Crane and Blackman will vie for the Republican nomination in the state primary election on Aug. 2.
Crane also released a statement on Dec. 22 declaring his intention to campaign to represent the 2nd District in Washington.
“In Congress, I will stand on principle against career politicians and special interests,” he said. “Arizona values are conservative values and it’s time for a congressman who isn’t afraid to fight and knows how to win. I will work day and night to earn every vote in the new AZ-02.”
On the same day, Blackman released his own statement declaring himself “the clear and unambiguous frontrunner in both the primary and general election” for the new district.
“Blackman is now the only credible candidate in the Republican primary who lives in the new 2nd District,” the statement said. “The new 2nd District includes much of Blackman’s state house district which he has represented since 2019.”
Although Democrats currently control five of Arizona’s nine seats, the party will likely face short-term losses in the current political climate, Politico reported last month, adding, “but the new map, drawn over several months by a bipartisan panel of commissioners and adopted unanimously, ensures the state will continue to be a top House battleground for the next decade.”
“The map achieves what Democrats say they want nationally. It maximizes the number of competitive seats in Arizona,” Adam Kincaid, executive director of the National Republican Redistricting Trust, was reported as saying. “There's three good Republican seats. There’s two or three good Democrat seats. And then there's three to five competitive seats, depending on the cycle.”
However, Charlie Fisher, executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party, and Liz Luna, executive director of the Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, released a statement on Dec. 22 claiming that the redistricting process was “rigged from the start” and vowing to “examine every legal remedy available to fight for fair and competitive maps for Arizona voters.”
“Our constitution protects Arizona voters from political gerrymandering, but today’s maps give Republicans an unfair advantage that is not reflective of recent voter trends. Arizona is no longer a red state. Over the last few years, we have seen eight statewide elections decided by less than a 3.5% margin, with four, including the 2020 Presidential election, decided by less than 1%,” the statement said.
“Democratic Commissioners Shereen Lerner and Derrick Watchman negotiated in good faith with their Republican colleagues, expecting Independent Chair Erika Neuberg to fairly weigh the interests of Arizonans. Instead, they were stonewalled by a chair who sided with Republicans on nearly every major split vote.”