By Jim Ellis
Jan. 4, 2022 — The Grand Canyon State of Arizona was one of the places to complete the redistricting process toward the end of 2021 when the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission members approved a new congressional plan. The new district boundaries will create one of the most competitive US House maps in the country.
The current 5D-4R map could easily swing from 6D-3R all the way to 3D-6R depending upon the political winds in any given election year. Among the current incumbents, Reps. Tom O’Halleran (D-Sedona), David Schweikert (R-Fountain Hills), and Greg Stanton (D-Phoenix) all see more competitive new seats.
The commission members also changed the district numbers, making voter history comparisons a bit more confusing. They did provide political data that summarizes certain past elections for each new seat, however. The data chart covers 10 statewide race results from 2016 through 2020.
Rep. O’Halleran’s 1st District, which stretches throughout most of eastern Arizona, is now labeled #2 and becomes much more Republican despite adding Native American population. In fact, the historical average is majority Republican, at 53.6 percent. The FiveThirtyEight statistical projection rates the new 2nd as the fourth most Republican district in the state at R+15.
Under the previous map, FiveThirtyEight rated the O’Halleran seat at R+8. Rep. O’Halleran, though acknowledging he will have a more difficult re-election battle, has already announced that he will run in the new 2nd.
Prior to the map release, two-term GOP state Rep. Walt Blackman, a Bronze Star Medal recipient for combat in Iraq and the first African American Republican to be elected to the state House, announced for the congressional seat, and now appears to be in even stronger political position opposite Rep. O’Halleran.
Rep. Schweikert’s 6th District electorate that includes the Scottsdale area, returned him for a sixth term with only a 52-48 percent margin in a CD that FiveThirtyEight rated R+13. The new 1st District has a 51.3 percent Republican average vote. The FiveThirtyEight rating for the new confines is R+7, meaning that Schweikert can again expect a competitive general election challenge.
Prior to the redistricting map release, the most formidable Democrat lining up against Rep. Schweikert appeared to be former Phoenix Suns basketball club executive Adam Metzendorf. In a more competitive political situation, expect stronger Democratic candidates to step forward.
Rep. Stanton, the former Phoenix mayor, now sees a new 4th District that produces a composite Democratic vote of 53.5 percent, but the FiveThirtyEight rating is only D+1. Previously, Rep. Stanton’s 9th CD posted a D+15 calculation. The rating suggests the new 4th District will also produce competitive general election campaigns.
A total of 12 Republicans had announced their candidacies in anticipation of the former 9th District becoming more favorable for a GOP nominee. Among the dozen, former NFL player and pastor Jerone Davison and attorney and former Phoenix Suns executive Tanya Wheeless appear to be the top contenders. The field may change, however, now that the district is defined and firmly more competitive. Additionally, Rep. Stanton had been rumored to be considering running in the open attorney general’s contest. He may believe the new congressional map makes a statewide run more attractive.
In other districts, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick’s (D-Tucson) open 2nd District now is numbered 6, and sees a 51.2 percent Republican composite score. Previously, FiveThirtyEight rated the 2nd as D+2. The new 6th is characterized as a R+7. We can expect a highly competitive open race here in 2022. A total of 11 Democrats and 17 Republicans had already announced for the seat, but the field will likely change under final district lines.
Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Tucson) and Ruben Gallego (D-Phoenix) get safe Democratic seats, but swap district numbers. Rep. Grijalva will be in District 7 instead of 3, while the opposite is true for Rep. Gallego. Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Gilbert) and Debbie Lasko (R-Peoria) both get safe Republican seats and keep their respective 5 and 8 district numbers.
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Prescott) is technically paired with Rep. O’Halleran in new District 2, but he can run in the new 9th that hugs the California border, which contains much territory that he currently represents. The seat is safely Republican but he could be highly vulnerable to a primary challenge.