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Arizona has turned blue — and Trump only has himself to blame

The Independent logo The Independent 04/11/2020 Masada Siegel
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For the first time since President Clinton won the state in 1996, Arizona — traditionally a Republican state — has turned blue. The voters here have made former VP Joe Biden their choice for president and have chosen former astronaut Mark Kelly as their new senator.

Kelly, husband of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, beat Republican incumbent Martha McSally, who was appointed to the seat after the death of Senator McCain in 2018.

It’s a huge change for the personality of Arizona to have voted for Biden. Republican Senator McCain faithfully served Arizona for decades, and was hugely popular while he did so.

However, Former Arizona Attorney General and John McCain’s first Chief of Staff Grant Woods thinks that McCain would be pleased with the choice.

“I know John McCain was dismayed that so many elected Republicans placed power over principle. He had no use for Trump. They were almost exact opposites. I think John would be pleased that someone with character like Mark Kelly is replacing him rather than an enabler like McSally," Woods told me earlier tonight. "For John McCain, it was always ‘Country first. Over self. Over party.’ ”

This is a big change for the state: Arizona has leaned conservative for decades. Now with two Democratic senators representing Arizonans, when the Senate votes on key issues such as healthcare, handing Covid-19 and economic reforms, the positions taken might skew vastly more liberal than in the past. This will not only impact Arizona, but the entire nation.

For locals, it’s not entirely surprising that Kelly won. For decades, Arizona has been one of the fastest growing states in the nation in terms of population. Today, over 7 million people reside here, and their political views are diverse. Thirty-five percent of voters identify at Republican, 32 percent as Democratic, and, in line with Arizona’s Independent streak, 31 percent fall into other categories. The state once known as an ideal retirement choice is now seen as a hot place for younger workers hailing from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Many have been lured by the thriving tech industry, gorgeous weather and affordable housing options.

These changes became obvious in the 2018 November’s midterm elections, when young voters cast votes in record numbers to elect Kyrsten Sinema, the first Democrat to win a US Senate seat in Arizona in decades.

“I think Arizona going blue so fast shows that Republicans are on the wrong side of demographic trends and history. There is no long-term future in bigotry or xenophobia," Grant Woods said. “Young people and those moving to Arizona from other states want a more positive and uplifting agenda.” Woods added that he imagined McCain “might have wished his party had stayed moored by principles”, though “he would be pleased that his old friend Joe Biden” might “lead America to a better place.” It is too early for us to know, of course, whether that will come to be.

Trump’s habit of publicly insulting McCain — the state’s former presidential candidate, Vietnam War veteran, POW and war hero — had infuriated many voters in Arizona. Anecdotal evidence suggests some may have voted against Trump as a final salute to our respected senator. Indeed, one could say that McCain, known by so many as “The Maverick”, pulled his final maverick move tonight by potentially paving the way for a Biden presidency, restoring honor and integrity to politics by turning his beloved red state blue. 

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