Chandler may be ‘top priority’ for politicos in 2020 election The Chandler Arizonan

Chandler may be ‘top priority’ for politicos in 2020 election

Chandler may be ‘top priority’ for politicos in 2020 election

By Kevin Reagan

Arizonan Staff Writer


Raghu Srinivasan’s maps of Chandler’s voting precincts have a distinct pattern to them. 

The areas north of Queen Creek Road tend to be shaded blue, while the precincts to the south are colored red. The neighborhoods surrounding City Hall lean toward Democratic candidates and the subdivisions east of Sun Lakes favor Republicans. 

This clear-cut division is earning Chandler the reputation as a region potentially swaying some of the state and federal elections in November. 

Srinivasan, an engineer, spends his free time compiling political data into colorful maps and has noticed how Chandler has changed its voting patterns in recent years.

One of his maps illustrates how Legislative District 17, which encompasses most of Chandler, is one of only two districts in Arizona to elect President Donald Trump in 2016 and then pick Democrat Kyrsten Sinema to the U.S. Senate two years later. 

Srinivasan, a registered Democrat, has lived in Chandler for the last few years and thinks its residents tend to lean toward moderate candidates who don’t present themselves as highly partisan. 

The 2018 election demonstrated how many Chandler voters are independent thinkers, Srinivasan added, and not always loyal to one political party.

“I think when you have such voters who are college-educated and who are exposed to different cultures, they’re probably more prone to splitting their vote,” he said.

Several precincts in Chandler had voters splitting their ballots in 2018 between Republican and Democratic candidates in multiple statewide elections. 

The Laredo precinct, located near Ray and Copper roads, voted for Democrat Katie Hobbs by only 12 votes, yet the precinct elected Governor Doug Ducey by nearly 400 votes. 

It was a notable shift from the 2014 election, which saw Laredo voters elect Hobbs’ predecessor, Republican Michelle Reagan, to the Secretary of State’s Office by more than 100 votes. 

Paul Lewis, an associate professor at Arizona State University’s School of Politics and Global Studies, said voter turnout in 2018 was particularly high for a midterm election and may explain some of the shifts seen in Arizona’s suburban districts.

Though Arizona’s been perceived as a reliably red state, Lewis said it has a history of being a bit of a wildcard. The state elected Democrat Janet Napolitano to the Governor’s Office to two terms, the professor noted. 

With U.S. Sen. Martha McSally having to run for re-election in 2020, Lewis thinks areas like Chandler can expect more attention from the candidates this year.

Furthermore, Lewis expects the two parties to aggressively court Arizona’s young Latino voting population.

According to the Pew Research Center, 44 percent of America’s Hispanic voters belong to the millennial generation – a share greater than any other racial or ethnic group.    

“If you look for any one factor that’s turning the state more purple,” Lewis said, “the aging into the electorate of young U.S.-born Latinos seems up there with anything else.”

Republicans still hold a large advantage over Democrats in Chandler’s 17th Legislative District. There are 13,000 more Republicans registered to vote in the district than Democrats. 

Despite this lead, Democrat Jennifer Pawlik managed to win a seat in the state House of Representatives for LD17 in 2018. 

Pawlik’s win signaled a possible change coming in the East Valley, according to Charlie Fisher, executive director of the Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.

LD17 will be a “top priority” for Democrats in 2020, Fisher added, and be considered a place where the party can pick up more seats to win Democrats a majority in the Arizona Legislature. 

A Republican has successfully won the LD17 senate seat by wide margins every election since the districts were re-drawn in 2012. But state Sen. J. D. Mesnard’s victory in 2018 was notably smaller than in previous elections. 

Mesnard beat Democrat Steve Weichert by 1,744 votes in 2018. In the 2016 general election, former Sen. Steve Yarbrough defeated Weichert by nearly 13,000 votes. 

Fisher thinks this narrower gap suggests Chandler’s proliferation of tech companies has a workforce potentially making LD17 more competitive. 

“I think the increase in high-tech jobs are bringing in folks from California and out-of-state,” Fisher said. 

Pawlik’s 2018 win has so far not inspired a flood of new Democrats to run for the other LD17 House seat. As of this month, five Republicans have filed statements of interest to run in the LD17 House races and Pawlik’s the only Democrat to file.

The party will be investing time and resources to protect Pawlik’s seat, Fisher added, which means reaching out to the 51,362 independent voters living in LD17.

“We can’t just go talk to Democrats and make sure they’re voting and expect to win,” he said.

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