by jake hinman, director of government affairs for capitol consulting
The Midterm elections are quickly approaching and many offices--- from U.S. Senate all the way down to local city council members---will be on this year’s ballot. This year’s midterm election could not only have a dramatic effect in Washington, but some are even speculating that Arizona could also see some changes in several key races.
If historical trends for midterm elections and the party controlling the White House holdup, then the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives could be in store for some changes. After all, in the modern era of the U.S. presidency, presidents have generally seen significant changes in the House and Senate between presidential elections. President Reagan in 1986, Clinton in 1994, Bush in 2006 and Obama in 2010 all experienced presidential midterm setbacks. Few exceptions to the rule have occurred: Clinton in 1998 and Bush in 2002.
It certainly won’t take much for democrats to regain some control in Washington, most notably in the Senate where the GOP maintains a narrow margin of control with 51 seats to the democrats 47 (two members are left-leaning independents). The House may be steeper hill for democrats to climb as twenty-four seats would need to flip in order to shift the chamber’s balance of power.
What will be the determining factor in Arizona? Simple---voter turnout. Traditionally, midterm gubernatorial elections in Arizona result in low voter turnout. Will 2018 buck the trend? If history is the guide, then the answer is, quite simply, no. But some factors could make 2018 unique. Voters may be more energized than usual due to the Trump presidency, the prospects of the top-of-the-ballot candidates (think U.S. Senate), the “Red for Ed” movement, and certain ballot propositions; all of which could result more voter participation.
As far as the numbers go, there are currently 3,610,377 registered voters in Arizona. Of those voters, 1,258,994 are registered republicans. Believe it or not, independents represent Arizona’s second largest voting block with 1,223,219 Arizonans not designating a political preference. Democrats come in third with 1,090,310 registered voters. As an interesting aside, our state’s population currently sits at around 7,016,270 Arizonans with roughly 23% of the population below eighteen years of age. That means nearly 1.8 million Arizonans are eligible to vote, but cannot participate in elections because they simply are not registered!
Historically, primary elections in Arizona produce low voter turnout. The last gubernatorial/midterm primary (2014) in Arizona saw a 27% turnout by registered voters. The general election that same year, 48% of the registered voters actually cast a ballot. For comparison sakes, our last presidential election (2016) boosted voter turnout in Arizona to 29% in the primary and all the way to 71% in the general election.
So while midterms traditionally result in changes in Congress, the real question is, how will state legislatures, including Arizona’s, fare?
After the 2016 presidential elections, republicans around the country retained their commanding control of 68 out of 99 legislative chambers across the country (Nebraska has a nonpartisan single-chamber legislature), the highest number in the history of the republican party. Republicans also gained full control of 33 out of 50 legislatures (i.e. the party controls both the House and Senate), to the democrat’s control of thirteen.
Arizona has a long-standing history of electing GOP-controlled legislatures and governors. In fact, one would need to go all the way back to 1966, to find the last time democrats held control of the Arizona legislature.
Will republicans maintain control of the Arizona legislature in 2018?
That’s certainly the burning question on every Arizona political insider’s mind. Democrats need to flip three seats in the Arizona Senate and six seats in the House to achieve the majorities and control of the respective chambers. While most insiders seem to agree that chances of the House flipping are slim to none, the Senate may be a different story--- though even a complete shift to democratic control is still a bit of a long-shot. Perhaps the more realistic (but still somewhat of a stretch) scenario is that democrats gain two more seats in the Senate and create a 15-15 split, a rarity that hasn’t occurred in Arizona since the year 2000.
Local politics matter
State and local elections are critically important to the apartment industry since many important issues---property taxes, utility rates, landlord-tenant laws, licensure requirements, building codes etc.--- are all decided by the state legislature and local city councils.
Whether it was a proposal to prohibit landlords from restricting residents from bringing firearms into the common areas of apartments, requiring leasing agents to verify immigration status of all prospective residents, requiring that all routine maintenance in apartment communities be performed by licensed contractors, or even the recent legislative victory for the AMA related to tenant’s abandoned property, elected officials have considered numerous proposals that have or would have had a direct impact on the industry.
This is why the AMA places such an emphasis on supporting candidates that are receptive to the needs of the apartment industry and why the AMA strongly recommends that members consider AMAPAC endorsed elections when heading to the polls in August.
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