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Why Are Arizona

Democrats Smiling?

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Kyrsten Sinema greets an adoring crowd Tuesday night in downtown Phoenix.
The Forever Minority Party In The Grand Canyon State Might Not Control Any Major State Office, But After The 2012 Election, They Are More Relevant Than Ever

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By John Guzzon
Modern Times Magazine

Nov. 8, 2012 — For most Arizonans, Tuesday night was all about Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

But the 2012 election might very well be remembered by history as the year when republicans lost control of Arizona politics. Yes, Sheriff Joe Arpaio is still in power, and both houses of the state legislature will continue to be controlled by a conservative majority.

Regardless, nearly everywhere else gains are abundant.

In the Arizona house of representatives, there will be seven more democrats, bringing the party breakdown of that body to 34 republicans and 26 democrats. In the Arizona Senate, there are now 17 republicans and 13 democrats.

In the last session, republicans held a 40-19 advantage in the house of representatives and a 21-9 advantage in the senate. Those were supermajority levels.

Tea party republicans used those vast majorities to pass and propose a whole host of ideologically-based legislative actions.

Many hope the new makeup of the Arizona legislature will bring about a rebirth in cooperation since moderates can truly wield their power.

But even those symbolic wins would not create the gushing grins plastered to the faces of Arizona democrats Tuesday night and Wednesday.

There was even better news for democrats in the results in voting for the Arizona Congressional delegation.

From 2010 to 2012, there were five republican congresspeople and three democrats. As of Wednesday night, the count is four republicans, and three democrats. Two seats remain too close to call, but are looking like they may fall to democrats, too: Martha McSally and Ron Barber in District No. 2, and Kyrsten Sinema and Vernon Parker in District No. 9. Barber trailed by about 1,300 votes on election night, but as of late Wednesday, he had cut McSally’s lead to 300 votes. Nearly 40,000 early ballots remain to be counted in this race and those that had been counted were trending for Barber.

In District No. 2, Sinema led Parker by about 2,000 votes on election night which grew by about 700 votes by Wednesday night. And, the same scenario is playing out as in District No. 2. There are at least 100,000 provisional, mail-in and early ballots yet to be counted in Maricopa County and democrats have an advantage among those voters this cycle.

And, if both Sinema and Barber do end up coming out on top — in a few days or a few weeks, but eventually — Arizona democrats will hold more congressional seats than republicans for only the second time since 1949. The other time, 2009-2010, was a mere blip on the radar screen. This time, though, there is a chance this new majority might be the new business as usual.

Well, at least for the next 10 years.


But one of the biggest repudiations of the night for far-right republicans in the state had to be the resounding defeat of Proposition 120, which would have declared the state had sovereign rights over air, land and water. The proposition was supported by hard-right folks like Sen. Sylvia Allen and Rep. Debbie Lesko and former Senate president Russell Pearce and others who actually think states can just decide they don’t want to participate in the federal system when they don’t want to. The goal was to open he state up to every crazy mining, logging and possibly polluting activity if that industry made money at it. You know, things like uranium mining in the Grand Canyon and unlimited logging along the Mogollon Rim.

The defeat of Prop. 120 — by more than 500,000 votes is a mandate for the end of kooky republicans.

For all of those reasons and more — see Antenori, Frank — smiles are easy to come by for democrats right now.

But amid the happiness, is what should be a sobering reality.

Yes, democrats are heralding the gains in the state legislature and Congressional delegation, but those gains are not really a case of the state “turning blue” as it is that the new boundaries drawn up by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission early this year provided a more accurate and competitive landscape.

Although republicans have bemoaned the fact that this time around they weren't operating with a rigged deck, the truth is the new boundaries are, in a word, fair.

The old boundaries resulted in a greater number of districts that skewed republican for no other reason but domination. The 2012 election is the first result of a truly independent redistricting commission.

Republicans were so mad at the fact that the Arizona Commission on Judicial Appointments selected a “closet democrat” in Colleen Mathis to chair the commission — and thereby make the commission democratically controlled, that they initiated a slew of ways to make sure it never happened again once they failed in having her removed.

First they were going to add more members, then they were going to try to do away with the “independent commission” altogether and bring that power back to the legislature.

Who needs independence, anyway?

Finally, they were trying to get the governor to appoint the members of the commission on judicial appointments that makes suggestions as to who should be the chair — a prime function of Proposition 115. That was a “two birds with one stone” idea that would also have served to restrict “liberal” judges.

But with the defeat of Prop. 115, that is over.

Both sides knew that the both the legislature and Congressional delegation would likely have more democrats, but when 10 years of ideological nonsense takes over your state capitol and that dark cloud is finally lifted, it is somewhat akin to the residents of Oz realizing the wicked witch of the west was dead in The Wizard of Oz.

And for most democrats, Kyrsten Sinema was filling in nice for Dorothy.

But Sinema isn’t home just yet. Vernon Parker still stands in her way.

Where’s Glinda with the ruby slippers already?

Oz is ready to party.

John Guzzon is editor of Modern Times Magazine.
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