Editor’s Note: This post was written by Kevin Callanan, Bailey Alton, and Stella Pabis.
The projected winner of Arizona’s 1st Congressional District is Democratic nominee Tom O’Halleran for a myriad of reasons both national and local including money, identity politics and voting patterns, endorsements including support of the incumbent, and third-party defection. We predict that results of the election will remain relatively close with O’Hallaren receiving 53.3% percent of the vote, and Babeu ending up with 46.7% of the vote.
The relationship between this district’s Republican nominee Paul Babeu and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, as well as a host of scandals linked to Babeu’s name, put the Republican congressional candidate at a severe disadvantage come this November. Although some voters will defect to third-party candidates in this district, Libertarian Kim Allen for example, third-party candidates will not have a significant impact on the race.
Arizona’s 1st Congressional District is wide open this election cycle, as incumbent Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) is the Democratic Senatorial opponent to John McCain (R-AZ). This leaves the district open to a heated battle between Babeu and O’Halleran. Firstly, Arizona’s 1st District is geographically diverse. It encompasses larger cities such as Flagstaff, suburban areas, and parts of the Grand Canyon, in comparison to Congressional Districts 5 through 9 which are broken up sections of Phoenix, Arizona. Secondly, based on previous election results, this district has swung for both Republicans and Democrats within the past four election cycles. Kirkpatrick’s 2014 victory can be attributed to her incumbent status, but due to a decrease in incumbency advantage and the fact that there is no incumbent in this race, Babeu and O’Halleran both have a chance at victory. Thirdly, Babeu and O’Halleran are both considered quality candidates as both hold or have held elected office before: Babeu is a sheriff and O’Halleran is a former state legislator. Fourthly, there is further influence from the national election as former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton is polling better in Arizona than Democrats typically do in presidential elections. These factors combined allow Arizona’s 1st Congressional District race to be competitive this election season.
O’Halleran has held representative elected office before, where he has not been accused of any indiscretions and has policymaking experience. Babeu, on the other hand, has more enforcement-based experience that may not resonate as well with voters. While constituents do interact with law enforcement more regularly, O’Halleran has a voting record for constituents to evaluate. Equally, when Babeu has engaged in a scandal, it is highly visible due to his relationship with the law and interactions with the constituents themselves.
Third-party nominee Kim Allen may cause Babeu to lose a significant number of votes. Even as a write-in candidate in 2012, she received 6.1% of the vote. This may cause a plurality instead of a majority, like the 2012 election. This is what the single poll conducted shows as well, according to Global Strategy Group. However, this poll was administered before Trump’s 2005 comments were released. This may lead to further defection to Allen.
Money talks and O’Halleran has more of it. O’Halleran has more PAC money than Babeu and there has been remarkably more spending from independent expenditures in support of O’Halleran and in opposition to Babeu through negative advertising. Simultaneously, O’Halleran has more endorsements overall including the New Dems PAC in the House and incumbent Rep. Kirkpatrick.
Finally, with a high Native American and Hispanic population, the lean towards voting for Democrats is strong in the district. Identity politics speak volumes. Voters tend to select the candidate that will represent and further the interest of that group. Specifically speaking to Native Americans, who account for 23% of the district’s population, Northeastern State University professors Jeonghun Min and Daniel Savage analyze why Native Americans vote Democrat. They examined a district in Oklahoma with a Native American population of 18%. They found that Native Americans supported Democrat candidates a majority of the time and more than 30% responded that socioeconomic factors affected their decision. This study can help indicate how the Native American population in the Arizona 1st District may vote. O’Halleran supports the DREAM Act that allows children who have been brought over illegally the opportunity to access education. This speaks to many of the Hispanic voters in the district. Babeu has been incredibly vocal on his anti-immigration stance.
Overall, O’Halleran has run the most comprehensive campaign between all four of the candidates.