Republican’s Majority in the State House Could Hinge on These Three Districts

With Democrats eyeing November pickups they hope will give them control of the Arizona Legislature for the first time in decades, business interests are pumping cash into their primaries. But the biggest knock-down, drag-out primary fight pits two sitting lawmakers in a Republican north Phoenix district battling for the soul of the GOP base. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

By Camaron Stevenson

September 3, 2020

Here are three races that could end the Republican trifecta over Arizona’s state government.

The Republican advantage in Arizona’s state legislature has slowly diminished over the past several years, with a Democratic majority in sight for the first time in over two decades. 

Here are three races that could end the Republican trifecta over Arizona’s state government.

Legislative District 6

Four candidates with vastly different backgrounds seek to fill two state House seats representing Legislative District 6. Rep. Walt Blackman (R-Snowflake) is the lone incumbent, whose recent public comments regarding the Black Lives Matter movement and women’s health have been the subject of controversy. 

Though both seats are currently held by Republicans, Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans is hoping to change that. Running as a Democrat, Evans has stood alongside Tucson Mayor Regina Romero and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, calling on state and federal leadership to put in place for stronger public health measures as a way to slow the spread of the virus.

Running as an Independent Coconino Board of Supervisor Art Babbott told Payson Roundup that he hopes to be a bipartisan bridge at the legislator. If elected, Abbott would be the only Independent in the state House.

Brenda Barton, a Republican who formerly represented the district from 2013 until she was termed out in 2019, entered the race in December. She has recently been on the campaign trail with Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward and U.S. Senator Martha McSally. While the Arizona Daily Sun reports that she hasn’t been speaking at campaign events, Ward has spoken about the race, mainly attacking Evans’ leadership at Flagstaff City Hall.

Legislative District 17

Both state House members representing Legislative District 17 are running for reelection: Rep. Jeff Weninger (R-Chandler) and Rep. Jennifer Pawlik (D-Chandler). Pawlik, first elected in 2018, is the first Democrat and first woman to ever represent the district in the House. Pawlik ran and lost in 2016, but went on to get the highest number of votes in 2018, signaling a Democratic shift in the area.

Hoping to help Republicans regain control of the District is Liz Harris. Harris, also a Chandler resident, is running on a platform of increased border security, opposition to raising taxes, and laws that would restrict women’s health rights. 

Weninger, who has been in the legislature since 2015, previously served two terms on the Chandler City Council. Weninger has often shown himself to support legislation favorable to businesses, including a bill that would have given business owners COVID-19 liabilities, and a history of opposition to raising unemployment benefits in the state.

Legislative District 20

Also running to upset the Republican stronghold on her district is Judy Schwiebert. Schwiebert, a teacher who supports increased funding for Arizona’s education system, is running against incumbents Rep. Shawnna Bolick (R-Phoenix) and Anthony Kern (R-Phoenix). Schwiebert received the highest number of votes in the August Primary Election and has also received the highest number of contributions than both of the other candidates.

Kern, who sided with Weninger in COVID-19 liability protection for businesses, has also been a fervent opponent of public health laws during the pandemic. During a debate last month, Kern admitted to mocking Mayor Gallego for implementing protective measures such as business closures and face-covering requirements, both of which have been proven to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Bolick, whose husband is a justice on the Arizona Supreme Court, nearly lost her spot on the ballot after she broke three campaign laws while filing to run for office, according to the Arizona Republic. The state’s highest court in the land made the final decision to allow Bolick to stay on the ballot. Her husband, Justice Clint Bolick, recused himself from the hearing.


  • Camaron Stevenson

    Camaron is the Founding Editor and Chief Political Correspondent for The Copper Courier, and has worked as a journalist in Phoenix for over a decade. He also teaches multimedia journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.



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