Here’s a Handy Tool for Understanding Arizona State Politics

By Camaron Stevenson

August 29, 2023

Progress Arizona’s annual legislative Scorecard is one of the best resources for quickly understanding how lawmakers spent their time at the Capitol.

Arizona’s legislative session this year was wrought with controversial legislation, bombastic freshmen legislators, and at least one unfounded accusation tying a Utah-based religion to a Mexican drug cartel.

Despite the novella-style drama that’s become a staple of state politics, lawmakers make important decisions during each session that impact the lives of Arizonans for years to come. But it can be difficult to follow, which is why tools like Progress Arizona’s Scorecard can be a lifeline to anyone who wants to get involved, but doesn’t have the time to get a degree in legal studies.

What Exactly Is a Scorecard?

Here’s a Handy Tool for Understanding Arizona State Politics

Image via Progress Arizona Scorecard

The Scorecard is a tool developed by the progressive advocacy organization Progress Arizona. The first version was released in 2020 and it has since become an annual resource they publish after the conclusion of each year’s legislative session.

In the Scorecard, they give each member of the state legislature a ranking—zero being the lowest, 100 the highest—based on over 100 bills the group has identified as being a priority. The bills the group has focused on include topics like climate justice, education, gun safety, healthcare, housing, LGBTQ+ rights, mass incarceration, reproductive justice, and voting rights.

The Scorecard is built with easy-to-navigate filters that enable any user to quickly familiarize themselves not only with the legislature as a whole, but with their district representatives. It even includes legislators who were seated later in the session, like Chandler Rep. Julie Willoughby, who was appointed to the legislature in May.

For those interested in legislation outside the bills prioritized by Progress Arizona, the entire voting record of each legislator listed is readily available. Every bill  a lawmaker voted on is listed in the “Voting Record” section, including a simple explanation of the legislation, how they voted, and whether or not the bill had the support of Progress Arizona.

Lawmakers’ political parties, district numbers, contact information, and attendance records are also on the Scorecard. And for lawmakers who have been at the Capitol for multiple years, Scorecards are available for comparison dating back to 2020.

Here’s a Handy Tool for Understanding Arizona State Politics

Image via Progress Arizona Scorecard

Notable Scores

This year’s Scorecards were reflective of the session, which saw a host of Republican-led attacks on fundamental rights and freedoms.

“This session, we have seen legislators prioritize attacking voting rights, the LGBTQ+ community, public education, and abortion access over legislation that Arizonans actually need,” said Casey Clowes, Voting Rights Director for Progress Arizona. “Many lawmakers wasted valuable time instead of addressing the state’s pressing issues – rising costs of living, the affordable housing shortage, grossly underfunded public schools, the looming water crisis, and more.”

While it’s to be expected that conservative lawmakers would receive low marks from a progressive organization, Arizona Republicans have taken a hard shift right since 2020. Senate Majority Leader Sonny Borelli, for example, received a score of 47 in 2020. That dropped to 3 in 2023.

Other Republicans also moved away from more middle-of-the-road legislation in favor of hard-right policy. Sens. Devid Gowan, J.D. Mesnard, and even insurrection attendee Anthony Kern have all moved farther right since 2020.

Democratic lawmakers, in contrast, have been drawn more towards progressive policy over the years. While none scored lower than a 79 this year—compared with the highest-scoring Republican, with a 13—scores have steadily risen over the years.

Scottsdale Rep. Amish Shah, a Democrat who is currently running for US Congress in an attempt to unseat Republican Rep. David Schwiekert, saw his score rise from an 80 last year to an 86 this year. Phoenix Sen. Christine Marsh, who is in one of the toughest battleground districts in the state, saw her score rise by three points to 97—a near-perfect score.

Lawmakers Polarize, But One Party Sides With Voters

Alex Alvarez, executive director for Progress Arizona, believes the shift from Democrats is thanks to a strong showing by voters at the ballot box, which brought Arizona a Democratic governor and attorney general for the first time in over a decade. As a result, instead of attempting to compromise with Republicans, who have opted to favor more extreme legislation, Democrats have sought to align their votes with those whom they represent.

“Arizonans rejected extremism at the ballot box and sent our elected officials a clear mandate to address issues like fully funding public education, addressing rising costs, and fighting for abortion access,” said Alvarez. “At this critical juncture for our state, it is important to know if lawmakers prioritized the livelihoods of their constituents and fought to protect the rights of every Arizonan.”

Author

  • 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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