After overcoming strong Democratic challenges in both 2018 and 2020, Republicans currently hold slim majorities in both chambers in the Arizona State Legislature. With 2022 looking like a strong Republican year nationwide, state Republicans are looking to rebound into more comfortable majorities, and early signs seem to point toward that happening. Due to a variety of factors – including a new and mostly favorable legislative map – Arizona Republicans start off the cycle with a significant advantage in the battle for the state legislature.
As mentioned above, there has been a decennial redraw of the state legislative map (which is used for both the Arizona State Senate and the Arizona State House elections). The final map produced by the Independent Commission was quite favorable for Republicans compared to the previous map. Despite the topline result remaining at 15 Biden seats and 15 Trump seats, the number of double-digit Biden seats has decreased from 14 to 12. Thanks to an unfavorable national environment and downballot voting patterns, this will significantly hurt Arizona Democrats in the legislature, and it may make winning either chamber later in the decade more difficult.
Due to the complicated nature of Arizona State House elections, this article will only be covering the key races in the Arizona State Senate. One would expect the Democrats to have a better shot at breaking the GOP majority in the State House, but Republicans retain a strong advantage in both chambers.
Arizona State Senate Ratings
Likely Democratic seats
LD12: The 12th is a rapidly left-trending Clinton +11/Biden +19 district located in the Southern Phoenix suburbs. Given the context of 2022, Republicans will retain one last, albeit narrow chance of winning this district. This is now an open seat after the retirement of incumbent Democratic Senator Sean Bowie. As expected, State Representative Mitzi Epstein (D) is running for this seat and starts off as a strong favorite. This is a seat that would quickly move into the Safe Democratic column if Republicans fail to put up a strong candidate.
LD23: At Biden +14, the 23rd is the only of six majority Hispanic districts which could be considered at least somewhat competitive. The seat is open, with Democratic State Representative Brian Fernandez the major candidate in the race. Any hope for a Republican to win this district would likely involve extremely depressed Hispanic turnout. There may be depressed Hispanic turnout in a Biden midterm, but probably not nearly to the extent for a Biden +14 seat to flip.
Likely Republican seats
LD2: A Sinema/Kelly/Trump open seat in Northern Phoenix and the tipping point for outright Democratic control of the chamber, the 2nd district is an extremely competitive seat on paper. However, this is not looking like a highly competitive seat this year. To start, Arizona State Legislative Republicans remain more electorally formidable than their federal counterparts, as they concurrently outran former President Trump in every Senate seat in 2020 with only two exceptions. Secondly, Republicans have landed a credible recruit in State Representative Steve Kaiser. A favorable national environment will further tip this Trump +2 seat toward the Republican column.
LD13: The new 13th district largely resembles the old 17th, based in Chandler, Sun Lakes, and parts of Gilbert. Both districts are similar in partisanship, with President Biden carrying the old district by 4 points and the new district by 3 points. It’s currently held by Republican Senator J.D. Mesnard. Mesnard had quite a strong performance in 2020, winning by five points and running ahead of Former President Trump by nearly 9%. The only Senate Republican to hold a Biden-won seat, he holds the tipping point seat for Republican control of the chamber. Given his impressive performance in 2020, it is difficult to see how he may lose this race against a Democratic opponent in a more favorable environment like 2022. This starts off the cycle as a Likely Republican hold.
LD16: The 16th is a geographically vast seat located primarily in Pinal County, stretching all the way from a native reservation in Maricopa down to the Tucson suburbs. At Trump+4, the district is not expected to be very competitive in 2022, but it may get more interesting later in the decade. The new incumbent here is Republican Senator T. J. Shope, who was redistricted into this seat from the old 8th district.
LD17: The new legislative map has gifted Republicans an extra seat in the Tucson area, with the number of Biden-won seats here going from four to three. The newly-created Republican seat here is the new 17th, now home to Arizona Senate PPT Vince Leach (R). Leach is quite far to the right and his district is only Trump+4, so he may become a top Democratic target in more favorable Democratic election cycles. For now, however, he starts as a strong favorite for reelection.
Leans Republican seats
LD4: One of the marquee races this cycle will be taking place in the new 4th district, where incumbent Senators Nancy Barto (R-LD15) and Christine Marsh (D-LD28) have been double-bunked. The district mostly resembles the old 28th, but takes in new territory from Scottsdale and cedes some of Phoenix, making it decidedly more Republican, going from Biden+11.8 on the old map to only Biden+0.8 on the new map. Two years ago, Marsh defeated Former Senate Senator Kate Brophy McGee (R) by a nail-biting 497 votes. Two years later, she’ll have to run for reelection against another incumbent in a significantly redder district. The unfavorable environment expected in 2022 will not help her cause. Barto, on the other hand, has taken some far-right positions, having discouraged COVID vaccination and supported former President Trump’s false claims of election fraud in Arizona. However, she has been quite right-wing for some time and it has yet to translate into electoral underperformance. A Democratic upset is possible, but Republicans start off as favorites to win the new 4th.
LD9: Perhaps the most competitive seat on the map, the 9th is a newly configured seat centered in Mesa. At Biden+6 and 33% Hispanic, Democrats have a good chance of winning this district, even in the context of 2022. But Republicans have a strong incumbent, with Senator Tyler Pace being redistricted here from the old 25th. Pace is a decently strong candidate, overperforming former President Trump by 6 points on the same ticket in 2020. It is unclear who Pace might face in the general election, with no Democratic house incumbents drawn into the district and no other major challengers announced. With Pace in the running, we see Republicans as slight favorites to win the district, but it could potentially move into the tossup column if Democrats put up a strong challenger or if the environment takes a turn for the better.
LD7: This seat is not at all competitive in the general election, at Trump+25. But it may host one of the most hotly contested and watched legislative primaries nationwide, as two far-right Republican Senate incumbents, Wendy Rogers and Kelly Townsend, are double-bunked. Thanks to her infamous speech at a white nationalist event, Rogers has been censured by the Senate and retains few allies in the Arizona political sphere. However, Rogers has the Trump endorsement and a massive fundraising advantage, with nearly $1,600,000 in the bank as of the start of 2022, compared to only $13,000 for Townsend. Townsend will be relying on help from outside groups to topple the more controversial incumbent, while Rogers will rely on her built-in advantages. Rogers will start off as the favorite in this primary, but it is anyone’s game with more than four months until primary day.
LD27: This is the only single-digit Trump seat yet to be mentioned. At Trump+8, this is not a competitive race in 2022 but it has the potential to get more interesting toward the end of the decade. Senate Majority Leader Rick Gray is retiring, and State Representative Kevin Payne (R) has already filed to run for this seat. Barring a major upset, Payne has a relatively comfortable path to the upper chamber.