Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona is retiring, and the candidates vying to replace him in the U.S. Senate couldn’t be more different – especially when it comes to issues affecting working families.
|Republican Rep. Martha McSally has repeatedly voted to weaken collective bargaining protections and worker safety.
Flake made everyone angry. By taking the lead amongst the vanishingly small crew of never-Trump Republicans, he lost his party’s base. But Flake’s opposition to the president was always more about personality than policy, and his reliable vote for his party’s anti-worker legislation won him no support from the state’s growing population of Democratic voters.
Running for Democrats is Rep. Krysten Sinema, a politician who has made her career by being the reverse of Flake; she is no party’s reliable water carrier and she does it without alienating either side.
The Republicans have nominated Rep. Martha McSally, a hard-right politician whose campaign ads have been notably nasty, even in today’s overheated political climate. One pro-McSally ad accuses Sinema of supporting child prostitution.
For the record, Sinema’s campaign clarified that the former rape crisis counselor does not.
The relentlessly negative – and fact-checkers have confirmed, false – ads against Sinema are actually making the job easier for canvassers, said Phoenix Local 640 President Delbert Hawk.
“It might get the Trump supporters fired up, but they were going to vote for McSally anyway. But for the rest of us, how does all that negativity help me pay my mortgage?” he said.
And while McSally has charged full-speed to the fringes, voting with Trump 98 percent of the time, Sinema has developed a more McCain-like voting history that puts her right in the middle of fivethirtyeight.com’s partisanship measurement among members of Congress. It puts her, Hawk said, closer to where the average Arizonan is.
“Talk radio still talks positively about her. ‘She’s not bad. She’s a fighter.’ They may not always agree with her, but they don’t write her off,” Hawk said.
And when organized labor needs her, Hawk said, Sinema is not an automatic “yes,” but she is active, accessible and open to being convinced.
“She’s a pit bull. She is tough, but she listens to us and is with us 99 percent of the time, even if she doesn’t always side with us,” he said.
McSally, by contrast, has an 8 percent rating from the AFL-CIO.
It is true that Arizona has been a desert for Democrats for decades. The last time a Democrat won a senate seat was 30 years ago.
But every day, 70 people move to Maricopa County – more than any other county in the country – and they don’t fit the mold of the flinty conservative firebrands like Barry Goldwater who were forged in the state before air conditioning was common.
Today’s new Arizonan isn’t a rancher, they are looking for ranch houses they can afford after fleeing California. They come from more diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds or they are retirees looking to escape Northeastern winters but bringing their progressive values with them, Hawk said.
“We can see it at our rallies and phone banks,” Hawk said. “And they are consistent and very motivated. Every weekend, we have dozens of people knocking on doors and hanging signs.”
And turnout will need to be high, Hawk said, because of the state’s woeful record at counting every vote.
In the last three elections, lines at some polling stations in Maricopa county were more than two hours long after the Republican secretary of state shuttered many traditional polling centers. More than 60 of the polling sites that weren’t closed failed to open on time. Some were hours late. And if they did get inside, hundreds of voters reported malfunctioning voting machines and the state failed to hire enough technicians. Then, in August, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state for violating the National Voter Registration Act.
“They wouldn’t be doing all this if they weren’t afraid of our power. A government that works for working people has to have a Senator Sinema, and we need a huge turnout to make that happen.” Hawk said. “We are preparing people now. They don’t want us to be heard and we know we will have to fight to get our votes counted.”