Republicans in Arizona are resorting to desperate measures to prevent special elections that aren't even happening yet. And they are failing.
As Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) fights serious illness, Republicans in Arizona pushed to rewrite a state law that would delay any special election for his seat until 2020 — thus allowing Republican Gov. Doug Ducey to install a replacement until then.
But on Monday, Democrats stopped them.
According to the Associated Press, “Minority Democrats voted as a block on Monday against the measure, preventing an emergency clause from being tacked onto legislation changing how members of Congress who die or resign are replaced.”
Under current law, if the seat becomes vacant before May 31, a special election will be held in November alongside regular elections. The rewritten law pushed by the Arizona GOP would have allowed them to stave off Democratic challengers, similar to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to refuse calling special elections for seats he feared losing in the state legislature, a strategy that was shot down by three courts.
Republicans in the Arizona state senate have have denied they were even worried McCain would resign at all. But they would have very good reason to be afraid if he did.
Arizona’s other Senate seat, which is open due to the retirement of Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, is already on the ballot this fall. Republicans have an extremely poor bench of candidates for that contest, including Rep. Martha McSally, former State Sen. Kelli Ward, and ex-Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Recent polls show Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema beating all three.
As the Hill notes, McSally is the pick of the party leadership, and she is also the candidate who is losing by the least in polls. It will be hard enough for Republicans to get her elected to Flake’s seat this fall. If both Arizona Senate seats are on the ballot, the GOP may have to accept Ward or Arpaio as their nominee for the other seat. And both of them have some horrific views that would broadly alienate voters.
Ward, for example, has suggested the U.S. might want to exit the U.N. and said she wants to arrest anyone who enforces federal gun laws. And she mocked military service while campaigning with a Nazi sympathizer.
Arpaio horrifically abused the human rights of prisoners, was convicted of criminal contempt for racist policing practices, and has pledged to investigate President Obama’s birth certificate if elected to the Senate.
Arizona as a whole seems to be turning against the GOP. The latest polls show voters there are opposed to Trump. Meanwhile, a special election held tonight in a deep red congressional district is way more competitive than usual, forcing the GOP to pump hundreds of thousands into their candidate.
The state appears to be another example of the sea change transforming politics nationwide. And there is little Republicans can do about it.