Maricopa County turned blue Arizona decisively purple in this year’s election, capping a long, slow political evolution that has turned a Republican bastion to a swing state.
Democrat Joseph Biden collected 51% of the vote, with President Donald Trump lagging at 47.63 % — although thousands of provisional and late mail-in ballots remain uncounted. On election night, Arizona was the only state to flip from the 2016 election — with six states still too close to call and the presidency in the balance.
But it wasn’t just the presidential race.
Democrat Mark Kelly logged 52.63% of the vote as of Wednesday morning, unseating appointed incumbent Republican Martha McSally, who garnered 47.37% of the vote. His election will loosen the Republican grip on the Senate, but probably not break it.
Equally telling, Proposition 207 legalizing recreational marijuana passed easily with 60% of the vote.
So did Proposition 208, which garnered 53% of the vote. The measure authorizes a 3.5% income tax surcharge on taxpayers with an income greater than $250,000 (or $500,000 for a couple filing jointly). The tax will raise nearly $1 billion for K-12 schools, mostly earmarked for the classroom and teacher training.
The state may have also added a Democrat to its congressional delegation. Dr. Tipirneni Hiral, a Democrat, on Wednesday morning was not quite 2,000 votes ahead in her quest to unseat Republican David Schweikert in District 6.
Blame the steady shift of Maricopa County to the left for all of those results.
All the other congressional representatives were cruising towards re-election.
Rep. Tom OHalleran in District 1, which includes all of the White Mountains and Southern Gila County, garnered 52% of the vote in his highly competitive district against 48% for Tiffany Shedd, a natural resources lawyer and rancher from Pinal County.
Incumbent Republican Rep. Paul Gosar scored an overwhelming win with 69% of the vote over healthcare consultant Delina DiSanto in Congressional District 4. The district includes most of western Arizona along the Colorado River, but swoops through Prescott to gobble up Northern Gila County. It’s one of the safest Republican Districts in the state.
The county-by-county results show the huge political gap continuing to open up between Maricopa County and Pima counties and the mostly Republican rural counties. The growing divide between the county with two-thirds of the state population and rural counties suggests the continued dwindling of political clout for rural Arizona.
Gila County remains deeply conservative, like most of the other rural counties. Democratic Apache County now votes more like Maricopa County, with Navajo County falling somewhere in between.
For instance, Trump got 46% of the vote in Maricopa County and 38% of the vote in Pima County. But he collected 66% of the vote in Gila County. He didn’t do quite as well in Apache and Navajo counties, both with large reservation populations that normally vote heavily Democratic. Trump got managed to get 66% of the Apache County vote and 52% of the Navajo County vote.
Those results held almost across the board.
For instance, Kelly won 54% of the votes in Maricopa County, but just 36% of the vote in Gila County. The former astronaut and Navy fighter pilot gained 66% of the vote in Apache County and 47% in Navajo County.
On the other hand, the two statewide propositions scrambled up some of the expectations — making the vote much less of a reflection of party-line opinions than the presidential, senate or congressional races.
The proposition to legalize marijuana garnered 59% of the vote statewide. In Gila County 52 % supported the measure. In Democratic Apache County, only 46% supported the measure compared to 48% in Navajo County.
So in this case, support for legalization of marijuana essentially flipped the partisan differences among the three rural counties reflected in the senate and presidential races.
The proposition boosting the top income tax rate to support K-12 schools had a similar mixed impact.
Statewide, the measure got 52% of the vote, precisely mirroring Maricopa County.
In Gila County, only 42% favored the new tax for education.
In Apache County, 58% supported the measure – mirroring the 61 % support in Pima County and the 60% in Coconino County.
In Navajo County, 42% opposed Prop. 208, mirroring Gila County and departing from Maricopa County’s shift towards blue.