Republican legislative candidates escape the drag of top ticket candidates in 2022

The Democrats were bracing for disaster. 

President Biden’s approval ratings were at record lows. Inflation skyrocketed and the economy was unstable. Not to mention the pain at the pump. By every measure and metric, Republicans were predicted to cruise to majorities and flip several key races in 2022. All the signs were there.

But when the polls closed in Arizona and the first batch of votes posted to the Secretary of State’s website, it wasn’t a celebration that ensued. Instead, a nauseating feeling of distress crept into the stomachs of Republicans. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go.

Over the course of the week, as the votes rolled in, it became increasingly clear that Republicans had lost the top offices in the state: Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, and U.S. Senate. A dramatic turn of events.

However, there was one silver lining for the GOP: securing legislative majorities.

So what went wrong for the top of the ticket — and right for legislative candidates?

Top of the ticket Republicans weren’t talking about issues Arizonans had rated as their top concerns, like jobs and the economy, border security, and education. Instead, they were focused on fringe, polarizing issues that deterred voters. That’s why it’s no surprise voters in competitive districts reject them by significant margins.

Meanwhile, legislative candidates focused on topline issues, stayed on message, and took their message to voters across their respective districts. They were more focused on building coalitions than dividing the party and telling independents to take a hike. Legislative candidates were rewarded with victories. 

Taking a closer look at the numbers, here’s what we know.

In LD2, Steve Kaiser won by a little over 3 percent, while Blake Masters trailed Mark Kelly by over 6 percent. Kari Lake trailed by 2. According to the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC), LD2 was rated an R+3.8 percent district. 

Steve Kaiser’s story isn’t an isolated occurrence. 

Look at LD13, an R+1.6 percent district according to the AIRC, where J.D. Mesnard won with a comfortable 3 percent. Kari Lake was down nearly 4 percent and Blake Masters by 8 percent. That’s an 11 point difference between Mesnard and Masters, respectively.

Even in LD16, where T.J. Shope won by 10 percent, Kari Lake squeaked a majority with just over 3 percent while Blake Masters still trailed by 2 percent. 

Losing these key districts cost Blake Masters, Kari Lake, and the rest of the top of the ticket their races. 

Now with Governor Hobbs on the 9th Floor, the only thing standing between her and turning back the clock on our state’s progress is our legislative majorities. The top of the ticket GOP counterparts failed to keep Democrats out of our top offices. 

Maybe Republicans should take the hint and get back to talking about issues Arizona cares about -— then they might start winning again. 

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