Arizona voters head to polls to decide midterm racesPosted: Updated:
PHOENIX (AP) -- After months of campaigning, candidates for Arizona's top elected offices will find out Tuesday if they persuaded enough voters to back them to win.
Democrats who hope to gain statewide offices for the first time in four years worked the days leading up to Election Day trying to get out the vote and overcome a Republican advantage in early ballot returns.
The slate of candidates vying for governor, secretary of state, attorney general and other constitutional offices will need a major turnout of Democrats on Tuesday to win in a year shaping up as decidedly Republican nationally.
Meanwhile, the Republican candidates finished a four-day statewide tour Monday with stops in three northern Arizona communities, ending at the county courthouse in the onetime territorial capital of Prescott late in the evening.
Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m., and the candidates and public should see the first results at 8 p.m. Tuesday. The deadline for returning early ballots by mail passed last week, so those ballots must be delivered to a polling place or county recorder's office by close of business to be counted.
More than 580,000 early ballots have been cast, according to Maricopa County recorder Helen Purcell.
"We anticipate that there could be as many as 100,000 early ballots dropped off at the polls today," Purcell told 3TV's Jill Galus.
Although only about half of the 1.2 million early ballots that were mailed out have been returned by voters, those early ballots represent a significant chunk of voters.
"I see that [being] a bigger factor than the people who actually go to the polls," Purcell said. "I think we're seeing more and more that people like the convenience of early voting, of the mail-in ballots."
In the primary, only 18 percent of those who voted did so at the polls.
"I think we will see the same thing in the general election," Purcell said.
Republican Doug Ducey is casting himself as the front-runner in the governor's race, while Democrat Fred DuVal is hoping a high Democratic turnout will mitigate the Republicans' early ballot advantage.
But DuVal wasn't saying he is behind, instead pointing to continued spending by outside groups backing Ducey, like the Republican Governors Association as proof the race is closer than many believe.
"This is a total tossup, and turnout will matter, and it will be close," DuVal said. "The fact that the RGA continued to increase its expenditure in the last 10 days of the campaign confirms what we know to be the case, which is this is going to be a close election."
Ducey and Duval have each spent about $2.2 million in their general election campaign, but Ducey has benefited from $7.9 million in outside spending compared to about $1 million for DuVal.
Ducey, in an interview Monday, said he's anxious to see the vote totals on election night but believes he has a path to victory.
"We want to see the returns, we want to see the totals," Ducey said. "That's why we're hopscotching all over the state today."
Other top statewide races on Tuesday's ballot include the battle between Democrat Felecia Rotellini and Republican Mark Brnovich for attorney general, Democrat Terry Goddard and Republican Michele Reagan for secretary of state, and Democrat David Garcia against Republican Diane Douglas for superintendent of public instruction. All nine congressional seats are also on the ballot, with close races expected in the 1st and 2nd Districts and possibly the 9th.
Ducey and Duval said Monday they were hoping voters hear their messages. Ducey went back to his business experience to make his final pitch.
"Put a business man and a job creator in the governor's office," Ducey said. "Put somebody who has built the broadest coalition in the race, someone who wants to bring people together and focus on the things the governor can do, like growing our economy and creating jobs that turn into fulfilling careers, and somebody who will return K-12 education to the greatness we expect here in this country, and will do it in a financially responsible way."
DuVal cast the race differently.
"Is Arizona poised for a change or going to double down on the existing policies that are not producing either a strong economy or good education outcomes?" DuVal asked. "Arizona's really got to decide whether we're going to keep doing what we're doing or whether we're going to move into the 21st century."
All eyes will be on Arizona's close congressional races as voters head to the polls.
Two of the nation's most closely watched contests Tuesday are in Arizona. One pits Democratic Rep. Ron Barber in a repeat battle against Republican Martha McSally. Barber was an aide to former Rep. Gabby Giffords when the two were wounded in a mass shooting nearly four years ago.
Barber beat McSally in 2012 by only a couple thousand votes and the race for the 2nd Congressional District may be just as close again.
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick is battling to keep her seat against a challenge from Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin in the 1st Congressional District.
Arizona voters will get to decide who gets to represent them in a total of nine congressional districts.
Republican Mark Brnovich and Democrat Felecia Rotellini are facing off in the election for Arizona attorney general.
Voters will decide Tuesday which candidate replaces incumbent Tom Horne, the Republican Brnovich defeated in August's primary.
Rotellini says she's got the experience in the office and as the state's banking regulator to effectively run the attorney general's office. Brnovich says he has criminal prosecution experience and ran the state's gaming regulation department.
Brnovich's supporters have tried to cast Rotellini as lacking criminal trial experience and being soft on border security. Rotellini has gone after Brnovich for his ties to the private prison industry and anti-abortion groups.
The attorney general represents state agencies and is responsible for taking on civil rights, consumer protection and complex business fraud cases.
The race to become Arizona's next secretary of state enters the final day of the campaign with Democrat Terry Goddard and Republican Michele Reagan hoping to land the position.
Goddard is a former Arizona attorney general and mayor of Phoenix who is attempting a comeback after losing in the 2010 governor's race. Reagan is a Republican lawmaker who has the endorsement of most of the GOP political establishment, including Gov. Jan Brewer.
The campaign has focused on issues including voting rights and Reagan's voting record as a lawmaker. The secretary of state oversees elections in Arizona, and is second in line for the governor's office. Brewer was secretary of state in 2009 when then-Gov. Janet Napolitano joined the Obama administration, elevating her to Arizona's chief executive.
Two spots on the powerful Arizona Corporation Commission are up for grabs Tuesday.
The four candidates on the ballot include two Republicans and two Democrats.
The campaign has attracted large amounts of spending from the utility and rooftop solar industries. Utilities have spent money backing the Republicans, while the solar industry has run ads in favor of the Democrats.
Tom Forese and Doug Little are running on the Republican side. The Democratic candidates are Sandra Kennedy and Jim Holway.
The commission's responsibilities include regulating utilities, securities, railroads and pipelines.
Voters are deciding a host of ballot measures across Arizona on Election Day, including three statewide propositions.
The three statewide measures focus on lawmaker salaries, federal overreach and medication for terminally ill patients. Numerous proposals are on the ballot on the local level, including questions about banning traffic cameras in Sierra Vista and overhauling the municipal pension fund in Phoenix.
The medication proposal is commonly referred to as the "right to try" measure. It would allow Arizonans with terminal illnesses to get unapproved drugs as a last resort. Similar proposals have passed in four other states. Another proposal would give Arizona lawmakers their first pay raise since 1998. And a third would allow Arizona lawmakers and voters to reject any federal action they deem unconstitutional.
Democrat David Garcia and Republican Diane Douglas are vying to become Arizona's top education official in the Tuesday election.
Garcia has been endorsed by traditional Republican groups in his bid for superintendent of public instruction. That is because some members of the GOP establishment are wary of Douglas' plan to abolish the Common Core education standards.
Douglas upset incumbent John Huppenthal in the primary and believes Common Core is a classic example of government overreach that needs to stop. Garcia calls it an extreme and misinformed viewpoint because Common Core provides a benchmark for delivering a quality education.
Garcia is a military veteran who has worked in education posts at Arizona State University and the state Education Department. Douglas served on the Peoria school board from 2005 to 2012.