With the field (mostly) set, here’s your cheat sheet to the dozen hottest legislative races in the August primary.
For the vast majority of seats in the Arizona Legislature, the primary election is the election.
If you’re a Republican voter living in a Democratic district, or vice versa, your vote for a legislative candidate in November won’t matter much.
While Arizona as a whole may be turning purple, most of the politicians we elect don’t represent the state; they represent individual districts with geographical boundaries. Only about 15% of voters live in competitive legislative districts — the rest of the districts are considered “safe” for one party or another.1
While the general election will determine Republicans’ (likely)2 margins at the Capitol, the primary election will determine the tenor of the state’s elected leaders, the policies they enact and ultimately, the direction we pursue as a state.
One legislative primary can mean the difference between a Senate Republican majority that pursues mainstream GOP positions like tax cuts, or one that prioritizes political arrests of non-believers in their party who won’t continually re-litigate the 2020 election.
Pay attention to the first election, especially you independents, who can choose which party’s primary to vote in3. There will be plenty of time for deep dives into the races, but today, here’s our cheeky cheat sheet offering your first peak at the dozen hottest4 races in the sweltering August primary.
LD1 Senate Republican primary
The race to replace Senate President and “audit queen” Karen Fann in this Prescott-based district is a quantifiable “do they still like me” test: the ballot. We’re still not sure who former Senate President, Secretary of State and “face of the audit” Ken Bennett is trying to gain redemption from: the election-deniers he disappointed during the audit or the reality-facing Republicans who he also disappointed during the audit. Probably both. Former Republican Rep. Noel Campbell’s path to redemption started with an acknowledgement that he “was wrong” to have allegedly hit his wife. And if Republican voters aren’t feeling so forgiving, there’s a fresh face in the pack: Steve Zipperman, a retired lawyer from California who pledges to draft legislation to let lawmakers decertify elections.
LD3 Senate Republican primary
Fountain Hills incarnate and longtime unforgiving-policy-maker John Kavanagh will square off against Scottsdale Republican Jan Dubauskas, a lawyer and former vice president of a healthcare provider company whose appearances on Fox News and OANN talking about healthcare policy show she is far too careful with words to take over his important role as the go-to quote for the press, should she defeat him in August.
LD5 Senate Democratic primary
First elected in 1977, Democratic lawmaker Lela Alston has dispatched every challenger she’s faced in the 15 legislative elections under her belt. But that’s not stopping two Democrats from trying to oust her from the central Phoenix district. This year’s challengers include Sarah Tyree, a U.S. Army veteran and social worker, and Al Jones a U.S. Army veteran, campaign thong salesman and perfect credit score braggart.
LD7 Senate Republican primary
The matchup between Republican Sens. Kelly Townsend and Wendy Rogers is a rare race that offers both what we want and what we deserve. A few years ago, Townsend occupied the fringe of the Republican Party, but compared to Rogers, she’s downright thoughtful. It’s Make America Great Again versus Make America Great Again Again. Rogers has an absurdly large war chest and Donald Trump’s endorsement in in this new district that stretches from the East Valley to Rogers’ house in Flagstaff.
LD10 Senate Republican primary
House Speaker Rusty Bowers’ stiff spine is the only thing that stopped the Arizona House of Representatives from following the state Senate down the election conspiracy rabbit hole. Bowers decided to run for state Senate instead of sticking with his retirement plan this year, seemingly out of spite for the conspiracy theorists who have protested outside his house and called him a pedophile. His opponent is former Republican Sen. David Farnsworth, who spent months investigating the alleged link between children missing from Arizona Department of Safety custody and what he called a worldwide sex trafficking ring, an investigation that culminated with him calling the police on fellow Republican senator and child safety advocate Kate Brophy McGee alleging her husband threatened his life because of the investigation.
LD11 Senate Democratic primary
Former lawmaker Catherine Miranda is the Democrat who Democrats love to hate. She’s pro-life, endorsed Republicans like Doug Ducey and was most likely to break with the caucus when she represented South Phoenix in the Legislature from 2011 through 2018. She challenged her political nemesis U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego that year and lost by a 50 percentage-point margin. Voters rejected her comeback attempt at a state House seat in 2020, when she challenged two incumbents, but this time the Senate seat is wide open. She’ll face Janelle Wood, the founder of Black Mothers Forum, a school reform nonprofit, and Junelle Cavero, who does digital media outreach, in August.
LD16 Senate Republican primary
Republican Senate candidate Daniel Wood is that guy we keep talking about filing who’s all the petitions trying to force lawmakers to impeach Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and audit the Arizona Supreme Court. If he can beat grocery-slinger Republican Sen. T.J. Shope in the Casa Grande-based district, he might5 actually get to read his petitions inside the building.
LD17 Senate Republican primary
There comes a day when every conservative activist turned elected official is called a Republican In Name Only. And that time has come for Republican Sen. Vince Leach. His competition in the district stretching north of Tucson is Justine Wadsack, a failed school board revolutionary who espouses QAnon and COVID-19 conspiracies and declares Leach a “RINO” for wearing a “chin bra” (read: face mask). Financial advisor Robert Barr is also running in the primary, though it appears to be a minimalist campaign.
LD22 Senate Democratic primary
Redistricting has a way of pitting allies against each other. After the state’s political cartographers divvied up the district lines, Democratic Reps. Richard Andrade, a locomotive engineer, and Diego Espinoza, a restaurant owner, both wound up in the same district. Both had hit term limits in the House, so they’re facing off for the new Senate seat in this West Valley district.
LD3 House Republican primary (two seats)
Republican Rep. Joseph Chaplik could get knocked out of his seat in this crowded Republican primary for two House positions in the Scottsdale-based district. Former lawmaker Darin Mitchell, last spotted lobbying at the Capitol, has (presumably) moved into the new district. Meanwhile, fired Cyber Ninjas lawyer, current AZGOP lawyer and frequent lawsuit loser Alex Kolodin is also trying to break ahead of the five-way primary pack, which also includes Nicole Cantelme, a lawyer who has worked as a substitute teacher and school paraprofessional. Republican Ernest Anderson, also filed enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, but just barely. Expect a petition challenge.
LD7 House Republican primary (two seats)
Sometimes, there just aren’t enough seats to go around. After redistricting, Republican Reps. Sagebrush rebel Brenda Barton, friend-to-lobbyists David Cook and 1958-style voter John Fillmore all wound up in the same sprawling easter Arizona district. They’ll battle royale it out alongside former California cop David Marshall for the two House seats up for grabs.
LD29 House Republican primary (two seats)
The two wide-open seats in this West Valley district have drawn four Republican challengers, including former lawmaker and staff sexter Steve Montenegro. The field includes Republican precinct committeeman and Agua Fria Unified High School District Governing Board member Trey Terry, who has been critical of his party’s post-2020 election direction and who placed last in a four-way primary in 2018. Austin Smith is the MAGA candidate and employee of the Trump-aligned Turning Point Action who lists banning mail-in voting as among his top issues. Republican activist and naturalized citizen Hop Nguyen rounds out the field.6
1Your district changed this year after the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission drew new maps, so whatever number you remembered for the last ten years is no longer the correct one. To look up your new district, use this tool.
2Yes, we know, Democrats: Lightning could strike. But probably not this year.
3But independents who want to vote by mail must contact their county recorder to ask for a partisan ballot — either Republican or Democrat — by July 24. Or show up to an early voting location or the polls in-person and tell the poll workers which primary ballot you’d like.
4For the sake of keeping this to one email, we won’t cover every single contested legislative primary — just the dozen that stand out as especially hot in this early stage. And as always, things can and will change. Candidates will inevitably drag each other into court next week to try to invalidate enough signatures to disqualify each other from the ballot. We’ll keep you updated.
5LD16 is “highly competitive” on paper, but Republicans have won every statewide election the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission used in its competitiveness metric. The winner of the primary will face Democrat Taylor Kerby in the general election.