Election 2020

More than a year before the 2020 general election, many candidates have already been on the campaign trail for months, mailboxes are stuffed with flyers and email spam files overflow with requests for donations. It's election time, and it's never too early to start, particularly given the attention (and money) we'll see in 2020.

Nationally, President Trump and Democratic contenders will command most of the ink. Arizona will also see a Senate race, and all nine House seats will be up for grabs. Likewise, state legislators and, in Sahuarita, five town council seats will be on the ballot. Several issues, including recreation marijuana and dark money, could make their way to voters, though that's to be determined.

A year out, we checked in with the chairs of the Pima County Republican and Democratic parties to gauge strategies for 2020.

Alison Jones

Chair of the Pima County Democratic Party

DEMOCRATS

Alison Jones, chair of the Pima County Democratic Party

What issues, local or national, do you think will drive turnout in 2020?

The economy is not working for everyone. 74% of economists are predicting a recession within the next two years. There are 40% more people on food stamps now than there were in 2008. Organized labor is under attack.

An impending recession, catastrophic tariffs, and growing debt are sure to have an impact. Among older voters, healthcare (or lack thereof), and the lack of comprehensive immigration policy are important. Younger voters are expected to come out in greater numbers in 2020. Their issues are gun violence and climate change.

What are the politicians not talking about that the voters wish they'd focus on?

There are a plethora of issues out there so it is all relative but I think infrastructure often gets thrown to the back of the priority list because it isn’t as much fun to talk about. However, I think a lot of our voters want to understand how our infrastructure can be maintained and improved over the next several decades.

How have Pima County Democratic leaders used data and technology to focus and target your message?

We have some great resources among our volunteers. We have an aggressive digital campaign that is driving our messaging. We are using our software development and digital marketing teams’ expertise in targeting voters.

Have familiarity with data and technology influenced who you're hiring at Pima County HQ?

Yes. We recently brought some database expertise on board.

What does a typical volunteer look like? What drives them?

Volunteers at our HQ are a varied group. They tend to be older because they do not have the job demands younger folks have. They have a wide variety of skills. Journalists, software developers, events planners, accounting and finance. Others have language skills. Some act as welcoming ambassadors at our bustling headquarters.

Other volunteers are out knocking on doors to reach voters. It’s not easy to say who these folks are, although I will say that most are women.

What drives all of these volunteers is the belief that they can make a difference and be a force for good.

Democrats heavily outnumber Republicans in Pima County. How does that affect strategy?

It doesn’t. We never take anything for granted, and we ask for every vote.

More people are registered "other" than Republican. Any idea who these people are?

“Other” voters choose to be so for a number of reasons. They are our neighbors, friends, and co-workers. Many of them simply do not want a formal party affiliation, because they do not want to be pigeonholed. We have some excellent volunteers who happen to be of the “other” persuasion. They want leaders who will solve problems, and we know our party’s candidates will do that.

Is there a chance of Pima County turning red? What about the state going blue?

There are always chances for both. We can never be complacent. That said, we believe there is a greater chance of the state going blue than there is that Pima will turn red. We have seen this trend in the makeup of the state Legislature.

Does the party on the national level know Pima County exists?

Oh yes.

Will increasing political division change the way you engage the public in 2020 compared with the 2016 election?

There will always be some voters who are unmovable. A hyper-partisanship can exacerbate that. But we believe that for most people, issues will transcend party affiliation. Arizonans want leaders who can get things done. Our goal is to make sure our message gets out there that our candidates will get things done for Arizona voters.

Do you expect a higher voter turnout overall in 2020? Why or why not?

Yes. Voters of all persuasions are concerned about a President who appears to be increasingly unstable. The threat he poses to national security and our nation’s standing in the world is real. Closer to home, our goal of turning the state legislature blue is achievable, and we intend to make it happen.

While Pima County leans Democratic the state has remained conservative. Do you expect to see this change much? What evidence backs up your answer?

The state, and our nation, will become less conservative. Four million Americans will turn 18 between now and the 2020 election. These are young people who are concerned about the health, economic, and environmental devastation posed by climate change. These are young people who have grown up doing active shooter drills in school and for whom kevlar backpacks are the latest trend. These are young people who must often take on mountains of debt to get a higher education. They live in a more connected world, they see how other developed nations are dealing with these issues, and they wonder why we are falling behind. They will be the change.

What is the biggest threat or advantage you see to winning in 2020?

There are so many. But we’ve narrowed them down a bit.

Threats: Voter suppression, gerrymandering, indifference, ignorance, complacency, dark money, and the Executive branch’s unwillingness to stop foreign powers from tampering with our elections.

Biggest advantages: We are on the right side of the issues. Most people know it. Now we just need to make sure they vote.

David Eppihimer

Chairman of the Pima County Republican Party.

REPUBLICANS

David Eppihimer, chair of the Pima County Republican Party

What issues, local or national, do you think will drive turnout in 2020?

Obviously the Presidential re-elect will drive voter turnout. All issues come down to the voters' view of how president Trump has handled the economy, our immigration problem and to some degree the social issues the Democrats put ahead of jobs and public safety.

What are the politicians not talking about that the voters wish they'd focus on?

Locally (statewide) I believe voters wish Democrat Mark Kelly would focus on making Arizona, especially Southern Arizona, more business friendly so more employers would relocate to Tucson. Kelly is so focused on gun control that he has become a one issue candidate.

How have Pima County GOP leaders used data and technology to focus and target your message?

To the degree we feel is appropriate to our target audience we are using Facebook and twitter. Moreover, we are using a new data product from the RNC that allows a more targeted approach to voter contact.

Have familiarity with data and technology influenced who you're hiring at Pima County HQ?

Since we have no “employees” this question is a “NA”

What does a typical volunteer look like? What drives them?

A typical Republican volunteer is a social and fiscal conservative who believes passionately in the Constitution and the viewpoint that the United States is a Republic comprised of individual sovereign states, not a single homogeneous democracy. GOP volunteers are decidedly middle class working men and women.

Democrats heavily outnumber Republicans in Pima County. How does that affect strategy?

In order to win elections we must drive Republican turnout and develop messaging that will appeal to Republicans and Independents alike.

More people are registered "other" than Republican. Any idea who these people are?

These are people that are more focused on individual candidates than party doctrine. They want to look at how candidates stand on issues rather than what party initial is behind their name.

Is there a chance of turning Pima County red? What about the state going blue?

Of course Pima County can be turned red. Voter registration is much more competitive in the county as a whole than in Tucson proper. We have had three Republican Supervisors many times in the past. The County Sheriff is a Republican, as is the County Treasurer. I have maintained throughout my Chairmanship the Arizonans will not go “blue”. However, with the number of Californans and Oregonians moving to Arizona and bringing their liberal ways with them, the possibility always exists. This is why we are concentrating so much on voter registration and election integrity.

Does the party on the national level know Pima County exists?

Of course, Arizona's National Committeeman, Bruce Ash, is from Pima County and makes sure to keep Pima County's visibility high with the RNC.

Will increasing political division change the way you engage the public in 2020 compared with the 2016 election?

There has never been a time when the two major parties have been this far apart on the issues. Voters will have a clear choice between Republicans focused on the economy, public safety, job growth, raising people out of poverty, and military strength and the Socialist Democrats whose only concerns are social justice and climate change.

Do you expect a higher voter turnout overall in 2020? Why or why not?

Yes. The Presidential re-elect will drive a higher turnout on both sides.

While Pima County leans Democratic the state has remained conservative. Do you expect to see this change much? What evidence backs up your answer?

Pima GOP has certainly worked diligently to change this dynamic locally and will continue to do so. Statewide I see Arizona staying “conservative” in the 2020 cycle. Governor Ducey won handily in 2018 which proves a decidedly GOP bias among statewide voters. We will use this advantage to re-elect Martha McSally to the Senate and maintain our advantage in the state House and Senate.

What is the biggest threat or advantage you see to winning in 2020?

Our biggest threat would be potential voter apathy among Republicans. Our biggest advantage is the radial left turn by the Democrats. Arizona is not ready, nor will it ever be, to vote the Socialist Democrats into power in Arizona.

Jorge Encinas | 520-547-9732

Reporter

Reporter Jorge Encinas was born and raised in Tucson. He graduated from the University of Arizona with master's in journalism in 2016.

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