TUCSON, Ariz. (CN) – When U.S. Rep. Martha McSally decided to step down to seek retiring U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat, she left behind a vacuum that seems likely to be filled by a Democrat in a district that has flipped from Republicans to Democrats and back to Republicans since 2000.
Ann Kirkpatrick, the Democrat seeking McSally’s Congressional District 2 seat, appears poised to defeat Republican opponent Lea Marquez Peterson, president of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. A New York Times/Siena College poll Oct. 1 showed Kirkpatrick leading 50 to 39 percent among likely District 2 voters.
If Kirkpatrick wins the seat, it will be the third time the district has flipped since 2000.
That’s fine with registered independent Philip Stockwell, 78. He already voted for Kirkpatrick.
Stockwell retired in Tucson three years ago and isn’t very familiar with Arizona politicians. When asked what issues were on his mind for Election Day, his answer was simple.
“Donald Trump,” he said. Stockwell voted for Democrats up and down the ballot to help resist the president’s agenda.
“I wound up voting for women. If you’re a woman, and you’re a Democrat, I voted for you,” he said chuckling. “I think women are more likely to compromise, and men have a problem with it.”
Tucson has long been a Democratic stronghold in Arizona, where conservative politics dominate and Democrats struggle to be heard in state government. Much like Denver or Austin, Texas, the city of a million people is a blue island in a sea of red although Arizona’s 3.7 million registered voters are split evenly among Republicans, Democrats and independents.
The southern quarter of Arizona is split roughly down the middle by Congressional District 2 and District 3, held by U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Tucson native a former Pima County Board member who is often counted among the most liberal members of Congress. District 3 covers Tucson’s urban west side and stretches to California and down to Mexico. Grijalva’s district is safe for Democrats with no real threat from his Republican opponent, Nicolas Pierson.
Tucson’s east since is covered by District 2, which stretches east to New Mexico and south to Mexico. The region encompassing District 2 has flipped between Democrats and Republicans several times in recent decades.
Gabrielle Giffords won the district in 2006 after the retirement of Republican Jim Kolbe. After Giffords was shot at a constituent event in 2010, she retired and her former aide Ron Barber won the seat. He stepped down in 2014, leaving the opening for McSally, a Republican.
Like Stockwell, Bob Oppel, 78, is also retired. Unlike Stockwell, however, the Republican and former Tucson fireman agrees that Trump is on the ballot and he voted for Marquez Peterson because she’s more likely to help the president.
“The biggest issue is, I want to see the Trump agenda succeed,” Oppel said.
Harold Potts, 66, has lived on Tucson’s east side for 35 years. The retired auto body shop manager is a lifelong Democrat who worked at polls for seven years. Potts voted for Democrats in the major races, including Kirkpatrick, but he voted for Republicans in some local races.
He doesn’t like Trump and says the border is on his mind. But the lifelong Tucson resident says the rhetoric about refugees coming toward the U.S. from Central America is out of control: There’s no invasion, and we don’t need a wall.
“Come on. They’ve got bandages on their feet,” Potts said of the refugee caravan. “They’re wearing flip-flops. They’ve got kids.”
Polls across Arizona open at 6 a.m. Tuesday and close at 7 p.m.