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In 2012 Elections, Arizona Latinos Offer Warning Sign to GOP in Future Elections

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Updated America’s Voice Report Shows that AZ Latinos Kept Senate Race Competitive and Delivered a Democratic Victory in New 9th Congressional District 

Arizona is home to one of the nation’s fastest growing Latino populations, and it is also home to some of the nation’s most extreme anti-immigration laws.  After being targeted by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Arizona’s notorious SB 1070 law, Latino and naturalized citizen voters are rising up and changing politics.  In two updated reports, America’s Voice details how the state’s Latino voters tipped a key House race towards the Democrats and turned the Arizona Senate race into one of the most competitive and closely-watched races this cycle.

Arizona’s Jeff Flake, a former champion of comprehensive immigration reform, toed his party’s anti-immigration line when running for Arizona’s open Senate seat against Democrat Richard Carmona after voting against the DREAM Act in 2010.  Carmona, by contrast, was strongly and consistently pro-immigrant and encouraged the national Democratic Party to stand up for immigrants as well, fighting to get comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act into the party platform. In November, according to Latino Decisions, Carmona won 83% of the Latino vote while Flake won only 17%.

On the House side, the race in Arizona’s new 9th District was tagged before the election as  “the state’s most competitive.” Democrat Krysten Sinema, a longtime champion of immigrants’ rights in the state legislature, beat Republican Vernon Parker, a supporter of infamous anti-immigrant Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  Thanks to this victory,  pro-immigration reform Democrats now hold a 5 – 4 advantage in the Arizona House delegation.

As a result of the way Latinos reshuffled the state’s political map this cycle – largely because of Republican association with anti-immigrant policies – former Senator Norm Coleman predicted that “soon we are going to have to start worrying about Texas and Arizona.”

Below, find a recap of the U.S. Senate and House races America’s Voice monitored throughout the 2012 cycle, as well as links to the complete documents tracking results in a number of states.  We include relevant demographic information, a description of the role immigration played in the campaign, and a snapshot of each race’s outcome and what it means moving forward.



Candidates: Richard Carmona (D) v. Rep. Jeff FLAKE (R)


Rating: Toss Up (Cook Political Report, 10/4/12)

Latino Eligible Voter Population: 23.7% (Ruy Teixeira and William Frey)

Asian Voting Age Population: 1.1% (Center for American Progress)

Final vote: Flake 49.7%/Carmona 45.8%

Latino vote:  Carmona 83%/Flake 17%

(“Latino vote” is taken from Latino Decisions’ election-eve poll.)

Arizona’s Jeff Flake used to be a true champion of comprehensive immigration reform—but when running for Arizona’s open Senate seat against Democrat Richard Carmona, Flake toed his party’s anti-immigrant line, even going so far as to vote against the DREAM Act in 2010.  But while the Congressman won the Senate race, he might not have needed to contort himself so much to do it: in the two years since the Arizona legislature passed SB 1070, voters have begun to realize that immigrant-bashing is distracting and destructive.  SB 1070’s lead sponsor, State Senate President Russell Pearce, was kicked out of office in an unprecedented recall election in 2011—then defeated again in 2012.

Advocates and community leaders worked hard to ensure that Latinos (who measure 30.1% of Arizona’s population and 23.7% of its eligible voter population) and immigrants in Arizona showed resilience in the face of anti-immigrant bullying by showing up at the polls, and succeeded in turning a seat that was assumed to be safe for Republicans early in 2012 into a closely-watched race.  Now that Flake’s won the seat and his party is undergoing a major shift on this issue, he has a choice: revert to his leadership role and steer the Republican Party forward, or continue his rhetoric from the campaign.

While Carmona was more consistent on the issue, Flake has the potential to be a leader if he returns to his roots.  He has already started making noises that he’s headed in a pro-immigrant direction, so we are calling this race’s outcome TBD for immigrants.

For more, see America’s Voice’s Spotlight on Arizona.


Candidates: Krysten SINEMA (D) v. Vernon Parker (R)


Rating: Lean Democratic (Cook Political Report, 10/25/12)

Latino Voting Age Population: 22.4%

Asian Voting Age Population: 4.3%

Final vote: Sinema 48.3%/Parker 45.2%

Statewide Latino vote:  Democrat 82%/Republican 18%

(“Statewide Latino vote” is taken from Latino Decisions’ election-eve poll, asking Latinos who they planned to vote for in the U.S. House race in their district.)

Though voter registration in Arizona’s brand-new Ninth Congressional District is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, the District is heavily Latino (26.9% of all residents are Latino, and 22.4% of all voting-age residents).  It’s also in the heart of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s stomping ground in Maricopa County.  So it’s fitting that the candidates—Democrat Krysten Sinema and Republican Vernon Parker—represent such different poles of the immigration debate.  Sinema has been a champion of immigrants in the state legislature: she fought Arpaio’s abuses for years and led the effort to block Arizona from passing more extreme legislation in 2011.  Parker, on the other hand, is the founder of a defunct PAC called “Defend Sheriff Joe.”

The race was tagged before the election as “the state’s most competitive”, and between the close margin and Arizona’s failure to count hundreds of thousands of ballots on election night, it took six days after the election for Sinema to be certified as the winner. But it was worth the wait for immigrants and their allies, who now have one more supporter in Congress.

House Races Post-Election Scorecard Update: http://americasvoiceonline.org/research/americas-voice-releases-spotlight-on-house-races-to-watch-for-immigrant-and-latino-voters/

Senate Races Post-Election Scorecard Update: http://americasvoiceonline.org/research/state-spotlights-six-races-to-watch-for-immigration-reform-supporters/