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Establishment Dems' biggest midterms failure? Ignoring AZ-01

Here's how establishment Democrats and donors tanked one of the most winnable races in this year's midterm elections.


Democrats’ historic midterms showing aside, this election cycle saw failures on behalf of the national party that should be instructional going forward.

I continue to believe the race national Democrats neglected to their greatest detriment was in Arizona's 1st Congressional District, where NBC News projects the incumbent Republican David Schweikert has defeated Democratic challenger Jevin Hodge by a razor-thin margin. Hodge, a millennial Arizona native, would have been the first Black congressman in the state's history.

A victory for Hodge would have marked a sea change in a state that’s notorious for its history of anti-Black racism, and it would have been further evidence of Arizona’s leftward swing in recent years. 

But aside from that, Schweikert was ripe for the picking. His historically Republican-friendly district in northeast Phoenix was redrawn in a way that made it more of a toss-up. As Business Insider wrote

Trump had a 4 percentage point margin of victory over Joe Biden under the district’s previous boundaries in the 2020 presidential election. The district was redrawn to take in nearly 75% of the region that was part of its previous boundaries in redistricting following the 2020 Census, reducing the Republican tilt.

At the same time, demographic changes in parts of the north valley — like Scottsdale — should have signaled to Democrats that Hodge’s race was more winnable than their attentiveness suggested.

And what’s more, Schweikert has an incredible history of corruption, as nearly a dozen ethics violations against him for misusing campaign funds and misreporting spending indicate. 

Establishment Democrats in charge of the party’s pursestrings fumbled mightily by not investing more in flipping this seat, which in my view points to lapses in judgment under Sean Patrick Maloney’s leadership of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

As Politico wrote early this year, “Pricey media markets are a common theme among the Democratic candidates not getting aid in districts where the fundamentals look reasonable for the party. That includes Jevin Hodge[.]” 

Election expert Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report noted how weird Democrats' neglect of AZ-01 was as results rolled in last week:

I agree with Wasserman.

Why wouldn’t you invest heavily in ousting one of the most amoral Republicans in Congress, in a redrawn seat, in an evolving district? Especially when the candidate who stood to oust him embodies the young, rising progressive movement that will come to dominate Arizona in the near future.

It was an inexplicable mess-up by establishment Democrats — one that may help cost them the House majority.