Copper and Orange the New Blue? (August 29)

Update 295: Copper and Orange the New Blue?
Voters Vacate Center; Health Care Top Issue

Last night, Arizona and Florida bore out many of the trends witnessed throughout this year’s primary season: establishment vs. progressive, Medicare-for-all vs. “affordable health care,” and others.  Once again, it’s clear that women candidates are outperforming and voters in these states are reaffirming the primacy of healthcare.

Although the Medicare-for-all message has been strong among progressives, in more Republican-leaning districts, we see Democrats shifting their message on health care to deliver it in a way that reaches their constituents. Place-based politics is the theme that reigns supreme.

More on last night’s exciting primaries below.





AZ Senate: Rep. Sinema v. Rep. McSally

In one of a handful of races that will likely decide control of the Senate, rising star Rep. Kyrsten Sinema will face Rep. Martha McSally in November. Cook Political rates the Senate seat as a toss-up and Sinema has every chance to appeal to moderate Arizonans in November. Sinema’s moderation is especially important given the lurch to the right McSally had to take in order to defeat her two GOP challengers, Kelli Ward and Joe Arpaio.  

Sinema voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and wants to amend the law so that it works for more people. McSally, on the other hand, voted for all of the health care repeals in the House during her time as the Representative for AZ-02.

In a state with nearly as many independent voters as there are Republicans, McSally’s divisive campaign appears to have alienated moderates and independents. Sinema’s pragmatic approach on issues such as health care, the economy, and education may well attract Arizonans turned-off by McSally’s hyper-partisanship.

AZ-01: Rep. O’Halleran v. Rogers

  • 2016 Pres. Election: Trump 48/Clinton 47
  • 2012 Pres. Election: Romney 50/Obama 48
  • 2016 House: O’Halleran (D) 51/Babeu (R) 43
  • Cook PVI: R+2

In AZ-01, Democratic incumbent Rep. Tom O’Halleran will face off against Trump-loyalist Wendy Rogers in November. A former Republican, O’Halleran leads the Blue Dog Coalition Special Task Force on Rural America, which focuses on job creation, economic growth, and increasing access to affordable health care, among other issues. Instead of policies, the GOP primary contenders spent a lot of their time arguing over who had the closest ties to the President. Cook Political rates the seat as Lean D and Rep. O’Halleran stands a good chance of holding onto his seat in November.

AZ-02: Kirkpatrick vs. Peterson

  • 2016 Pres. Election: Clinton 50/Trump 45
  • 2012 Pres. Election: Romney 50/Obama 48
  • 2016 House: McSally (R) 57/Heinz (D) 43
  • Cook PVI: R+1

AZ-02 is one of the districts most likely to flip nationwide, following McSally’s decision to vacate it to run for Sen. Flake’s seat. In the Democratic primary, former. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick defeated 2016 Democratic nominee Dr. Matt Heinz 41 to 31 percent. Kirkpatrick was an establishment-oriented candidate and is featured on the DCCC’s Red to Blue list. She will now face Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President, Lea Marquez Peterson, in November. During her previous stint in Congress, Kirkpatrick voted to create the ACA. Now, she wants to return to defend and strengthen it, and even supports creating a public option for Medicare, whereas Peterson is trotting out the usual “repeal and replace” Republican mantra.


Senate Race: Sen. Nelson v. Gov. Scott

The Senate race between Sen. Bill Nelson and Florida Gov. Rick Scott is poised to be one of the closest races in the country and possibly the toughest re-election fight for a Democratic incumbent. Scott is a wealthy businessman who won both his gubernatorial races primarily by self-funding.  He first came to office in 2010 during the tea party boom and was the first governor to come out in support of President Trump during the 2016 election. Nelson is a three-term incumbent and is considered a moderate-leaning Democrat.

With the backing of President Trump and an endless supply of money, Scott is posing a serious threat to Nelson’s seat. Scott is currently leading in the polls and political pundits agree this will be a tough race for Nelson to win. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s surprise win in the Democratic gubernatorial primary last night could have lateral coattail effects. Gillum has a progressive record and has the backing of Sen. Bernie Sanders; progressives who dislike Scott may help boost Nelson’s prospects.  

FL-06: Soderberg vs. Waltz

  • 2016 Pres. Election: Trump 56/Clinton 40
  • 2012 Pres. Election: Romney 52/Obama 46
  • 2016 House: DeSantis (R) 59/McCollugh (D) 41
  • Cook PVI: R+7

In FL-06, Nancy Soderberg, former national security staffer to Pres. Clinton, easily won her primary with 53 percent of the vote against two other candidates. She will face Mike Waltz, a self-funding Republican and former Army green beret, in November. The seat was vacated by Ron DeSantis who won the Republican gubernatorial primary last night. Democrats are excited about a potential pick-up opportunity in this R-leaning district, although it will be an uphill battle. Soderberg has already raised $1.7 million, but Waltz is a self-funder with lot of cash on hand. Waltz, however, is a self-proclaimed “Never-Trumper” and has been targeted by Super PACs because of it. In this district, denouncing Trump may end up hurting him as opposed to helping.

Soderberg is advocating for protecting pre-existing conditions, expanding Medicaid, and reducing the burden of student debt. In this more conservative district, Soderberg is avoiding phrases like “Medicare-for-all” and instead focusing her message on ensuring all of her constituents have access to affordable healthcare.

FL-15: Carlson vs. State Rep. Spano

  • 2016 Pres. Election: Trump 53/Clinton 43
  • 2012 Pres. Election:  Romney 52/Obama 47
  • 2016 House: Ross (R) 57/Lange (D) 43
  • Cook PVI: R+6

In FL-15, Kristen Carlson overcame her closest challenger 53 to 32 percent in yesterday’s Democratic primary. The race between moderate Carlson and her more progressive challenger, Andrew Learned, is yet another example of the unending ideological battle within the Democratic Party during this primary season. Carlson will now face off against State Rep. Ross Spano in November.

Healthcare is an important issue in this central Florida suburban district, owed to Polk County’s poor scores on access to healthcare compared to statewide and national figures. EMILY’s List endorsed-Carlson led a moderate campaign compared to her challenger Learned, and questions the quixotic idea of single-payer healthcare. She instead advocates for more incremental approaches, such as increasing the Medicare-eligible population by lowering the age threshold.

FL-16: Shapiro vs. Rep. Buchanan

  • 2016 Pres. Election Results: Trump 54/Clinton 43
  • 2012 Pres. Election Results:  Romney 54/Obama 45
  • 2016 House Results: Buchanan (R) 60/ Schneider 40
  • Cook PVI: R+7

Last night, Siesta Key attorney David Shapiro defeated Sarasota attorney Jan Schneider 55 to 45 percent in FL-16. Shapiro will face Rep. Vern Buchanan come November. Buchanan has held the district since 2006 and has not faced a serious threat since that time; 2018 is the first time a Dem could win the district in over a decade. Buchanan has faced scrutiny in recent years over alleged campaign finance misconduct and more recently for a yacht purchase that fell on the same day the GOP tax overhaul was passed.

Shapiro was included on the DCCC Red to Blue list and made one previous unsuccessful bid for public office in 2006, losing by only 2 points in a heavily Republican district for the Florida House of Representatives. His platform includes affordable, high-quality healthcare, increased minimum wage, and environmental protection. While Schneider highlighted healthcare as her most important campaign issue, supporting “Medicare-for-all,” Shapiro advocated for general common sense reforms, such as lowering premiums and prescription costs.

FL-18: Baer vs. Rep. Mast

  • 2016 Pres. Election Results: Trump 53/Clinton 44
  • 2012 Pres. Election Results:  Romney 51/Obama 48
  • 2016 House Results: Mast (R) 54/Perkins (D) 43
  • Cook PVI: R+5

In FL-18, former Obama state department official Lauren Baer will challenge one-term Republican incumbent, Rep. Brian Mast. Baer defeated the more progressive candidate, Navy Veteran Pam Keith, 60 to 40 percent. Baer has been endorsed by the DCCC and is on their Red to Blue list. Keith criticized the DCCC for “rigging the race” during her primary campaign. Although Democrats view this race as a good opportunity, it will be tough for Baer to win, despite her wide support.

Baer’s platform focuses on upholding and strengthening the ACA, as well as creating jobs and raising wages. Baer has been criticized by progressives for not taking a more aggressive approach on healthcare, but she is betting on the idea that her more moderate rhetoric will work in this Republican-leaning district.

FL-27: Shalala vs. Salazar

  • 2016 Pres. Election Results: Clinton 58/Trump 38
  • 2012 Pres. Election Results: Obama 53/Romney 46
  • 2016 House Results: Ros-Lehtinen (R) 55/Fuhrman (D) 45
  • Cook PVI: D+5

In FL-27, a Miami-based and Democrat-leaning district, the retirement of extremely popular Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, an almost 30 year Republican incumbent, has opened up a chance for Democrats. Donna Shalala, the Sec. of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton, entered the primary in March and raised more than $1 million in just a few weeks. Shalala narrowly edged out more progressive candidate David Richardson 32 to 28 percent. Shalala will face TV journalist Maria Elvira Salazar in November. In a district dominated by the Cuban population, the fact that Shalala is not Hispanic and doesn’t speak Spanish may work against her.

Shalala’s platform centers on her strong progressive healthcare views. She’s committed to protecting and defending the ACA, with the ultimate goal of transitioning to a “Medicare-for-all” option. Salazar, however, rests her healthcare platform on repealing the ACA due to its costs. This dichotomy in healthcare policy will be a large factor in deciding who wins FL-27.

Place-based Politics

Florida is an extremely diverse state with demographics that change substantially when you move from district to district. Many of the races in Florida can serve as a microcosm for the rest of the country.

In Florida and Arizona, as has been the trend across the country, Democratic candidates are running on healthcare, healthcare, healthcare. However, their approaches differed based on the districts in which they were running. Any Democrat can (and should) run with a strong healthcare platform, but the messaging cannot be universal. In order to win, candidates must communicate in a way that reaches their constituents — in some districts that means advocating for Medicare-for-all, whereas in others, that means simply saying you’ll strengthen the ACA and lower drug costs. The message on healthcare, which polls as the number one or two issue across the country, is clearly working and candidates that can find a way to adapt it to their districts are seeing the most success.

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