2024 Election /

Forecaster Moves Arizona Senate Race To 'Leans Left' After Controversial Abortion Ruling

'In Arizona’s open-seat Senate race, we now see the Democrats as a narrow favorite'

Forecaster Moves Arizona Senate Race To 'Leans Left' After Controversial Abortion Ruling

A bombshell ruling last week by the Arizona Supreme Court sent shockwaves across the nation after the court ruled the state can enforce an 1864 law that criminalizes abortion in nearly all circumstances.

The law makes performing or assisting a woman in obtaining an abortion a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. There are no exceptions for instances of rape or saving the life of the mother.

Though the court explained in great detail that its decision was not couched in politics, it was tethered strictly to “the law as written,” reviving the 19th century abortion ban energized political operatives who were already eager to make the issue central in 2024 election campaigning.

Vying for the seat of Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who announced she would not see re-election, are Republican former gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and Democratic nominee Rep. Ruben Gallego.

Election forecaster Sabato’s Crystal Ball considered the race a toss-up until last week’s ruling on abortion. Now, the organization rates the contest for Arizona’s senate seat “Leans Democratic.”

Crystal Ball is a nonpartisan political analysis newsletter run by the University of Virginia Center for Politics. Besides forecasting winners, it provides analysis of trends in U.S. politics and elections.

Because of two factors — abortion and a fundraising gap — Crystal Ball rates Democrats with an advantage over Republicans.

Following a string of successes in election contests and ballot measures after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Democrats made abortion a priority issue for the 2024 election cycle.

During the first quarter of this year, Gallego raised $7.5 million, ending the period with $9.6 million cash on hand. Lake brought in $4.1 million and ended the period with $2.5 million cash on hand.

“We wrote extensively last week about the importance of abortion rights in Arizona for 2024,” Kyle Kondik, writing for Crystal Ball, explained.

He added:

The state’s Supreme Court recently allowed a very strict abortion ban dating back to Arizona’s territorial days to go back into effect later this year. As the narrowly Republican-held legislature ponders what to do about abortion, there is also a looming statewide ballot issue that would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution, as other statewide electorates have done in states like Michigan and Ohio in the aftermath of the Dobbs decision. While voters can and often do split their tickets on such ballot measures, we can’t imagine a major ballot fight over abortion rights would hurt Democratic turnout efforts in the state, and it very well could help.

We thought about making a couple of rating changes in Arizona last week, but we decided to wait until we saw the first quarter fundraising reports for House and Senate races, which were finalized for all campaigns on Monday. Those reports nudged us further in the direction of the two changes we’re announcing today.

In Arizona’s open-seat Senate race, we now see the Democrats as a narrow favorite, so we’re pushing that race from Toss-up to Leans Democratic. And we also view the swing district AZ-6, held by first-term Rep. Juan Ciscomani (R), as a truly 50-50 proposition, so we’re moving it from Leans Republican to Toss-up.

Kondik criticized Lake as “a leading election denier” who “has a hard-right reputation that she is going to need to tone down” in order to win in November.

Gallego, he said, is “ideologically positioned to the left of the senator he is trying to succeed” and is off to a better start on fundraising, which boosts his chances in the race.

While Democrats may potentially hold a slight advantage in the Arizona senate contest, according to Crystal Ball, nationwide Republicans still maintain an easier path to a full senate majority, given the number of Democrats whose seats are up for grabs.

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