Rex Scott, the Pima County Supervisor from District 1, spoke at the Democrats of Greater Tucson meeting on November 21, 2022. Following is an edited transcript of his remarks.

Highlights:

  • Trump-endorsed extremists lost.
  • The Republicans have eviscerated Clean Elections.
  • Younger voters turned out for Democrats.
  • With Hobbs as Governor, Democrats will seek action on public education, infrastructure, and water policy.
  • CD6 Congressional candidate Kirsten Engel was outspent by her Republican opponent 10 to 1.
  • Leave no Republican unchallenged — no more “single shot” campaigns

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Democrats really benefitted from multi-candidate GOP primaries for Governor, United States Senator, secretary of State and Attorney General. In each one of those cases, the victor did not gain a majority of Republican primary votes. Still, they had something that put them over the top in a multi-candidate field, which was the endorsement from Donald Trump.

Oath Keeper Mark Finchem at the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection

And so, as a result, you had four people running for statewide office, on their ticket who were extremists, who were election deniers who were so extraordinarily out of the mainstream. They just were not able to run effective general election campaigns. The two most egregious examples were Blake Masters and Mark Finchem, who were defeated by Mark Kelly and Adrian Fontes, respectively.

Certainly, both Mark Kelly and Adrian Fontes had the resources to not only define themselves, but also to effectively define their opponents. And we got some assistance from outside the state for both those campaigns as well. But Kari Lake demonstrated that there is a sensible center in not just this country, but this state.

And it’s not only a sensible center that recoils against election denialism and not being in favor of reproductive rights for women, but it’s also a sensible center that just recoils against people who are unpleasant and who just seem like they’re going to have a difficult time working with anybody.

And I think the tone and tenor of Lake’s campaign, especially in the waning days, decided to attack John McCain for some bizarre reason that I guess only she understands, and mock the assault on Speaker Pelosi’s husband. There was a core group of voters within the Republican and Democratic parties, but also within the ranks of independents, who just were appalled by that kind of rhetoric.

We need to pay as much attention to open seats and strong challengers in winnable districts as we do to protect incumbents. I think that needs to be a higher priority by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and also for the State Democratic Party in whatever capacity it has to be of support.

But I think we also need to listen to people on the ground in those districts. My campaign consultant was also Kirsten Engel’s campaign consultant, and what I heard from him, and his team was that they were telling the national folks, “look at our polling, look at what we are.” National Democrats must hear on the ground and see on the ground. Many times, folks in DC are looking at their own metrics and not paying attention to the people on the ground.

Clean Elections eviscerated

Another takeaway that I have from the state elections is, and this might not be a popular opinion but I’m going to go ahead and say it, because it was something that I really worried about. The Republicans in the legislature have eviscerated the Clean Elections system. Candidates running clean just are not playing on a level field. I think the only people who should be running clean elections in the future are people running for the legislature in pretty safe Democratic districts.

I think that’s the biggest reason we lost the State Superintendent of Public Instruction race because Kathy Hoffman just did not have the resources to compete against somebody who not only was running traditionally and could raise more money than she did, but who had been on a state ballot multiple times as a candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction but also for Attorney General.

Attorney General race

I think we have the attorney general race in hand. Kris Mayes is 510 votes ahead with all the votes counted. There’s going to be a recount, obviously, but that generally doesn’t change more than a handful of votes.

With the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Kathy Hoffman had a lead for quite a while. I was pretty sure she was going to pull it out. But Kathy conceded the race on November 17.

Meanwhile, Republican Tom Horne did what he needed to do, which was not to be an obnoxious Trumper. Republicans who weren’t obnoxious Trumpers got elected. The one thing he did was to have all his material about critical race theory. That was the one Trump card I think he had.

I saw something in the Republic newspaper yesterday that there were a significant number of people who skipped that race, and we don’t necessarily know who they were, whether it was predominantly Democrats or Republicans or independents. I know we’ve been doing a lot of work as a party to mitigate against under-voting among Democrats, but we need to redouble our efforts with independents as well.

But then I think we also need just to continue what we’re doing to grow our party. One of the things that I’ve been really appreciative of as a candidate myself is how I’ve been able to count on not just the county party, but, maybe even more significantly, the legislative district organizations for volunteers.

In Arizona, 18-to-29-year-old voters favored Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly by 56 points over Republican Blake Masters, according to the exit polls. 

Promising future

The future also looks extraordinarily promising based on how younger voters broke for Democrats not just in Arizona, but also across the rest of the country. But younger voters are very results-oriented. They are people who have been most dismayed with what Joe Manchin (R-WV) and, unfortunately, our own Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have done to derail the Democratic agenda in Washington. But this is a real characteristic of younger voters who want to see results.

And that brings me to something regarding most voters, which is that that most voters are pragmatists. They understand and accept the fact that certain roles are best taken on by the government. But they want those roles taken on with common sense, a real commitment to doing the public good, and respect for the public tax dollars entrusted to them.

I think that Governor-elect Hobbs and the Democrats in the legislature were very fortunate. To keep our current margins in the legislature and now to have a Democratic governor, is going to give Democrats a lot more leverage. By the way, this was the first midterm election since 1934 that the President’s party did not lose a single house of the legislature in any of the 50 states. That’s extraordinary.

The end of Republican hegemony

That points to a really bright future for Democrats. Now I think that Katie Hobbs and our Democrats in the legislature need to focus on everything that’s been neglected by Republican governors since 2009, which is when Governor Napolitano left to become Obama’s Homeland Security Secretary.

Since then, we’ve had nothing but Republican governors, and we’ve had nothing but Republican majorities in the legislature (except for the beginning of the Napolitano administration, where we had a divided Senate, a 15-15 Senate). We’ve had nothing but Republican majorities in the legislature for more than 30 years.

Katies Hobbs won the Governorship by 17,116

In areas like education, infrastructure, and water policy Governor-elect Hobbs and the legislature need to be very open about the fact that they’re going to be taking matters that have been neglected by Republicans for decades.

Engel outspent by 10-to-1

Not enough resources were devoted to an open seat here in CD6, which polling by the Engel campaign indicated was a very winnable race. In CD1, we had an extraordinarily strong challenger in Jevin Hodge, who had just come off a really outstanding campaign for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors that he almost won against an incumbent.

We neglected those two races, and I think we neglected open seats and challengers around the country. I think we could have kept the US House if we had been more strategic and not spent an unprecedented amount in New York. We should have done more to support people like Jevin Hodge and Kirsten Engel around the country.

I went to Kirsten’s end-of-campaign party. She shared some statistics with all of us, not only about the extraordinary work that the campaign did with voter outreach but also about how much they were outspent.

The Ciscomani campaign had their own funding, but also what outside groups that were spending, including Kevin McCarthy’s house Majority PAC. Kirsten and her team were outspent about 10-to-one. She still made it a big fight. It speaks to her qualities as a candidate, and what might have been if Democratic groups and special interest groups that support Democratic congressional candidates had been bigger players in this district.

Legislature hostile to Pima County

The antipathy by the state that you have seen towards Pima County historically in the legislature has been a partisan antipathy. Democratic members of the legislature have not had it in for Pima County. Frankly, the antipathy has been from certain members of the other party, notably in the state Senate. But here’s what I think. Now we’ve got a Democratic governor for the first time since 2009, and there’s a 16-14 Republican majority in the Senate, and a 31-29 Republican majority in the house.

The people who are going to really make an impact in the legislature are not strident partisans who want to go after one of the 15 counties. It’s going to be people who can reach across the aisle, and maybe reach back into their own caucus and form the kind of working coalitions that you’re going to need with a Democratic governor and close margins in the two chambers.

We must let Governor-elect Hobbs know that when she looks at the Redistricting Commission, she should focus on the independent chair of the Commission.

I don’t think that is likely to happen the way it has in the past for those reasons. And I also think that there are members in the Republican caucus, notably southern Arizona Republican members like Senator David Gowan (R-LD19), who are working to have a good relationship with all the counties.

I’m the county’s representative to the State County Supervisors Association, and we had our legislative policy summit recently. It was hosted by us in Santa Cruz County. And Senator Gowan was there every day, interacting with all our members regardless of parties. So, I’m hopeful that antipathy is a thing of the past.

Ducey stacked the Redistricting Commission

But then I think we also need just to continue what we’re doing to grow our party. One of the things that I’ve been really appreciative of as a candidate myself is how I’ve been able to count on not just the county party, but, maybe even more significantly, the legislative district organizations for volunteers.

So I think we need to, maybe not as ruthlessly as Governor Ducey, get ready for redistricting in 2030. That is something that I am sure has not escaped the attention of Katie Hobbs.

But then I think we also need just to continue what we’re doing to grow our party. One of the things that I’ve been really appreciative of as a candidate myself is how I’ve been able to count on not just the county party, but, maybe even more significantly, the legislative district organizations for volunteers.

Loss at the Corporation Commission

Lauren Kuby and Sandra Kennedy were just omnipresent on the campaign trail. I swear at every candidate event that I either went to or took part in online, one or both of them was there.

But it’s difficult when, again, you’re running clean elections, and I think both of them did. I think that was a big hurdle for Lauren and Sandra to overcome.

The other thing was, just like the state treasurer’s race, the Republicans really downplayed any connections with Trump, election denialism, or being anti-choice. Of course, in state Treasurer and Corporation Commission races, those issues aren’t as prevalent. But those were the races where you saw the biggest votes for Republican candidates were state Treasurer and Corporation Commission.

The Corporation Commission is a 4-to-1 Republican Commission. The only Democratic Commissioner is Anna Tovar. I think they are going to make some decisions that are going to damage our need to take on climate change. It’s going to look like it’s just the APS-run Corporation Commission is not going to be effective in terms of consumer protection. [APS, or Arizona Public Service Company, is Arizona’s largest electric company.] So hopefully, they’re going to give us a solid record that we can run against the next time. And I believe the next time there’ll be three seats up.

Cost burden on counties

Katie Hobbs knows that for years the state has shifted costs onto counties. This is a concern for all my colleagues on the Board of Supervisors and in the other 14 counties. The amount of money that we have to incorporate into our budgets each year because the state has shifted costs to us, includes costs with both long-term and short-term medical care, running the court system and running the juvenile justice system.

It runs into the tens of millions of dollars for Pima County. So, we’re certainly hoping that’s something that Katie Hobbs is going to remember. I know the County Supervisor’s Association is going to remind her of that if she’s forgotten. So that is something that we really hope that she will take on.

We also are hoping that the state will repeal the preemption statute that prevents us as a Board of Supervisors from taking any local action to deal with gun safety or otherwise preventing gun violence. Again, that is Arizona revised statute 13-3108.

We’re going to be talking about this in an executive session of the board on December 6th and we have our memorandum from the county attorney on how we might address that statute. But what would be great is if the legislature and the governor said they’re not going to continue to prevent local governments from doing what some of their counterparts around the country are able to do, and take local action to address gun violence and gun safety. We’re just going to repeal that statute. That might be a bit of a pollyannish wish, but it’s more, more likely to think about with a Democratic governor.

Democrats must run a candidate in every race, and leave no Republican unchallenged.

A challenger against every Republican

We also need to make sure that we are competing fully in the swing districts that we now have. I am not an advocate for the single-shot strategy. There are five or six, I believe, of the 30 districts in the state that are known as swing districts.

I think we need to run full slates in most of the districts because then you’re getting the Republicans to divert resources that they might use in other places. That’s what they had to do with Kirsten Engel. She was running such a great campaign despite being outspent 10-to-one, that they had to start plowing more money into CD6 that they probably wanted to put into other districts around the country.

When people voted for clean elections, they voted because they wanted to see competitive races. I will say that regardless of the work of the Clean Election Commission, until we have a system in place like ranked-choice voting that is going to make people feel that they have a voice in both primary and general elections, we’re not going to see the level of voter participation and competitiveness that all of us want.