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In Arizona's 6th Congressional District, redistricting could decide who controls the U.S. House

The 6th Congressional District in southern Arizona holds one of the swing seats that will help decide which party controls the U.S. House of Representatives. The race for that seat serves as a good example of how redistricting is shaping this year’s elections.

Members of the independent redistricting commission spent hours upon hours last year debating where to put the boundaries of the 6th Congressional District. They'd been quibbling over a few blocks here, and a few blocks there.

It turns out, one or two neighborhoods and a few thousand voters could make all the difference in this closely watched race.

If you look at the results of the 2020 election in what is now this district, Joe Biden only won it by a few hundred votes.

It looks a lot like the the district Democratic Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick represents now.

It stretches out from the northern and eastern ends of Tucson across much of Cochise County.

But unlike the current Democratic district, the new district also extends to Republican-leaning suburbs, like Marana. It takes in Graham and Greenlee counties. And it doesn’t include Democratic bastions like Bisbee.

That makes the district a tougher one for Democrats to win this time around.

Kirkpatrick isn’t running again. Looking to fill her shoes are Democrat Kirsten Engel and Republican Juan Ciscomani.

Ciscomani is a former aide to Gov. Doug Ducey and served as director of the Arizona Mexico Commission. It’s experience that he’s touting in this race to represent a border district.

“Got to see a lot of things the state can do well. And I also noticed a lot of problems that should be solved at the federal level. So, we decided to jump in on this race on the federal side of government because I don’t like the direction that the country is going," said Ciscomani.

Ciscomani is campaigning on frustrations with inflation, and told AZPM recently that he believes the solution is to cut federal spending.

“The federal government is spending money in a very reckless way. We have to fix that immediately. Cut the overspending from the federal government,” he said.

Engel is not a political novice, either. She was a state senator representing part of Tucson and is an environmental law professor at the University of Arizona.

Engel argues that experience is key in a district where water is a major issue.

"We know that we’re not in a lower state of shortage on our reservoirs on the Colorado River. Water levels have been dropping much more quickly than the federal government assumed would occur,” Engel said.

But Engel that argues that what really sets her a part from Ciscomani is an issue that has become front and center these last few months: abortion.

Engel says that Congress should protect the right to an abortion in federal law.

“This is very personal to me, as a woman, as a mother of a teenage daughter. You know, I am really outraged and frustrated that she is now looking at growing up and living in a world in which she has fewer rights than I did,” said Engel.

Congressional races in this corner of Arizona have long been competitive.

But this year, Republicans at the national level eye this as a prime opportunity to flip a district that could help them win back control of the House of Representatives.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, has spent more than $2.5 million on the race, according to the watchdog group Open Secrets. The National Republican Congressional Committee has also spent more than $700,000 on winning the district.

So far, Ciscomani is out-fundraising Engel. His campaign has spent more than $2 million — hundreds of thousands of dollars more than Engel’s campaign.

The district lines may be new but this year’s race shows this corner of Arizona continues to be terrain that both parties are having to fight for.

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