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Elvia Díaz: Primaries will decide many Arizona elections. Voters need to get serious

Voting signs in Glendale.
Michael Gutnick/Cronkite News
Voting signs in Glendale.

Early voting is underway in advance of the state’s July 30 primary. And in some races, the winner of this month’s contest will win the seat — either because there’s no opponent from the other party or the party registration in a district is so heavily tilted to one side or the other that the other side has virtually no chance to win.

The Arizona Republic recently published an unsigned editorial encouraging primary voters to choose competence over conspiracy — and to pick serious candidates who have well thought-out views on the issues.

Elvía Diaz is the paper’s Editorial Page Editor, and she joined The Show to talk more about this.

Full conversation

MARK BRODIE: Elvia, what prompted you and your colleagues to write this editorial?

ELVIA DÍAZ: This election is incredibly important. And you will hear that in every election, right? But we have seen that the primary, it is a key election where a lot of the races are going to be decided. And that’s because of how the districts have been drawn and, you know, the voter registration.

So, it is important to take a stand. We do not as an institutional voice endorse candidates. That was decided a while back, a few years ago. But this time as a group, we felt it is incredibly important to tell voters to take a stand, especially on these races in the primary that are going to be decided right there, so that's going to be the key vote.

And specifically we decided to focus on the Republican Party, which, as we indicate there in the editorial, still holds about a 243,000 voter registration advantage over Democrats. Yet the party has been run by MAGA loyalists in the past few years.

And that’s incredibly concerning. We also note in the editorial that the Republican Party, MAGA, essentially, have turned on their own, and they have censured everyone that you can think of that does not follow their line. And we’re talking about (former) Gov. Doug Ducey, (former) Sen. (John) McCain, Cindy McCain, former Sen. Jeff Flake, the speaker of the House, (Maricopa) County Attorney Rachel Mitchell and all the justices of the Supreme Court.

So we felt it is important to remind voters what is at stake and to look at the specific races and really illustrate the quality of the candidates that are there and that they are very hard to find in these primaries.

Elvia Díaz
Arizona Republic
Elvia Díaz

BRODIE: So it seems as though what you’re suggesting maybe goes against the conventional wisdom a little bit, on both sides of the aisle, which is that the candidates who tend to come out of primaries … the voters are those who are very passionate either on the left or on the right, sort of on the maybe not centrist parts of that spectrum.

I wonder if this becomes a difficult task to ask voters to not vote for the candidates furthest to the left or furthest to the right, given who tends to vote in the primaries?

DÍAZ: That’s the hard part, but also not so much in some of the districts, when we’re talking about competitive districts. But what you are asking makes total sense because you would want people to vote the best candidates to come out of the primary and face in the general elections. And this editorial, we were focusing on the races and the districts that are going to be decided in the primary, for instance, Congressional District 8.

There is no such thing as a competitive race here. And getting the best one here to face a Democrat, for instance, that’s not going to happen. And the same thing on some state races and county races.

BRODIE: Yeah. I’m curious if this sort of goes across the board. There are a number of races in the state Legislature where the winner of the primary is either definitely assured to win because there is no opponent on the other side, or probably going to win because the districts are so strongly tilted in favor of one party or the other. Does your argument that you’re using in CD8 kind of apply across the board to all of those races?

DÍAZ: Yes, that's exactly it. You got it. You have, for instance, in the state Senate, Legislative District 17 and the county races for supervisors. They’re mostly Republicans, not very competitive. So, some of those races are going to be decided in the primary. And again, this editorial will focus on the Republicans, but we will come back with other editorials.

This morning, for instance, we published one focused on just the state Legislature. And then on other races on the Democratic side, (CD3), the two Democrats who want to, replace U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, who is for Senate. So whoever wins in the primary is it. So they’re only two, Democrats running there: Raquel Terán and Yassamin Ansari.

So same thing applies for the Democrats, right? There’s no competition there in the general election. So that's why it’s going to be important to highlight those and in the primary. But again, there are more on the Republican side, at least that I can see, that are going to be decided in the primary.

BRODIE: What will you be looking for? Early voting has begun. So what will you be looking for between now and maybe the days before the primary based on what the candidates are doing to determine if maybe what you are calling on primary voters to do is actually happening?

DÍAZ: We’re looking at a lot of TV ads that are happening right now. Mailers are being sent out. And all candidates are going to be redoubling their efforts, but especially on these races that are going to be decided in the primary. Unfortunately, the state of politics is just going to be attack, attack, attack your opponent.

And that’s what that’s what we’re going to be looking at. I’ll be looking at that and see who’s lying, who’s stretching the truth. And trying to tell voters that.

Now early voting is already underway. The primary is July 30. So we will see a lot of money being spent on some of these races and just doubling and tripling their efforts to either lie or to exaggerate things, which is most unfortunate, instead of talking about the issues. So it is our responsibility as media not just to amplify those messages, which we tend to do, and look at the issues.

What are voters thinking about other than immigration? Clearly people are concerned about the economy, are concerned about jobs, are concerned about education, about vouchers, what’s happening here in the state. But those issues are not sexy, right? They don’t really tell voters to make a decision on that, which is unfortunate. But it is a responsibility to at least try to navigate that and try to remind readers what’s at stake here.

KJZZ's The Show transcripts are created on deadline. This text is edited for length and clarity, and may not be in its final form. The authoritative record of KJZZ's programming is the audio record.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A third candidate, Duane Wooten, is also running for the Democratic nomination in CD3.

Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.
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