DNC sees Maricopa County voters as key to making Arizona a 2020 battleground

The Democratic National Committee has identified Arizona as one of six battleground states, won by President Donald Trump in 2016, where it hopes to put the president on the defensive in 2020. Republicans say it’s too little, too late. (Photo by Erik (HASH) Hersman/Creative Commons)

WASHINGTON – Democratic National Committee officials said they plan to focus aggressively on Maricopa County voters as part of their efforts to swing Arizona, one of six battleground states where the party plans to invest millions in 2020.

DNC spokesman David Bergstein said the initiative will “roughly double the number of field organizers across the states, and by March there will hundreds of staff on the ground across the states.”

But while Democrats expressed confidence Wednesday, state GOP officials said they’ve heard it all before.

“Democrats have consistently poured in outside money in their effort to win local races,” said Maricopa County Republican Committee Chairman Rae Chorneky, who was not aware of the DNC push but not threatened by it.

“We have every confidence that Maricopa County voters will see through that and will vote for the Republican candidates that have made Maricopa County strong,” Chorneky said.

Bergstein said the DNC is making historic and early investments to lay groundwork for the eventual Democratic presidential nominee. Part of that includes working with Organizing Corps 2020, a DNC-backed program that aims to train young people of color to build the grassroots infrastructure needed for the election. It has already held bootcamps in Tempe.

DNC officials said in a conference call Wednesday that they aim to double the number of on-the-ground staff, increase offices in each of the targeted states and fund data and operations staff, according to DNC officials.

The program currently only targets Arizona and five other states – Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. But DNC officials said more states could be added as the election approaches.

Bergstein said on other tool the program hopes to exploit is the unpopularity of President Donald Trump.

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“Arizona has trended rapidly in our direction because voters are fed up on Donald Trump’s broken promises,” he said. “We expect a heavy presence in suburban and rural areas.”

Samantha Zager, a Trump Victory spokesperson, said the Democratic effort is too little and too late to compete with a well-funded and well-established digital GOP operation.

“While the Democrats are broke and largely ignoring Arizona as they pander for the nomination elsewhere, we’ve been on the ground since the 2016 cycle,” Zager said in an emailed statement. “We look forward to winning again in 2020.”

But Bergstein said voters are turning toward the Democratic Party in the state – in part because of Trump, whom the DNC aims to make a “one-term president.”

“We know that over the last several cycles, Arizona has trended rapidly in our direction because voters are fed up” with what Bergstein called “Trump’s broken promises.”

At least one political expert said that targeting Arizona makes sense for Democrats because the state is evolving, with more Democrats winning office at state and federal levels.

“In Arizona, historically Republicans have won the state in national elections, but now with the congressional delegation and this legislature that’s close in the House and Senate, it makes sense to invest there,” said Amy Dacey, executive director at the Sine Institute of Policy and Politics at American University.

“There’s interest in trying to win nationally when we saw in 2018 that Democrats were able to win in the Senate” in Arizona, said Dacey.

Arizona Democrats welcomed the attention.

“We’re excited that Arizona has continued to be recognized as a 2020 battleground,” said Matt Grodsky, a spokesperson for the Arizona Democratic Party.

“Arizona Democrats are energized for this year’s election, and ready to organize and elect leaders who will prioritize expanding health care, lowering prescription drug prices, investing in education, and putting Arizonans first in Congress, the White House, and our state legislature,” he said in a statement Wednesday.

Politics Reporter, Washington, D.C.