Election 2012

Conservative Dominance Teeters in Arizona

Redrawn districts and ballot initiatives could put moderates and Democrats in a stronger position


The Republican majorities in the Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma and Wisconsin legislatures that reshaped state policy over the last two years were following the lead of their GOP counterparts in Arizona, who embarked on a similar path two years earlier.

Over the past four years, Arizona Republicans have pushed through the state's famous anti-illegal immigration bill. They also have cut spending, cut taxes, expanded gun rights, restricted abortion, expanded government funding of private schools and ended universal all-day kindergarten. Their actions foreshadowed debates to come: The Arizona legislature approved a ballot measure to challenge the "individual mandate" to purchase health insurance nine months before President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law.

The extent to which conservatives in Arizona will be able to continue that leadership role depends on what happens November 6, when they face a three-pronged threat: New legislative district maps are expected to help Democrats pick up seats; Arizona is voting on a ballot initiative to install a top-two primary system intended to help elect more moderates; and even if conservatives remain in charge, another ballot initiative could force the legislature to spend more on education than it otherwise would.