Election handicapper moves Arizona Senate race to 'leans Democratic'

An elections handicapper moved its rating of the Arizona Senate race from “toss-up” to “leans Democratic” in response to a state Supreme Court ruling reinstating a 19th-century abortion ban. 

Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics said in a release Wednesday that it moved its rating toward Democrats because of the “increased importance” of abortion rights following the court decision and the recent fundraising strength of the likely Democratic nominee, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.). 

Gallego is not facing any opposition for the Democratic nomination for the seat being vacated by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), who is not running for reelection. He will likely face former Arizona GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake, who has consolidated Republican support behind her candidacy. 

The race is expected to be close and will help decide which party will have control of the Senate next year, with Democrats trying to defend their narrow majority. 

But Sabato’s Crystal Ball said it now sees Democrats as a slight favorite to win the seat. More fuel was added to the ongoing national debate over abortion rights following the overturning of Roe v. Wade when the Arizona Supreme Court last week upheld an 1864 state law that makes abortion illegal except to save the life of the mother.

The law makes performing or helping a woman obtain an abortion is a felony punishable by two to five years in prison. There are no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. 

Both Gallego and Lake, along with several other Arizona politicians from both parties, issued statements opposing the ruling after it was handed down, but the Sabato’s Crystal Ball release says the ruling will likely help Democrats in the race.

The release notes that Lake has had a “hard-right reputation” as someone who has denied the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential and 2022 gubernatorial elections and previously voiced support for the 1864 law while running for governor. It said she will likely need to change that to win and took a step to do so with her statement.

The rating also changed because of Gallego having a stronger fundraising quarter over the first three months of the year, bringing in $7.5 million. 

The release said the rating does improve Democrats’ chances for winning the Senate, but Republicans will still have an easier path with the map of seats up for election this year.

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