50 States in 50 Days Election Preview: 48. Arizona

In the 50 days leading up to the election on November 6th, I will be doing a profile of the 50 states and previewing what is on the ballot and how they are likely to vote. All of the posts so far can be found here

48. Arizona

Capital: Phoenix

Nickname: The Grand Canyon State

Motto: Ditat Deus

(God Enriches)

About the State

Like New Mexico, Arizona was originally under Spanish rule, then became part of Mexico after their War of Independence of 1821, before transferring to the United States as part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican-American War in 1848.  Originally, the present day state was part of the New Mexico Territory, which was expanded to its current borders in 1853, when President Franklin Pierce sent James Gadsden to Mexico City to negotiate the Sale of La Mesilla, which involved the purchase of the southern part of Arizona – as well as the southwestern tip of New Mexico – in order for the US to expand the transcontinental railroad into the region.  With the increased area and population, proposals were made for the division of the Territory, either with a north-to-south border, or west-to-east.  In the midst of the Civil War it ended up being split both ways – the Union considered Arizona Territory the western part of the former New Mexico Territory, while the Confederates claimed the southern part under the same name.  In 1863, President Lincoln signed a bill that officially organised the Arizona Territory with its current boundaries

Following the Civil War – which had one conflict in Arizona, the Battle of Picacho Pass, the westernmost skirmish of the campaign – Texans migrated to the region and introduced ranching, and there was a copper boom in the Territory in the 1880s, after a smelter had been opened there and national demand increased for the metal in electrical wiring.  Arizona’s economy grew further when the railroads reached there that same decade, while the territory was also at the heart of the “Wild West”.  One of the most notorious towns during that period was Tombstone, which was the site of the infamous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, when outlaw cowboys, Billy Clanton and Tom & Frank McLaury were killed by the lawmen, Virgil, Morgan and Wyatt Earp, who were aided by Doc Holliday.

On February 14th, 1912, Arizona became the 48th state of the Union and the last of the continental ones to join.  John Wesley Powell had written about his exploration of the Colorado River, including his trek through the Grand Canyon, in 1869 and when the Santa Fe Railroad reached the South Rim in 1901, it opened up the natural wonder to more visitors.  Alongside tourism, the state’s modern-day economy revolves around mining – particularly of copper – and agriculture, with its main outputs being cotton, cattle, broccoli and dairy products.  In its more recent history, Arizona has been known for the passing of the controversial SB 1070 – a bill that allows law enforcement officers to racially profile people they suspect of being illegal immigrants – and for the shooting in Tuscon in January 2011, in which Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was targeted and shot through the head – yet somehow survived – but six other people were killed.

Arizona is the sixth largest state in area and, with just under 6.5 million residents, ranks 16th in terms of population.  There are four “Big Four” sports teams located there, one in each league: the Arizona Cardinals (NFL); Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB); Phoenix Coyotes (NHL); and the Phoenix Suns (NBA).  The state is also home to half of the Major League Baseball teams each February and March for the Grapefruit League in Spring Training.  In 1968, London Bridge – which had traversed the River Thames in the capital of the United Kingdom – was sold to Robert McCulloch, who reconstructed it in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, though he vehemently denied later British claims that he had mistaken it for the more majestic Tower Bridge.

Presidential Race

Electoral College Votes: 11

2008 Result: McCain 53.8% Obama 45.0%

Latest Poll: Romney +8%

Arizona has been won by the Democratic candidate in a Presidential election just once since 1948, with President Clinton carrying the state in his 1996 re-election.  If Governor Romney failed to win this state it would be a huge surprise and the odds are on him being victorious there and gaining its 11 Electoral College Votes.

Also on the Ballot

Congress: There is one Senate election in Arizona this year, with incumbent Sen. John Kyl (R) not seeking re-election after serving the state for three terms.  The race to replace him is between current House of Representatives member, Jeff Flake (R), and Democrat Richard Carmona, with the contest currently considered a toss-up, but Flake having a narrow lead in the most recent polls.

After redistricting as a result of the 2010 census, the number of Representatives in the House Arizona has will increase by 1 to 9.  The current delegation is made up of 3 Democrats and 5 Republicans, with the Democratic Party expected to pick up the new district and possibly one more of the GOP seats in the 1st or 2nd district.

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