ARIZONA DECIDES 2020: Biden projected to win in Arizona, flip longtime Republican stronghold

ARIZONA DECIDES 2020: Biden projected to win in Arizona, flip longtime Republican stronghold
Joe Biden speaks to supporters on Election Night.

PHOENIX (AP) - Joe Biden won Arizona’s 11 electoral votes, becoming the second Democratic presidential candidate since 1948 to claim victory in the longtime Republican stronghold.

The former vice president benefited from the state’s changing demographics and successfully won over swing voters who split their tickets two years ago to elect a Republican governor and a Democrat to the U.S. Senate.

Trump and his allies made an aggressive, but ultimately futile, push to hold on to Arizona, which the president won by 3.5 percentage points in 2016.

Meanwhile, former astronaut Mark Kelly defeated Republican Sen. Martha McSally to become Arizona’s second Democratic senator. Arizona hasn’t had two Democratic senators since Earnest McFarland lost his reelection bid in 1952.

Before the race was called, Kelly said he was “confident that when all the votes are counted, we’re going to be successful in this mission.”

McSally was not expected to speak the evening of the election and her spokeswoman, Caroline Anderegg, had said it was too early to know who won.

Kelly’s win could prove crucial in determining control of the Senate. McSally was appointed to the seat formerly held by the late GOP Sen. John McCain after she lost a Senate race in 2018 to Kyrsten Sinema, who became the first Democrat in Arizona to win a Senate seat in 30 years amid changing demographics.

The state was in play down the ballot, giving Democrats a realistic shot even at winning control of the state Legislature and the Arizona Corporation Commission that regulates electric utilities. Voters also approved an initiative allowing Arizona to join other states that have legalized recreational marijuana.

Arizona voters were in a negative mood as they chose their president, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 132,000 voters and nonvoters nationwide conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago. The survey shows that 61% of Arizona voters said the U.S. is on the wrong track, while 39% said it is headed in the right direction.

But they also were motivated. Election officials in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous, said multiple voting locations with people still in line when they were set to close at 7 p.m. remained open as required by state law.

Nearly 143,000 voters had cast ballots in person as of 5 p.m., and 1.7 million early ballots had been returned and their signatures verified, said Megan Gilbertson, a spokeswoman for the county’s elections department.

Statewide, participation was already high, with nearly 62% of voters having cast their ballots either by mail or in-person by Monday morning.

Democrats pinned their hopes on Arizona’s changing demographics and swing voters who split their tickets two years ago to elect a Republican governor and send a Democrat to the U.S. Senate. Their fortunes have risen thanks to the state’s growing Latino population, an influx of new voters and unease with Trump among suburban women.

Trump and his allies battled to hold on to Arizona, which the president won in 2016 by 3.5 percentage points.

Speaking early Wednesday from the White House, Trump said many votes were outstanding and “there’s a possibility, maybe even a good possibility” that he could win despite the deficit.

Bill Clinton was the most recent Democratic presidential candidate to take Arizona, winning with 46% of the vote in 1996, helped by Ross Perot’s strong third-party bid. Before that, the last time Arizona selected a Democrat for president was in 1948 with Harry Truman.

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Associated Press writers Terry Tang, Bob Christie, Jacques Billeaud and Felicia Fonseca contributed to this report. ___

Find AP’s full election coverage at APNews.com/Election2020.

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