As the U.S. House moves forward with its investigation into the Ukraine matter, the political stakes are high for many of Arizona's congressional delegation
The U.S. House of Representatives finally took the big step last week when all but two Democrats voted to establish the rules for a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, while the entire Republican delegation voted against it.
Impeachment over the Ukrainian affair is a roll of the dice for Democrats. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hoped to avoid this step and let Trump continue alienating independent voters until the 2020 election, so that voters would send him packing. But as Democrats move forward with impeachment, Trump may win back the independent voters who gave him narrow victories in enough states to put him in the White House.
None of Arizona's Democrats voted against the impeachment inquiry. U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, who represents solid-blue District 3, has been calling for Trump's removal since 2017, so it's no surprise he's eager to get this show underway.
U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who represents a much more competitive District 2, was slower to come on board, but she's gambling she's better off keeping Democrats and anti-Trump independents behind her than keeping the Trump supporters happy—which makes sense, given that the Trump folks aren't going to vote for her anyhow. Kirkpatrick said her vote was to ensure the inquiry would proceed in a transparent manner.
"The resolution we passed today will ensure that all the hearings, witnesses and evidence are presented in a fair and transparent way," Kirkpatrick told the press. "As your representative, I took an oath to defend the constitution and protect our democracy, and that's what I am here to do. Today's vote outlines the rules for the next phase of the inquiry and I'm confident the transparent proceedings will offer clarity of procedure and facts for the American people."
And even though he long dodged saying he supported an impeachment inquiry, Tom O'Halleran, who represents Congressional District 1, was on board for last week's vote. Like Kirkpatrick, he said his vote was in support of a transparent process, saying the congressional resolution was "simply the next step in an ongoing investigative process that is already underway."
"It confirms the right of both Republicans and Democrats to call witnesses and allows the White House to be directly involved," O'Halleran said. "As a former homicide detective, I know that evidence has the power to both convict and exonerate. It is critical that we review any evidence related to alleged abuse of power and allow all parties involved to do the same."
O'Halleran's cautious approach has a lot to do with the district he represents. Although District 1 has remained in Democratic hands since 2012, District 1 voters supported Trump over Clinton in 2016 and there are a lot of conservative Democrats who live within the district's boundaries, which include Oro Valley and Marana as well as Flagstaff, the Native American reservations in Northern Arizona and much of rural Eastern Arizona.
We will find out how this will play for those Arizona Democrats in 2020, but much will depend on who emerges to run against them.
But unless some smoking gun—er, even smokier gun—emerges during the upcoming House hearings, it's a safe bet that if Democrats do end up passing articles of impeachment, it's unlikely to win enough Republican support to convict and remove Trump. Republicans have allowed him to hijack their party and now, they challenge him at their peril. Just ask former U.S. senator Jeff Flake how standing up to Trump works out.
It's not at all clear how U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema will vote if the articles of impeachment do reach the Senate. Sinema delights in tweaking the left wing of the Democratic Party these days and even brushed off any concerns that the Arizona Democratic Party might vote to censure her because she isn't towing the party line. Last week, she told Politico that she wasn't sure if she'd be voting for a Democrat against Trump next year.
"Eventually it would be wonderful to have a candidate that shares the values of the majority of Americans," Sinema said. "Let's winnow the field below like, 20 or something, and then maybe it gets easier. Like, when it's enough for two basketball teams, it's too much."
It's nearly impossible to imagine Arizona's other senator, Martha McSally, voting to impeach Trump. McSally has sidestepped questions about whether she believes Trump abused his authority by holding up military aid to the Ukraine government.
But since she launched her 2018 U.S. Senate campaign, McSally has positioned herself as a tight ally of Trump—and he's repaid her loyalty by supporting her in her unsuccessful run against Sinema. (Fortunately for McSally, she and Gov. Doug Ducey and former Sen. Jon Kyl had worked up a backup plan to install her in the Senate after she was rejected by Arizona voters.)
It says something at this point that Sinema remains far more popular than McSally, at least according to the most recent Morning Consult poll, which measures the popularity of all U.S. senators on a quarterly basis. At the end of September, Sinema was at 47 percent approval and 29 percent disapproval—for a good plus-18 percentage points. McSally was slightly above water, with 39 percent of voters approving of her performance and 37 percent disapproving, for measly plus-2 percentage points.
That's not a good place for McSally to be as she trails Democratic challenger Mark Kelly in both the polls and the fundraising race.