Legal fight over SB 1070 could sink Arizona Dems in November

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The Obama administration’s announcement they will sue Arizona over the state’s recently passed immigration law known as SB 1070 may have some on the left cheering, but Democrats sitting in McCain won districts may not be sitting too pretty on the issue.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona Democrat, is currently in dangerous re-election waters. Her 8th congressional district was won by Senator John McCain, Arizona Republican, in the 2008 presidential election by a +6 margin.

Ms. Giffords, like her fellow Arizona Democrats in McCain won districts, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick and Rep. Harry Mitchell, has not been extraordinarily vocal on SB 1070, but she did express the following criticism of her state’s immigration law to a local Arizona outlet: (all emphasis is mine)

“Arizona is now known around the world for enacting an extreme immigration law in response to the federal government’s failure to act. This law does nothing to secure our border. My hope is that the events that have unfolded in Phoenix recently are a wake-up call to Washington politicians who for too long have refused to take seriously their responsibility to address the crisis on our border. The people of Arizona are angry and so am I. Southern Arizona, in particular, has paid a heavy price because of drug smuggling and illegal immigration.”

An April Rasmussen poll showed that 70 percent of Arizona voters support the state’s new immigration law. In fact, eighty-three percent (83%) of Arizona voters responded that, “a candidate’s position on immigration is an important factor in how they will vote, including 51% who say it’s very important.”

Particularly concerning for Arizona Democrats in McCain won districts who speak out against SB 1070 or simply remain relatively quiet about the issue, like Rep. Harry Mitchell, is Rasmussen’s report saying, “Eighty-four percent (84%) of Arizona Republicans and 69% of voters not affiliated with either major party in the state favor the new get-tough legislation. Democrats are more closely divided: 51% like the new law, but 43% oppose it.”

Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, a first term Democrat in an Arizona district that voted for the McCain-Palin presidential ticket by a +10 margin in 2008, also spoke out against the new immigration law. In fact, Rep. Kirkpatrick’s district also went Republican in 2006 by a +8 margin, when Democrats first took back the House from the Republicans during the mid-terms. Her comments on SB 1070 will likely be detrimental for her this November. In May, The Arizona Daily Sun reported:

“Members of the public twice asked U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Flagstaff, what she thought of Arizona’s new immigration legislation during a phone conference last week.

She responded: ‘I do not support the Senate bill that passed, although I understand the frustration of the Legislature in wanting to do something the federal government hasn’t … I think it goes a little too far.’

She called for more border security and deployment of National Guard troops at the border but did not mention comprehensive immigration reform.

Kirkpatrick said the new legislation might be economically detrimental if it led to canceled conventions and loss of tourism.”

Talk about trying to walk a very careful line between both opponents and supporters of SB 1070, but an NPR poll this month show Ms. Gifford’s and Ms. Kirkpatrick’s districts fit a profile ripe for a GOP pick up:

66 percent of voters believe the country is on the wrong track

• Obama’s approval level is at 40 percent.

• Democratic incumbent’s approval rating is at 41 percent; disapproval is at 38 percent.

• Only 35 percent believe the Democratic policies helped avert a crisis; 59 percent believe they ran up the deficit.

• Only 31 percent favor re-electing the incumbent; 44 percent say they want to elect someone else.

• 62 percent of Republicans are enthusiastic about voting, while just 37 percent of Democrats are enthusiastic.

Elected in 2006, Rep. Giffords has voted with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, 86 percent of the time, while Ms. Kirkpatrick voted with the Speaker 79 percent of the time. The Arizona Democrats’ criticism of SB 1070 does not go along with various polls showing nationwide support for the law that goes into effect on July 29.

ABC/Washington Post poll  shows Americans support Arizona’s law 58% to 41%.

In late May, a Quinnipiac poll found  51 percent – 31 percent support SB 1070.

A May CBS poll found that national respondents say:

 52 per cent Arizona’s law is “about right,”
 28 percent said it goes “too far”
 17 percent said it doesn’t go far enough.

    Democrats support of the Arizona law has interesting numbers too. In May, Pew reported:

    “Democrats are evenly split over Arizona’s new immigration law: 45% approve of the law and 46% disapprove. However, majorities of Democrats approve of two of the law’s principal provisions: requiring people to produce documents verifying legal status (65%) and allowing police to detain anyone unable to verify their legal status (55%).”

    In the current survey, 76% of Republicans disapprove of Obama’s handling of immigration policy, while just 8% approve. Independents disapprove of Obama’s job on the issue by more than two-to-one (57% to 25%). Even among Democrats, as many disapprove (38%) as approve (37%) of the way he is handling the issue, while a quarter (25%) offer no opinion.”

    These numbers do not bode well for Arizona Dems in Republican dominated districts looking to play both sides of the immigration debate, as their party, president, and allies attack their home state. In the meantime, their fellow Arizona Democrat Rep. Raul Grijalva can only make matters worse, as he supports mass boycotts against the state he helps represent.

    As the Department of Justice pursues their case against Arizona’s immigration law, Giffords, Mitchell, and Kirkpatrick will be forced to choose a side in this debate by their constituents. Otherwise, the side will be chosen for them in the fall. 

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    About the Author
    Kerry Picket

    Kerry Picket

    Kerry Picket, a former Opinion Blogger/Editor of The Watercooler, was associate producer for the Media Research Center, a content producer for Robin Quivers of "The Howard Stern Show" on Sirius satellite radio and a production assistant and copy writer at MTV.

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