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Early voting has been underway in Arizona for weeks, with reports of voter intimidation at ballot drop box sites continuing. The stakes are high with a Senate race that could determine the chamber’s balance of power and a governor’s race that has a Republican election denier leading in polls. Stephanie Sy reports on the issues energizing voters in the Grand Canyon State.
We are one week out from Election Day, but early voting has been under way in Arizona for weeks. The stakes are high, with a Senate race that could determine that chamber's balance of power and a governor's race that has a Republican election denier leading in polls.
Our Stephanie Sy reports on the issues energizing voters in the Grand Canyon State.
On a recent Sunday, the worship band at First Church United Church of Christ opened with Lady Gaga's born this way, an empowering ode to LGBTQ and racial minorities.
In this Phoenix church, righteousness is not reserved for the far right.
Pastor Susan Valiquette, First Church Phoenix United Church of Christ: Thank you for being here and always being so open.
Pastor Susan Valiquette preaches what she calls a gospel of inclusion that will guide her and her congregants at the ballot box.
Pastor Susan Valiquette:
We look for politicians that are going to be looking out for the people who are most marginalized, the way that Jesus did.
The marginalized, she says, includes asylum seekers at Arizona's Southern border, people of varying gender identity, and, these days, women of reproductive age.
We have labeled people who are seeking abortions in a particular way that gives them labels, but doesn't hear their stories, and we have stopped responding in compassion.
One of those stories is Monica Schutz's. She sat in the pews with her husband, Michael. Before they had their 3-year-old Leo and baby Ava (ph), Monica suffered from years of trying to conceive.
She had a series of three miscarriages, then two years of unexplained infertility, until she finally got pregnant again, progressing to 20 weeks.
Monica Schutz, Arizona Voter:
And, after that, things kind of, unfortunately, went downhill.
Doctors discovered a genetic issue affecting her and her fetus' health.
Best-case scenario, the pregnancy would have carried out to term, the fetus would have been born and would have cried to death.
Worst case, I would have spontaneously terminated and could have hemorrhaged, could have lost my uterus, could have closed the door on fertility entirely.
They did not take the decision lightly.
The best, most merciful choice was to be responsible for that fetus' health care and my own. And we felt that was really in line with God and why he gave us that choice.
Monica decided to terminate that pregnancy when it was still a federally protected right.
Doctors understand what needs to happen in that medical room, not lawmakers. And so that's why I will not be voting for any of the Republican candidates.
Arizona restricted abortion soon after Roe v. Wade was overturned, activating voters on both sides of the debate.
Melody Christy, Arizona Voter:
I'm pro-life. I am a Christian. I believe all the things in the Bible. And a lot of times, the liberals are totally opposite of the things that I believe.
It's a central issue in the key Senate race between Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly and Republican Blake Masters.
Blake Masters (R), Arizona Senatorial Candidate: Look, I support a ban on very late term and partial-birth abortion, and most Americans agree with that.
Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ):
My opponent, Blake Masters, he wants a national abortion ban that's so strict that, even in the case when a woman is raped, she will not have the option to make this decision.
But reproductive rights are only one issue on the ballot. For many voters, the economy and rising prices on everything from hot dogs to carnival rides is the biggest concern.
The Arizona State Fair is a yearly outing for many families, but, this year, it's an indulgence. Rides aside, the prices were enough to make fair-goers stomachs' turn. Inflation in Phoenix is at 13 percent, the highest in the nation.
Voter Melody Christy, who recently moved here from California, says it's still more affordable than Orange County, where, on her teacher's salary, she couldn't afford a house.
Because it's so much cheaper than California, we have not really seen that big of a difference. Like, it's been easier for us. But I would say that, if the prices continue to go up, we will have to make some sacrifices.
She is voting all Republican in the coming election, as is Richard Shaw, a police officer. He says inflation is even making his favorite hobby too expensive.
Richard Shaw, Arizona Voter:
I'm a shooter, so, yes, that's changed. I can't find primers.
What are primers?
Primers is what cause the initial spark in the gun and the ammunition.
And I can't even find those. And when you can find them, you're spending three times, four times as much.
Besides his real concerns about the economy and illegal immigration, Shaw is galvanized by a concern that was completely manufactured.
Do you think that President Biden is the legitimate president of the United States?
He's a hard-core Trump supporter, and there are many of those in the Grand Canyon State.
Donald Trump, Former President of the United States: Vote Democrat. They don't know what the hell they're doing, except when it comes to cheating on elections. They're very good at that.
In early October, the former president was in Mesa to pay back the GOP candidates who have loudly and loyally repeated his conspiratorial claims that the 2020 election was stolen, gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake chief among them.
Kari Lake (R), Arizona Gubernatorial Candidate: Now, I got to tell you, I have some of these know-nothing consultants who tell me, you know, you really need to back away from President Trump right now.
And I say to them, put down hunter's crack pipe.
Lake is facing the current chief elections official in Arizona, Katie Hobbs, in the governor's race, making it a particularly stark choice for voters who care about election integrity.
Hobbs has refused to debate lake.
Katie Hobbs (D), Arizona Gubernatorial Candidate: She has made it her platform to dismantle our democracy and overturn the will of the voters for the former president that she's — that she is more beholden to than the people of Arizona.
In Arizona's general elections, the line of scrimmage is always moving, and voters are known to switch teams.
Lisa Hoberg is one of them. She's a lifelong Republican who we met at a high school football game, where her son Jacob was playing in the band.
Lisa Hoberg, Arizona Voter:
I really hope that people can come together and realize the gravity at hand right now. When we start questioning some of the main principles that our founders laid out and that have kind of taken us through the tough times in the past, when those are at risk, peaceful transfer of power, balance of power, things like that, that's fundamentally frightening.
Back at her house, she filled out her mail-in ballot, checking all Democrats at the top for the first time.
I am the same person and I have the same beliefs that — now that I had five years ago, 10 years ago. So I'm not going to say I'm not going to not be a Republican, because I'm not the one that's changed. It's the party around me that's changed.
It became apparent it had changed on January 6, when Trump supporters invaded the Capitol in a riotous insurrection that the president she had just voted for did nothing to stop.
As Arizona votes, some of those same Stop the Steal defenders have shown up at ballot drop boxes.
My mother was — is afraid to go drop her ballot off because she's seeing live coverage of very-scary looking people outside of secure ballot boxes. So I absolutely think that the rhetoric is very dangerous, very dangerous.
It was a heavy conversation for a Friday night football game. But as the band played, and the team scored, Lisa Hoberg snapped back into mom mode, her worries about the future of Arizona and the country at least temporarily put on the sidelines.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Stephanie Sy in Phoenix.
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Stephanie Sy is a PBS NewsHour correspondent and serves as anchor of PBS NewsHour West. Throughout her career, she served in anchor and correspondent capacities for ABC News, Al Jazeera America, CBSN, CNN International, and PBS NewsHour Weekend. Prior to joining NewsHour, she was with Yahoo News where she anchored coverage of the 2018 Midterm Elections and reported from Donald Trump’s victory party on Election Day 2016.
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