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Two Arizona women in tight race for Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat

Two members of Congress are in a close race to fill the seat of Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, who is retiring after playing a central role in the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. In the lead up to November’s election, Arizona Public Media Political Reporter Christopher Conover joins Hari Sreenivasan from Tucson to explain some key issues in the race.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    One of the central players during the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings for Justice Kavanaugh was Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake. Flake is retiring this year and the two candidates vying for his seat both members of Congress are in a close race. For more on the candidates Democratic Representative Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Representative Martha McSally. And the issues we're joined now by Arizona Public Media political reporter Christopher Conover who is in Tucson. First let's learn a little bit about these candidates how do they differentiate themselves.

  • CHRISTOPHER CONOVER:

    These two candidates have track records. They're well-known in Arizona. And really how they're differentiating themselves on this election is they're running with the party lines for the most part. Representative McSally has moved to the right and is strongly backing the president she said recently. She hopes he comes to Arizona before election day to campaign with her and Representative Sinema who spent time in Congress trying to reach across the aisle and make herself a moderate has really aligned with Democrats on most issues during this campaign.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right so we see that increasing polarity that's happening in the rest of the country playing out in this race what are the issues that people in Arizona are most concerned about? Or, well, and then, what are the candidates saying the issues are most important sometimes are not the same?

  • CHRISTOPHER CONOVER:

    They aren't the same. Education is a big issue in Arizona. And of course to a lesser amount on the federal side of things that's much more of a state issue. The border and healthcare are all so big issues in Arizona of course Arizona being a border state. Representative McSally has really been pushing on the border. And a representative Sinema has really been pushing on the health care issue so trying to split that vote. And again very similar to what we see in polling of Republicans and Democratic voters.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Is there an event that has catalyzed the base on both sides here to be more interested in this race?

  • CHRISTOPHER CONOVER:

    It really has been the retirement of Jeff Flake having an open seat as most people know is a rarity in the U.S. Senate. So people really started paying attention to it. Certainly the events surrounding the confirmation and swearing in of Justice Kavanaugh have brought out more voters is what most people will expect. And like the rest of the country galvanized both sides.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    You've got a population that likes to vote early, so you've got almost two election days here.

  • CHRISTOPHER CONOVER:

    We do early ballots go out in just a few days which means by the weekend people will have their ballots sitting on the kitchen table. And typically we see a big surge of votes within the first few days and then it trickles off and stays pretty steady. So most of Arizona's vote early by mail. So we really do have two election days of course both parties and lots of outside groups this time are pushing for voter registration drives here in Pima County in southern Arizona between the primary in August and last week. More than 25000 new people registered to vote. How many of them vote early we don't know how many of them vote at all. We don't know. But there is a big drive to register more voters in Arizona.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Is there an indication of how the polls are heading. I mean because as you say if people are if some people are going to start making up their minds. Now of course we've got several weeks up to the election there could be events to change things but those people who are going to fill out their ballots at their kitchen table in the next week and a half. Where are they leaning?

  • CHRISTOPHER CONOVER:

    Right now the polls in this race have Representative Sinema the Democrat leading by a few points. But within the margin of error this race has been very tight all the way along. What's interesting though is the undecided 11 percent undecided according to the latest polls and with ballots going out in just a few days that's a big number. We expect to see even more TV ads. Local TV is flooded with ads right now from both candidates and outside groups supporting them. We expect to see more in the coming days.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right Chris Conover a reporter from Arizona Public Media. Thanks so much for joining us.

  • CHRISTOPHER CONOVER:

    Thank you.

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