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Redistricting draft map in Arizona favors Democrats

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(Updated at 11:16 a.m. Wednesday with news that Schweikert may challenge Quayle in a primary for the 6th district.)

The bipartisan redistricting commission in Arizona appears to have given Democrats a big break.

A draft map released by the commission late Monday shores up Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ GOP-leaning district, forces the state’s Republican incumbents into some tough decisions and creates a new 9th district that Democrats will be slightly favored to win.

The new Tempe-based 9th district-- the state gained a seat thanks to population growth that well outstripped the national average — is just east of Rep. Ed Pastor’s (D) majority-Hispanic, Phoenix-based district and would have gone narrowly for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in the 2004 presidential election and by several percentage points for President Obama in 2008.

Freshman Rep. Ben Quayle (R) is technically drawn into the new 9th, but seems much more likely to run in the heavily Republican 6th district north of Phoenix.

From there, things get more complicated. Freshman Republican Rep. Paul Gosar’s rural and GOP-leaning 1st district becomes much more of a swing district by uniting the Hopi and Navajo Indian tribes, which had previously been kept conspicuously separat, and drawing out the Republican-leaning city of Prescott. The new district performs about three points worse for Republicans than Gosar’s current district, which went 53 percent for Bush in 2004.

Gosar could instead run in the newly drawn 4th district that unites Prescott with the western portion of the state. The two men who currently represent that territory — Reps. Trent Franks (R) and Raul Grijalva (D) — have better districts to run in but freshman Rep. Dave Schweikert (R) lives on the very edge of the 4th district.

Schweikert, who currently represents a relatively small district in and around Scottsdale, has a lot of choices to make with this new map. He could stick with Scottsdale and run against Quayle in the 6th district, he could run in the new 9th or even in the Mesa-based 5th district. The 5th is mostly Senate candidate Rep. Jeff Flake’s (R) territory. Flake may not be running again, but the race to replace him is already well underway.

None of those options are great for Schweikert.

(Update: An Arizona source tells The Fix that Schweikert will run in the 6th, where he does have a home but is not registered to vote. Asked if he would run in a primary against Quayle if it came to that, the source said “most definitely.” The 6th district is 71 percent Quayle’s territory and 28 percent Schweikert’s, but Schweikert has been elected countywide as Maricopa County treasurer.)

Things are largely unchanged for Pastor and Grijalva in the state’s two majority-Hispanic seats, except that Grijalva’s 7th district is now re-numbered as the 3rd, and Pastor’s 4th is now the 7th. Franks, meanwhile, is likely to run in the more compact 8th district west of Phoenix.

The other incumbent who got a good district in the new map was Giffords, whose Tucson-based district (currently the 8th but would be the new 2nd) would shift towards Democrats by about three points.

Given her status as the survivor of an assassination attempt, of course, she wasn’t likely to lose that seat. But if she does retire or run for Senate someday, her district will be easier for Democrats to keep.

In the end, Democrats have a chance at winning four or five of the state’s nine districts over the next decade. And that’s a pretty good map in a reddish state.

The draft map is not final, but has been approved by three of five members of the commission, so Republicans aren’t expecting any major changes in their favor.

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