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In Arizona, A Virtual Tie For U.S. Senate Seat


This morning, we're getting updates from polling places around the country. We turn now to the state of Arizona. Republican Senator Jeff Flake's retirement has set the stage for a showdown that is unfolding right now. Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally are neck and neck according to recent polls. No matter who wins, Arizona's vote is historic in this way: it will get its first female senator out of this race. KJZZ's Bret Jaspers is at a polling place in Phoenix and joins us on the line now.

Hey, Bret.

BRET JASPERS, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning.

MARTIN: What are you seeing? What's turnout like where you are?

JASPERS: The turnout is pretty steady. There was a line of maybe 10 to 15 people right as the polls were opening at 6 a.m. here. And then those people got through relatively smoothly. And now there's a drip-drip of people coming in to drop off their ballot if they had gotten it in early or to actually cast a ballot today before work.

MARTIN: Have you gotten a chance to talk to anyone, anyone been willing to disclose to you what brought them out today?

JASPERS: Yeah. I talked to actually, you know, a couple of teachers - one a former teacher, one a current teacher. And that was a big political issue this year in Arizona. There was a teacher walkout that was really mobilizing and energizing for a lot of people in education. So that brought them out to vote in state races in particular. There was a registered Republican woman that I spoke to who said she voted straight Democratic ticket because she just for this time, kind of tired of the divisiveness. But there was also a woman who, you know, came from Buckeye, which is a city much west of here, to vote in this vote center where everybody can cast a ballot to, you know, support Republicans because she wants a border wall. So a little bit of a mix here in downtown Phoenix.

MARTIN: Right. And definitely, immigration is front and center there. I mean, this is a new political moment for Arizona. I mentioned in the intro, Republican senator Jeff Flake is retiring; of course, Arizona lost Republican Senator John McCain this past summer - both men who had reputations for reaching across the aisle. Are Arizona voters looking for another senator who would continue that legacy of bipartisan outreach?

JASPERS: Well, some definitely are. The - it's interesting. We have a governor's race where the Democratic candidate is running much more of an outspoken-based strategy, and he's not doing as well as Kyrsten Sinema, who's running as a very centrist candidate. So it looks like, you know, that's maybe why she's so close and has a shot at winning - because she is running as a very moderate candidate who can work across the aisle.

MARTIN: KJZZ's Bret Jaspers for us this morning at a polling place in Phoenix, monitoring turnout there.

Thanks so much. We appreciate it, Bret.

JASPERS: Yep. You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bret Jaspers is a reporter for KERA. His stories have aired nationally on the BBC, NPR’s newsmagazines, and APM’s Marketplace. He collaborated on the series Cash Flows, which won a 2020 Sigma Delta Chi award for Radio Investigative Reporting. He's a member of Actors' Equity, the professional stage actors union.