TUCSON, Ariz. – As the migrant caravan makes its way to the U.S. border, stirring up a political frenzy days before the midterms, few races are feeling the impact of it more than Arizona’s 2nd Congressional district.
The district, which stretches from Tucson to the New Mexico border, includes a large swath of the U.S-Mexican border.
Democrat Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, who’s running on a platform of protecting health care, veterans’ services, and “comprehensive immigration reform— is running against Republican businesswoman Lea Marquez Peterson, who is pushing for term limits, border security, and a strong economy.
It’s a race that “everybody’s going to be watching” said University of Arizona political science professor Thomas Volgy. He called it one of the “bellwether districts” that swings back and forth between Democrats and Republicans.
“If the Democrats carry this district, they have a good opportunity to reverse the House majority. If they lose this district, then it's maybe much more unlikely that there will be a blue wave in the House of Representatives,” Volgy said.
As the migrant caravan has become a flashpoint in the immigration debate, voters in the district said the issue is particularly important to them because of their proximity to the border.
“Especially now that we have this caravan of I think 14,000 people coming here trying to enter the country illegally, I think it’s a critical issue for our country that’s going to be a critical issue for years to come, as well,” said Mitch Chrismer, a Tucson voter.
Esther Macias, a Tucson voter, also said she was closely monitoring the caravan.
“It’s very important because we’re so close to the border, it’s very important for us,” Macias said.
Both candidates recognize that the race is being closely watched and that the results are critical to the future of both parties.
“They say the path for Democrats flipping the house runs through this district so it’s a very, very key district nationally and we’re getting a lot of national attention because of that,” Kirkpatrick said. “It has been held by Democrats and Republicans and because voter registration is so even so it really depends on who works the hardest and who gets the voters out to vote…I’m ready to hit the ground running.”
Marquez Peterson said a win from her would help her party.
“This seat is vitally important—to keep our House majority, to keep the great progress we've had in the economy,” Marquez Peterson said. “I think people see that with the Tax and Jobs Act that passed, with consumer confidence being so high and small business confidence being so high, we need to keep this progress going and that’s why it's so important to vote Republican, vote for someone who's locally from this community and in this upcoming race in CD-2.”
The latest Fox News’ Power Rankings shows this seat as Lean Democrat.
Voters here say they are closely looking at where the candidates stand on border issues.
Kirkpatrick told Fox News she plans on having working groups to talk about issues that include immigration, while Marquez Peterson told Fox News an important issue in the region is border security that deals with drug smuggling and human trafficking. She has called for wall “where it makes sense.”
Just like the candidates, voters here are split on the immigration debate and the caravan.
“We wouldn’t be a country without immigrants…immigrants (are) the lifeblood of what makes the United States of America,” said Tucson voter Robin Williams. “To somehow paint people who are coming here for an opportunity as being bad is absurd, it’s not what we’re about.”
Phoenix voter Darren Thompson, who was in Tucson on Wednesday, said members of the caravan should reassess their method of gaining entry.
“I understand their plight and I think I have a high level of sensitivity to that plight—however, there's a specific way that things have to be done and I'm not sure that that is the right strategy in order to get the point across,” Thompson said. “Unfortunately, I don’t think that's going to end well for anyone.”
The district has 144,365 registered Democrat voters, 138,008 Republican voters, and 132,889 voters listed as ‘other’—which could mean many of those are independent voters. So, winning that independent vote is key in these coming weeks.
“I've personally always run like I'm three points down and then we'll see what happens on Election Day,” Kirkpatrick said. “You never know.”
Marquez Peterson said the race will be tight.
“It is going to be a very close race,” she said, “it always has been through various folks that have run."
“I've personally always run like I'm three points down and then we'll see what happens on Election Day…you never know,” Kirkpatrick said.
“It is going to be a very close race, it always has been through various folks that have run,” Marquez Peterson said.
Volgy said most Republicans and Democrats are set on how they want to vote but that the Independent vote has always been important in this district.
“It is also (the Independent vote) very important now…Independents appear to be significantly negative about the president which gives the Democrats a significant advantage...whoever is on the side of the President does well, off-year elections it’s the exact opposite, so we’ll see this time,” Volgy said.