There was no blue wave in Arizona.
That was the assessment of political pundits of all stripes in the hours, and even days, after the polls closed. Election night ended with most statewide races called for Republican candidates. Democratic Senate hopeful Kyrsten Sinema was trailing her opponent, and everyone was wondering if Democrats would ever win big in Arizona, as promised.
But because nearly 80 percent of Arizona voters rely on mail-in ballots and hundreds of thousands are returned in-person on Election Day, it took days to find out who won and who lost. When the dust settled, Democrats won the U.S. Senate seat, secretary of state, superintendent of public instruction, and a seat on the Corporation Commission. Democrats also flipped the congressional delegation in our favor and elected the most Democrats to the state House since 1966.
Despite all these historic wins, the pundits were right: There was no blue wave in Arizona.
Instead, the Arizona Democratic Party orchestrated the largest voter mobilization effort in the state’s history, targeting Democrats, independents and Republicans to vote for our candidates. Here’s how.
After 2016, Republicans controlled state and federal governments, but Hillary Clinton lost Arizona by the smallest margin of any Democratic presidential candidate since 1996. The Arizona Democratic Party saw the opportunity to energize Democrats with the most aggressive field campaign in the state’s history.
As predicted, universal Republican rule meant the GOP would try to pass some very unpopular policies. Congress attempted to gut health-care coverage multiple times, and lawmakers in Arizona failed to adequately fund education, leading to the massive #RedforEd walkout. Meanwhile, we worked.
Over the course of a year and a half, we built an army of volunteers, signing up voters for mail-in ballots. We opened field offices in blue, purple and red communities across the state. And we knocked on doors, lots and lots of doors. Even during the 117° summers, we worked to register voters and sign them up for early ballots.
By the time it was all said and done, we had built a team of 70 full-time organizers and over 6,100 volunteers who knocked on over 1 million doors just in the last three months of the campaign, maximizing direct voter contact.
We coupled that effort with a digital campaign, second to none in the country, fueled by massive volunteer enthusiasm, that used texting to remind voters of critical deadlines and drive them to the polls.
During the last month of the campaign, we chased mail ballots as soon as they were distributed and instituted an unprecedented, final two-week haul focused on getting every last vote in before Election Day. We knew that one-on-one voter contact was the best way to communicate about how Democratic candidates were the only ones who care about and will fight for the values important to all Arizonans.
We set out to win Arizona races up and down the ballot with a monumental ground effort, and we accomplished it. We saw what worked, and we learned from what didn’t work, knowing we can replicate the results in 2020, 2022, 2024 and beyond.
We didn’t wait for any blue wave to find us. We did the work ourselves. And we’re starting to do it, again.