AZ’s primary: what the results mean for separation of church and state

The votes are in. This primary, Republicans shifted harder toward the religious right, but Democrats pushed out some legislators who were soft on Christian nationalism. The balance of power in the Legislature may be decided by five races. And conspiracy theorists are vying for control of major statewide offices.

Here are the top results secular supporters need to know:

Who’s Out

Voters rejected six incumbent Democrats: Reps. Morgan Abraham, Christian Solorio, Richard Andrade, César Chávez, Sarah Liguori, and Lorenzo Sierra. Generally, news outlets are saying Democrats leaned more progressive in several choices.

Republicans with more moderate records lost to Trump-endorsed opponents further to the right. Losing incumbents were Sens. Vince Leach, Tyler Pace and Kelly Townsend; as well as House members Rusty Bowers, Judy Burges, John Fillmore, Joel John and Joanne Osborne.

Three of these losses were Republicans who cast key votes against Christian nationalist legislation. Rep. Joel John was the highest-ranking Republican on Secular AZ’s 2022 scorecard with a 13.6% voting record, having voted against three bills undermining public education. Sen. Pace also had ranked higher than his peers, having been a key Republican voice against anti-transgender legislation. Similarly, Rep. Osborne was a key vote against a bill seeking to criminalize abortion medication.

One surprise defeat, however, was that of Fillmore, who sponsored legislation seeking to overturn the 2020 election in favor of Donald Trump.

The races to watch


While many races take place in “safe” Democrat or Republican districts, partisan research indicates five legislative districts with competitive races. Defeating the Republican candidates in these races would change the balance of power in the Legislature, making it possible to pass bills re-separating church and state.


Senate: Jeanne Casteen—Executive Director of Secular AZ—is running against Republican Steve Kaiser. Kaiser was infamous this year for sponsoring a bill forcing teachers to “out” LGBTQ+ students to their parents.

House: Incumbent Judy Schwiebert is running as the only Democrat against Christian nationalist Republicans Justin Wilmeth and Christian Lamar for one of the available two seats. Lamar recently received coverage for having assaulted his ex-fiance.


Senate: Democrat Christine Marsh holds a 100% voting record from Secular AZ this year. She is facing Nancy Barto, sponsor of major bills banning abortion and discriminating against transgender people.

House: Democrat Laura Terech will face Republicans Matt Gress and Maria Syms in the House.


Senate: Eva Burch (D) is running against Trumpist Republican Robert Scantlebury

House: Democrats Lorena Austin and Seth Blattman are running against Republicans Mary Ann Mendoza and Kathy Pearce.


Senate: Cynthia Hans (D) faces JD Mesnard (R), who holds a 0% voting score from Secular AZ.

House: High Secular Score earner Jennifer Pawlik (D) will face Q-Anon candidate Liz Harris (R) and Trumpist Julie Willoughby (R).


Senate: Taylor Kerby (D) faces 0% Secular Score earner TJ Shope (R).

House: Keith Seaman (D) faces abortion ban sponsor Teresa Martinez (R), and election fraud conspiracy theorist Rob Hudelson (R).


Statewide races

The office of Governor will be a contest between former Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and MAGA hardliner Kari Lake.

Former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes will face Mark Finchem for Secretary of State. Finchem is known for spreading election conspiracy theories, was at the January 6th coup attempt, and is a member of the militant Oath Keepers.

Democrat Kris Mayes will face abortion ban proponent Republican Abraham Hamadeh for Attorney General—the office which will determine whether anti-abortion laws are enforced in Arizona.


In CD1, Democrat Jevin Hodge is considered to be competitive against the Trump-endorsed David Schweikert. Schweikert most recently received press for running homophobic campaign ads and admitting to 11 House Ethics violations related to campaign funding.


The bottom line

There are no unimportant races this year, but secular supporters statewide can make a particularly big impact by organizing in the key races above.

For those whose top issue is separation of church and state, voting down-ballot against extremist candidates in state, county, and city offices will be paramount.

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