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#BattlegroundAZ: Marijuana backers aim for 2020 vote, Democratic teacher wants rematch after narrow loss

Also: 'Angel Dad' Steve Ronnebeck takes on U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva and a potential big promotion for Christine Blasey Ford's inquisitor Rachel Mitchell.


#BattlegroundAZ is a rolling update on the week’s five most significant political stories in Arizona, a 2020 battleground state that could decide which party wins the White House. 

1. Marijuana on the ballot? 

A long-awaited initiative to legalize recreational marijuana could be on the November 2020 ballot. A 2016 legalization vote lost by less than three points. 

The new initiative is a virtual cannabis Christmas tree, with offerings to satisfy many potential opponents.

RELATED: Arizona's 2020 marijuana initiative tries to fix what went wrong the last time

RELATED: Legalization of marijuana in Arizona: These are the rules that could be on the 2020 ballot

Arizona voters narrowly voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2010. 

2. Rematch in swing district

In her first run for office in 2018, high school teacher Christine Marsh came within three-tenths of a percentage point - 267 votes - of defeating longtime Republican state lawmaker Kate Brophy McGee. 

This week, Democrat Marsh will formally announce she’s running again for the state Senate seat in Legislative District 28, a new swing district in the Legislature. 

RELATED: Maricopa County finishes counting ballots, Arizona election finally over

The 2018 race was one of the most expensive legislative elections in Arizona history.

Marsh, a former Arizona Teacher of the Year, elevated her profile in the fight for more state funding for education. Brophy McGee has been considered a moderate in the Senate. 

The district has been trending Democratic in recent elections.

In the 2016 presidential election, Democrat Hillary Clinton won the district over Republican Donald Trump, 50 percent to 45 percent. In the 2018 U.S. Senate race, Kyrsten Sinema widened the Democratic edge, defeating Republican Martha McSally, 55-43, in LD 28.

In the legislative race, Republicans lost the two House seats to Democrats (there's just one state Senate seat). 

A significant number of voters in the north Phoenix/Scottsdale district are high income and high education.

3. 'No room for conservative Latino'

Yasser Sanchez is a Mesa immigration attorney who says he's given thousands of hours of support and thousands of dollars in cash to the Republican cause. 

Now he's leaving the party, Sanchez announced in an Arizona Republic op-ed column.

"President Donald Trump has changed the Republican Party to one that embraces nativism and nationalism. I can no longer be part of it," Sanchez writes.

4. Promotion for Kavanaugh hearing prosecutor

The Maricopa County sex-crimes prosecutor who questioned Christine Blasey Ford at Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing is in line for a big promotion - and possibly the job as the county’s top prosecutor. 

RELATED: Arizona prosecutor who questioned Kavanaugh accuser promoted

Rachel Mitchell was promoted to second-in-command by Republican Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery; the County Board still must sign off. 

Montgomery is widely expected to be picked for a seat on the Arizona Supreme Court by Gov. Doug Ducey. 

RELATED: Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery's bid for Arizona Supreme Court seat still alive

Should Montgomery leave,  that could open the door for Mitchell to get his job on an interim basis. It would also create a wide-open race for county attorney.

Montgomery won re-election in 2016 by just five points over a Democrat running for office for the first time. 

5. 'Angel Dad' Challenging U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva

Republican Steve Ronnebeck says he’s running for the Third Congressional District seat held by nine-term Democrat Raul Grijalva of Tucson. 

Ronnebeck is one of the “angel” parents backing President Donald Trump - mothers and fathers whose children were killed by undocumented immigrants. He has appeared at campaign rallies and on Fox News. 

RELATED: After losing his son Grant, Steve Ronnebeck returns from building part of a border wall

“Our nation is in crisis. Our southern border is in crisis. And our constitution is in crisis,” Ronnebeck told The Epoch Times.

He labeled Grijalva the “cartel Congressman.” 

Ronnebeck lives in Mesa, 100 miles or more from where most of the votes are in the safely Democratic border district. A chimney-shaped segment of the district extends into Republican-leaning areas west of Phoenix. 

Brahm Resnik covers politics for 12 News and is the moderator of "Sunday Square Off," at 8 a.m. Sunday on 12 News. You can find him @brahmresnik.

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