PHOENIX – Let’s meet former Arizona House candidate, Aaron Borders, who ran in Legislative District 29 in Phoenix’s West Valley. After nearly two years of campaigning in an uphill battle, Aaron came surprisingly close to winning in an area where he was not supposed to even come close. Zeyna Aouad, the AZGOP’s Voter Data Director, interviewed Aaron to learn more about how he managed to persuade so many voters in a predominately Democrat area to vote for a Republican.
Aaron’s district is located on the west side of Phoenix, one which has consistently elected Democrats to the House. On November 4th, the election results showed that Democrats would keep the two seats; however, the race this time was much closer than expected. This should be very concerning to Democrats, and it signals they’re losing their traditional stronghold there. In this district with only 20 percent of the voters registered as Republican, Aaron earned 30 percent of the vote. That means he not only had the expected Republican support but was tremendously appealing to independent voters. Unfortunately, he was bested by the next highest vote getter, the Democrat who received 34 percent of the vote even though Democrats make up 38 percent of the electorate in the district.
So not only did the Democrat underperform miserably, Aaron overperformed by a 50 percent margin. Were it not for such a lopsided district, Aaron’s efforts would have rewarded him with a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives.
Aaron said his strategy was simple: he started early. “We started this race exactly two years ago on January 17, 2013 — we went to PTA’s in the district, to non-political community events, met the leaders in the community and got deeper involved in basic community activities.” He also mentioned that“apolitical” people in the community were used to politicians talking their ears off with false promises. “What we did was different,” he said. “We showed up with volunteers and went to work with them, whether it was painting over vandalism or helping out at charitable events. It opened up dialogs about my candidacy across all parties, religions, and ethnic groups. It gave me a special platform most candidates never have.”
For Aaron, his ability to appeal to independent voters and ethnic groups won him many votes. “We spent a lot of time in the first 6-8 months polling and finding out what the issues were. Then we picked the top 3 and came up with solutions. We then stayed away from jumping into and interjecting our opinions in every hot-button day-to-day topic and stayed focused on the 3 main issues and 3 solutions.” He also credits a strong social media presence for engaging different types of voters.
During his campaign, his team was able to knock on tens of thousands of doors. When asked what he was most proud of this election cycle, he said he was most proud of his team. “They looked past the political numbers and busted their tail and in the end in a Democrat district that has twice as many Democrats as Republicans, we lost by only a small margin. None of that could have happened without the support of the grassroots team that believed in the strategy.
Voters have not heard the last from Aaron: he’s just been elected to a two year term as 2nd Vice Chair of the Maricopa County Republican Committee, and now shares leadership responsibility for Maricopa County’s nearly 700,000 Republican voters.