Arizona 6th District
The city of Phoenix is exceedingly young. Conservative trailblazer Barry Goldwater, born in 1909, grew up knowing people who remembered when the Valley of the Sun—or the Valley, as most people say—was virtually empty, with a few parched settlements set above the dry riverbed. As late as 1950, only 106,000 people lived in Phoenix and 331,000 in all of Maricopa County. But the air conditioner and military technology transformed Phoenix from a sleepy whistle-stop to today’s high-rise-studded metropolis, with 1.5 million city dwellers and nearly 4 million people in Maricopa County. From 2000 to 2007, Maricopa posted the largest numerical gain of any county in the nation. This is not, as some people think, a giant retirement village, nor is it overrun by crooked land salesmen and fast-buck artists, though Phoenix has attracted its share of each.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The second-largest city in Maricopa County is Mesa, south of the Salt River and east of Phoenix. It was founded by Mormons in 1878 on a square mile, and was laid out Salt Lake City-style on broad streets with large lots. A gleaming white Mormon temple was built in 1927, one of the few in the United States then. In 1950, Mesa had 17,000 people, enough to make it Arizona’s third-largest city. In 2007, it had 453,000 people, more than Minneapolis or Pittsburgh. Mesa has been making plans to grow even more. A former Air Force base is now Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, with plans for it to become a major multimodal center for passengers and freight. Nearby is the site of a proposed giant hotel and conference center on the former GM Desert Proving Ground. Next door is Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus.
The 6th Congressional District of Arizona is made up of the southeast suburbs of Phoenix, with distinct incorporated towns like Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert, and Queen Creek. It crosses the Pinal County line and includes fast-growing Apache Junction, Gold Camp, and Sun Lakes. For years growth has been constant here: In 2007, Chandler and Gilbert had populations of 246,000 and 208,000, respectively. But with the collapse of the local housing market and the departure of many Latinos after Arizona adopted tough enforcement policies on illegal immigrants, growth is slowing considerably. The 6th includes some high-income precincts, and Asians lead whites in income in Chandler and Gilbert. But the district’s cultural tone is resolutely middle class and churchgoing. By most measures, it is the most Republican district in Arizona.