The rumors are true, Rep. Chad Campbell, the Democratic leader of the Arizona state House, told TPM Wednesday: the state best known for Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the toughest immigration law in the land really is a swing state in 2012. And Democrats have SB 1070 to thank for it.
"I'd hesitate to say it was ever good that it was passed," Campbell said in a sitdown interview. "Because of the damage it did to the community, damage to the economy. But I do think it motivated a lot of people, especially people in the Latino community, to get involved and it energized them."
"If that's the final outcome of it, so be it," he added. "That's a good thing, obviously."
Campbell's not the only one saying that. The Obama campaign has said Arizona can be a target next year, thanks largely to a fired up Latino base. It wasn't supposed to be that way - Republicans in Arizona and nationally were eager for a fight with the White House over 1070, which has involved the Justice Department sweeping into Arizona to stop the law. That's the exact sort of thing the tea party types and conservatives who helped push 1070 through hate the most, and there was a belief that by taking immigration into their own hands in the states, Republicans could show Obama as ineffective on the issue and take states like Arizona off the map.
That scheme appears to be heading down the road to failure, Campbell said. The architect of 1070, state Sen. Russell Pearce (R-AZ), became the first-ever Arizona legislator to be recalled earlier this month, and now Campbell says there's a moderate and Latino voter base in Arizona that's reemerged after 1070.
The law, along with other what Campbell called "extremist" measures from the Republican-controlled state government (including Gov. Jan Brewer's war on the state's independent redistricting board) have left the GOP in bad shape among the electorate and Democrats looking better and better.
He pointed to record-high turnout in municipal elections like the Phoenix mayoral race which put Democrats in office across the state this month. Those results were fueled in part by huge turnout numbers from the Latino demographic, Campbell said, and in part by a more moderate base that's had enough.
"There is a change happening," he said. "I don't think it's a change in terms of Arizona itself. I'm a native, and Arizona's always been a pretty middle of the road state, it's always been pretty centrist - it's just a change in who's getting out to vote now."
Moderate voters are returning to the polls, Campbell said, "and I think you're seeing them saying, ‘we need to take our state back.'"
"We're sick of being the national joke," he said. "You know, subsidizing The Daily Show basically."
Even though it appears to have worked out for his party, Campbell did not recommend other states pass their own 1070s to boost Democratic turnout.
"I don't think we should have to resort to extreme policy measures to try to engage people," he said. "That's not really the road any of us should be going down."