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Arizona, which has a big independent electorate up for grabs, holds a primary

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Five states hold their presidential primaries today.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The results are no longer in doubt. President Biden and former President Trump will be their party's nominees. But the voting does offer a glimpse into what matters in Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Ohio and Arizona - that is one of the states likely to decide the election this fall.

INSKEEP: NPR political reporter Ximena Bustillo is in Arizona. Hey there.

XIMENA BUSTILLO, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: How much does this state matter to the candidates?

BUSTILLO: Well, judging by their visits, it matters to the Biden campaign a lot. Biden is visiting this week. He will be in Phoenix for a campaign event launching the Latinos Con Biden-Harris organizing program. And the state is about one-third Latino, so that is a very targeted effort. Vice President Kamala Harris and first lady Jill Biden were both also here earlier this month. You'll remember Arizona went for Biden in 2020 by just over 10,000 votes, and it became central to false claims of election fraud by Trump and his supporters. Trump has not visited the state yet this year.

But there's still a big independent electorate here that both candidates will want to win over. A third of registered voters in the state are registered as independents, and one thing to note in today's result is that that won't include them. Independent voters are not allowed to vote in the state's presidential preference election. Only those affiliated with the Democratic Party or the Republican Party are.

INSKEEP: OK, so what issues might move those more independent voters?

BUSTILLO: Arizona is in the heart of the debate of immigration as a swing state along the U.S.-Mexico border. That's a big focus of what I'm here to report on this week. So when you look at the numbers of people apprehended by Border Patrol, Arizona is one of the busiest parts of the border right now. Many migrants and asylum-seekers are crossing here at record numbers, and shelters are straining to accommodate them. A few months ago, the government had to close a legal port of entry and reassign personnel to process asylum-seekers. That port closure reminded Arizonans about the impact of the pressures of immigration to them.

The broader conversation about reproductive rights also could play a big role come November. Arizona organizers are working to gather signatures to create a constitutional right to abortion using a ballot measure. Democrats have used abortion-related ballot measures to encourage voters to also turn out for Democrats up the ballot.

INSKEEP: Isn't there also a Senate race in Arizona?

BUSTILLO: Yeah. Arizona has a closely watched Senate race after independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema announced earlier this month that she wouldn't run for reelection. But that primary isn't until July.

INSKEEP: OK.

BUSTILLO: For the most part, what the parties are looking for today is the data that they can get - who is voting and where and why. These primaries are often used by parties to see where they already have an active electorate and where it needs work.

INSKEEP: Let me ask you about one of the other states that's voting today. Ohio has a big Senate primary, doesn't it?

BUSTILLO: Yes, and this is the seat that could help swing control of the Senate. Democrat Sherrod Brown is in a precarious position. Brown represents a fairly red state and is one of the last red-state Democrats in the Senate, so he has to appeal to Republican and moderate voters in both rural and urban areas. After today's voting, we'll know which Republican he will face this fall. Trump is supporting businessman Bernie Moreno, and Republicans will decide today whether to fall in line behind him or more establishment candidates. The other Republicans are Secretary of State Frank LaRose and State Senator Matt Dolan. It was at a rally for Moreno this past weekend where Trump dug in on dehumanizing language about immigrants. So the question is if that message resonates with voters and whether Trump's guy wins the day and the opportunity to take on Senator Brown in November.

INSKEEP: NPR's Ximena Bustillo in Arizona - one of five states holding primaries today. Thanks so much.

BUSTILLO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Ximena Bustillo
Ximena Bustillo is a multi-platform reporter at NPR covering politics out of the White House and Congress on air and in print.
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