NOGALES — Last year, Arizona was a key electoral state, as predictions kept coming in that a “blue wave” would sweep through, giving the open Senate seat to Democrat Mark Kelly and the presidency to Joe Biden. Surprisingly, the predictions were correct. Kelly handily beat the appointed incumbent, Martha McSally, and despite baseless claims of election fraud that even the Republican governor refuted, the state went to Biden.
On a state level, however, the GOP still maintains the trifecta, holding the office of the governor and the majority in both houses of the state legislature.
Next year, 2022, marks the end of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s tenure since state law prohibits any individual from holding that office for more than two terms. With the race wide open, residents of the Grand Canyon state are watching closely to see who might throw their hat in the ring from either party, both of which are going through dramatic struggles to find where they stand in an ever-changing world.
There are a lot of questions about the future political landscape of America’s newest purple state. Some are wondering if the friction within the state’s Republican Party will open the doors for Democrats to sweep in and turn the entire state blue. Too early to predict, experts seem to be keeping any speculation to themselves for now. Excitement for the race is beginning to grow, though, with one candidate already throwing his hat into the ring.
In March, Marco Lopez announced his intention to seek the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, an announcement that sparked even further interest in the potential outcome of the race.
Lopez boasts an impressive resume, beginning with a stint as mayor of Nogales at the age of 22 during which he held the title of “America’s Youngest Mayor” in 2001. This put him in the sights of then-governor Janet Napolitano (D), who wasted no time in pulling Lopez onto her staff as an advisor and installing him as the Executive Director of the Arizona-Mexico Commission. Shortly after President Barack Obama appointed Napolitano as the Secretary of Homeland Security, Napolitano brought Lopez along with her, positioning him as the Chief of Staff for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Following his tenure at CBP, Lopez jumped into the private sector as CEO of Intermestic Partners, advising companies and nonprofits that do business between the United States and Latin America.
According to Lopez, the roots of his success go even deeper, beginning with a philosophy his parents lived by and passed on to their son. His parents moved across the border from Nogales, Sonora, to Nogales, Arizona, in the early ’80s with the hope of building a better, more stable life for their family. Marco Lopez Sr. had a very simple belief that he lived by, and that he made work for him: “Anyone can succeed in Arizona.”
This simple philosophy has influenced his son’s entire life and is something that the younger Lopez still lives by to this day. Lopez acknowledges, however, that this ideal has not historically worked for all Arizonans and that’s something he says he hopes to change. Armed with the simple, yet solid belief that anyone should be able to succeed in Arizona, Lopez hopes to bring the Grand Canyon State into a new era where education is a priority and success is more than just a dream.
Although Lopez isn’t the first Latino to run for Governor in recent years, his experience and notoriety are likely to play in his favor against any potential opposition within his own party, or against a GOP contender. However, in the more-than-a-century of statehood, Arizona has only elected one other Latino, Raul Castro, another Fronterizo who successfully established himself in the political realm.
Lopez says he is proud of his heritage, and acknowledges that he is running as a Democrat, but the candidate has stated he intends to represent all Arizonans, regardless of race, social status, or political party.
With more than a year until the midterms, and only one candidate so far having publicly announced their intention to run, it may be too early to tell where Lopez stands on certain key issues, but he has wasted no time in getting his name out and there are plenty of local residents excited for the race to come.
“It is great to see one of our own rise this far and aspire to lead Arizona,” current Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino told Latino Rebels. “His story and knowledge of border-related issues and challenges would be quite an asset for all border communities.”
Joseph Paul Wright is a freelance journalist based in Nogales, Arizona. He tweets from @joewrightwrites.