Arizona in play this political season: Expect presidential candidates to woo voters

For the first time in years, things are heating up when it comes to the race for president in Arizona. Our state is in play and will be important to the primary process.

Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders will head to Phoenix on March 15 and Republican front-runner Donald Trump might be planning a trip to Arizona this weekend. It's all head of Arizona's presidential preference election on March 22.

You have to ask what's going on here. Arizona presidential primaries usually don't get this much attention from the candidates. Things are often sewn up in both parties by this time in the political calendar, but this is 2016 and all bets are off.

Small and low-key -- Trump's campaign headquarters for the state of Arizona are easily overlooked in an office building in east Mesa.

Arizona primaries don't garner much attention in the big political picture, but this is not a usual political cycle.

"As it turns out, Arizona is a relevant player in both the Republican and Democratic primaries, so anyone who wants the vote in Arizona ought to come here and ask for it," said Stan Barnes of the Copper state Consulting Group.

Barnes says for the first time, Arizona's 58 Republican delegates and 85 Democratic delegates are meaningful since Arizona started doing presidential primaries in 1996.

"And it really hasn't mattered on the national scene except this time. This time it matters."

Republican front-runner Trump has been to the valley twice to rally supporters, but will we see him again? Trump supporter Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio says he doesn't know, but as he's done before, he will be there to support him. The Sheriff says he doesn't expect violence at Trump rallies in Arizona.

"I don't have any concern," he said. "Don't forget, the sheriff has mandated duties to take care of any riots, insurrections.. so you know I'll be looking over too."

Arpaio believes Trump will do well with Arizona voters.

"He has a lot of support here. I stick by him, despite all of the negative petty, petty remarks against him because he may be outspoken."

There are some interesting numbers on early ballots in Maricopa County from the elections department. They mailed out over 843,000 ballots. As of March 14, Republican voters have returned 215,241 ballots while Democrats have returned 162,624 ballots and 222 ballots for the Green Party.  

The elections office tells me that if you haven't mailed in your early ballot for the presidential preference election, you need to mail it by Wednesday, March 16.

As for Trump's visit, conventional wisdom is that we don't know if he will come until March 16. He will have to see how he does in the Super Tuesday election on March 15. That will definitely weigh in on whether we'll see Trump in the valley this Saturday.

Bernie Sanders' Super Tuesday Future to Believe In Phoenix Rally
March 15, 1:00pm
Phoenix Convention Center, South Building
100 North 3rd Street
Phoenix, AZ 85004

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