SUNDAY FEATURE: In the wilds of Arizona, a hunt for bipartisanship

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone, in seeking a second term, is trying once and for all to exorcise the ghost of his predecessor, Joe Arpaio. / M. Scott Mahaskey / POLITICO

By Bryan Bender | POLITICO

YUMA — Down a long dusty track, the Dunn family homestead appears like an oasis, shielded by a thick patch of palm trees from the parched expanse and nearly triple-digit temperatures.

The wheat farm operated by state Rep. Timothy Dunn, a conservative Republican from a district along the U.S.-Mexico border, is also a refuge from the partisan wars being waged across this battleground state and reshaping the national political map.

Five Democratic elected officials trekked to this corner of the Grand Canyon State in early September to join five Republicans for the opening of dove hunting season. The overnight outing, billed as “barbeque, burritos, and birds,” was a rare celebration of bipartisanship: The group talked over a friendly dinner before setting out at dawn for their prey, in all spending nearly a full day getting to know each other out of sight of the cameras and the raucous debates back in Phoenix.

The meeting was all the more extraordinary because the tectonic plates of Arizona politics are shifting: Republicans are still calling the shots, but they may not be for long in the face of a Democratic resurgence. “I trolled them about us being in the majority come January,” quipped Alma Hernandez, a Democratic state representative from Tucson who attended the hunt for the second year in a row with her brother Daniel, who is also a member of the Arizona House of Representatives.

“Anytime you can talk to people across the aisle and understand where they’re coming from, you’re able to better represent those folks you don’t necessarily align with ideologically.”

Alma Hernandez

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