AP PHOTOS: Scenes from Arizona’s growing, pivotal suburbs

Election_2020_America_Disrupted_Suburbs_Photo_Essay_67171 New residential construction rises next to a basketball court at a middle-class neighborhood in Phoenix, Ariz., on March 9, 2020. Before the pandemic crashed the economy, one of the challenges for Republicans was that the strong economy brought more educated Democrats into the Phoenix suburbs. This diluted the GOP's potency as moderate Democrats became appealing to voters who could not find a home in Trump's anti-immigration and pro-gun party.
Election_2020_America_Disrupted_Suburbs_Photo_Essay_87538 A giant inflatable elf stands next to cell phone towers disguised as palm trees in front of the Padre Murphy's Sports Grill at a strip mall near the intersection between Arizona State Route 101 and Interstate 17 in Phoenix, Ariz., on March 9, 2020. Suburbs across the country have grown more diverse, crowded and politically competitive. These trends are eating away at decades of Republican control as more than half of the electorate calls the suburbs home.
Election_2020_America_Disrupted_Suburbs_Photo_Essay_79706 A man dozes off while waiting for customers at a jewelry store inside the now defunct Metrocenter mall in Phoenix, Ariz., on March 14, 2020. In the 1980's, as the Phoenix area expanded, the mall's decline began as many of the immediate residential neighborhoods bordering Metrocenter as middle-class residents moved away.
Election_2020_America_Disrupted_Suburbs_Photo_Essay_16244 This March 9, 2020 photo shows rows of homes in the middle-class neighborhood of Glendale in Phoenix, Ariz. America's suburbs are poised to decide not just who wins the White House this year -- but the contours of the debate over guns, immigration, work, schools, housing and health care for years to come. What makes the suburbs matter is that they sit between the density of cities that favor Democrats and the open land of rural towns that back Republicans.
Election_2020_America_Disrupted_Suburbs_Photo_Essay_12498 A cactus rises from the back of a home in a middle-class neighborhood in Phoenix, Ariz., on March 9, 2020. Before the pandemic crashed the economy, one of the challenges for Republicans was that the strong economy brought more educated Democrats into the Phoenix suburbs. This diluted the GOP's potency as moderate Democrats became appealing to voters who could not find a home in Trump's anti-immigration and pro-gun party.
Election_2020_America_Disrupted_Suburbs_Photo_Essay_87766 A mural is displayed at a fast-food Mexican restaurant near the Deer Valley suburb in Phoenix, Ariz., on March 9, 2020. Suburbs across the country have grown more diverse, crowded and politically competitive. These trends are eating away at decades of Republican control as more than half of the electorate calls the suburbs home.
Election_2020_America_Disrupted_Suburbs_Photo_Essay_41570 A U.S. flag flies over a home at a middle-class neighborhood in Phoenix, Ariz., on March 9, 2020. Before the pandemic crashed the economy, one of the challenges for Republicans was that the strong economy brought more educated Democrats into the Phoenix suburbs. This diluted the GOP's potency as moderate Democrats became appealing to voters who could not find a home in Trump's anti-immigration and pro-gun party.
Election_2020_America_Disrupted_Suburbs_Photo_Essay_82747 A sign advertising new homes stands next to an empty lot near the Deer Valley suburb in Phoenix, Ariz., Sunday, March 10, 2020. America's suburbs are poised to decide not just who wins the White House this year -- but the contours of the debate over guns, immigration, work, schools, housing and health care for years to come. What makes the suburbs matter is that they sit between the density of cities that favor Democrats and the open land of rural towns that back Republicans.
Election_2020_America_Disrupted_Suburbs_Photo_Essay_75749 A makeshift U.S. flag stands behind a home located near the intersection between the Arizona State Route 101 and the Interstate 17 freeway in Phoenix, Ariz., on March 9, 2020. America's suburbs are poised to decide not just who wins the White House this year -- but the contours of the debate over guns, immigration, work, schools, housing and health care for years to come. What makes the suburbs matter is that they sit between the density of cities that favor Democrats and the open land of rural towns that back Republicans.
Election_2020_America_Disrupted_Suburbs_Photo_Essay_86932 A toy car sits outside a home located near the intersection between the Arizona State Route 101 and the Interstate 17 freeway in Phoenix, Ariz., on March 9, 2020. The AP analyzed the changes in the vote from 2016 to 2018 to demonstrate the shifting battleground. In Phoenix, the average flip zone in Phoenix occurred on average at 670 households per square mile in 2018. It reached into the shopping plazas and office parks and cul-de-sacs where homes had backyards large enough for swimming pools. The flip zone was nearly 1,000 households per square mile in 2016. If measured as a distance from city hall, the flip zone pushed out more than two miles in the span of two years, right to the northern edge of Interstate 101 in Phoenix. Arizona elected a Democrat to the Senate held by Republican for 24 years.
Election_2020_America_Disrupted_Suburbs_Photo_Essay_03418 A parking lot stands empty outside of the 13th Floor Hauned House as Phoenix, Ariz., began it's lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic on Sunday, March 15, 2020.
Election_2020_America_Disrupted_Suburbs_Photo_Essay_35575 A U.S. flag hangs inside the now defunct Metrocenter mall in Phoenix, Ariz., on March 14, 2020. In the 1980's, as the Phoenix area expanded, the mall's decline began as many of the immediate residential neighborhoods bordering Metrocenter as middle-class residents moved away.
Election_2020_America_Disrupted_Suburbs_Photo_Essay_22079 Dresses are displayed at a Quinceanera store inside the now defunct Metrocenter mall in Phoenix, Ariz., on March 14, 2020. In the 1980's, as the Phoenix area expanded, the mall's decline began as many of the immediate residential neighborhoods bordering Metrocenter as middle-class residents moved away.
Election_2020_America_Disrupted_Suburbs_Photo_Essay_44092 Palm trees line a typical neighborhood at a suburb in Phoenix, Ariz., Sunday, March 9, 2020. America's suburbs are poised to decide not just who wins the White House this year -- but the contours of the debate over guns, immigration, work, schools, housing and health care for years to come. What makes the suburbs matter is that they sit between the density of cities that favor Democrats and the open land of rural towns that back Republicans.
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PHOENIX (AP) — America’s suburbs are undergoing a political transformation. Democrats who once were confined to dense cities have made inroads into the suburbs that were once dependably Republican.

President Donald Trump faces pressure to win back these areas as he seeks reelection, while Democratic challenger Joe Biden hopes an the increasingly diverse suburbs will deliver him the presidency.

For a photo essay, photographer Dario Lopez-Mills roamed the neighborhoods around Phoenix where the political makeup is changing the most. Amid the pandemic, he found few people but plenty of signs of explosive growth: desert scrub cleared away for new home construction, the skeletal frames of apartment buildings, and restaurants and businesses catering to an increasingly diverse population.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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