Elections to watch: AZ-02

on Barber (D), after being injured in an assassination attempt on Gabrielle Giffords, was elected in June of 2012 to replace Giffords in Congress.  Barber was re-elected in November of 2012 by narrowly defeating Martha McSally by 2454 votes.  The final percentage of the vote was 50.41% – 49.57%.  Barber slightly outperformed President Barack Obama in the district.  President Obama lost the congressional district in the presidential election 49.9-48.4.  Due to the closeness of this race, the Congressional election in 2014 was hotly contested and ended up being the 6th most expensive House race in 2014.  In a rematch of the 2012 Congressional election, Martha McSally defeated Barber by less than 200 votes in 2014.  Unlike in many other districts and mid-term elections, the difference in the election was not merely because of a lack of turnout with the Democratic Party.  As we see from the below table, both candidates lost close to the same amount of voters from 2012 to 2014.

Candidate 2012 vote totals 2014 vote totals
Ron Barber 147,338 109,547
Martha McSally 144,884 109,714
Other 57 104
Total votes 292,279 219,365

Luckily for the voters of the Arizona 2nd Congressional District, Barber is not running for another chance of going against Rep. McSally.  The challenger for McSally in this cycle is most likely going to be State Representative Victoria Steele.  Steele has received the endorsement of 16 of her fellow state legislators as well as Congressman Raul Grijalva.  Steele still has to win the Democratic primary at the end of August against former state Representative Matt Heinz.

While serving in the Arizona House of Representatives, Steele has sponsored a number of progressive bills that would get the attention of a number of progressives, not only in Congress but, nationwide.   HB2546 was introduced on 05/05/2016 and has 17 sponsors.  The bill would increase the minimum wage for fast food employees.  The bill would increase the minimum wage for fast food employees beginning January 1, 2017 to $9/hour then increase it by$1/hour per year for year afterwards.  Additionally, there is a call for a minimum wage increase tied to the consumer price index which would be a cost of living increase.  If the cost of living increase was higher than the call for the minimum wage increase, then the fast food employees would receive the cost of living increase as their minimum wage.

She has signed onto other progressive causes and legislation, as well.  HB2177 was also introduced and sponsored by 21 members of the Arizona House of Representatives.  This bill calls for paid sick and safe time and would be accrued at the beginning of the employment.  SB1327 was introduced in April or 2015.  This bill would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or sexual identity for employment.  Essentially, this is a bill that has been called on for years which is the Employment Non-discrimination Act.  While there is almost certainly more progressive legislation that Steele has been a sponsor of, the last example I’m going to bring up which is HB2327 introduced in January of 2016.  This bill would allow for needy families to be able to receive cash assistance for a total of twenty-four months compared to a total of twelve months, previously.

Representative McSally has not been a conservative firebrand while she has been serving in Congress.  According to GovTrack’s analysis, she is closer to the middle compared to being on the conservative fringes.  Her own focus while in Congress has been to focus on immigration and veterans.  Her own bills include H.R. 2551 and H.R. 2835.  H.R. 2551 would relax standards for educational assistance for pre-apprenticeship programs for veterans.  This would allow veterans to receive additional educational assistance while they are trying to get back into normal civilian life.  H.R. 2835 would direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to increase their efforts to recruit members of the Armed Forces to be a Customs and Border Protection officer.  It would also include outreach from DHS to the Armed Forces.   The bill would also minimize the amount of time that a member of the Armed Forces would need to go through to get security clearance or background checks.  Both of these bills are worthy end goals.  If I had more time and space I would go over more of Rep. McSally’s bills that she has introduced and perhaps I will at a later date.

We will do a deeper dive into the policies and bills that Representative McSally and others have co-sponsored and voted on.  Initial polling of the state of Arizona showed that Donald Trump may have issues keeping Arizona in the Republican category and if that continues at all, this district may have more significance.  As we get closer to November, this election will be one worth watching and will be worthwhile for us to look at deeper so we can separate the candidates based on actual policies compared to what political party they happened to be registered with.

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Elections to watch: AZ-01

Representative Ann Kirkpatrick (D) of Arizona’s 1st Congressional District decided not to seek re-election for her Congressional seat and has decided instead to challenge John McCain for his Senate seat.  She provides a good challenge to McCain in a general election.  This was a competitive election in 2012 and 2014 and without the incumbent, could be a viable pickup for the Republican Party in 2016.

In 2012, Kirkpatrick won 48.80% of the vote compared to Jonathan Paton’s 45.15% of the vote.  This was a difference of 9,180 votes.  Kirkpatrick won re-election in 2014 with 52.61% of the vote compared to Republican Andy Tobin’s 47.39% of the vote.  She won by 9,668 votes in 2014.  There were 66,481 less votes cast in 2014 for this district compared to 2012.  Kirkpatrick got 79% of her vote share from 2012 in 2014 compared to the Republican candidate only getting 77% of their vote share.

Democratic candidates

Kirkpatrick was a pretty strong candidate and she received her incumbent bonus which allowed her to keep her seat.  The challengers who are vying to be the Democratic nominee are Tom O’Halleran, Miguel Olivas, and James Maloney.  The primary election will be held on August 30, 2016.

James Maloney – I don’t know a lot about Maloney.  His campaign website is trying to strike a populist tone and ride the coattails of Bernie Sanders’s presidential run.  A lot of his themes on his website are present in Sanders’s campaign, including rebuilding infrastructure and free (community) college.  Unfortunately, for Mr. Maloney, Bernie Sanders lost the Democratic primary in Arizona’s 1st Congressional district 35,445 votes to 26,267 votes (55-41).  The 2012 Congressional primary for the Democratic Party had 53,078 votes cast (about 10,000 less than the 2016 Presidential primary).  I would assume that as Sanders’s support goes in this district as would Maloney’s.  For now, I am low on Maloney’s chance to become the nominee.

Tom O’Halleran – He is the heavy favorite to become the nominee.  He is a former Republican State Senator for the legislative district in this Congressional district.  He changed his party affiliation prior to 2014 because of perceived failures of the Republican Party to fix a number of issues within Arizona despite having the majority.  Mr. O’Halleran is the “establishment” candidate receiving numerous endorsements and is a part of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Emerging Races.    If the establishment fervor wears off by the time of the primary election, O’Halleran should become the nominee.

Miguel Olivas – He ran in 2012 for the Democratic nomination to run for Congress.  He wasn’t successful.  In 2014, he ran to represent the 3rd district (Raul Grijalva)’s district as a Libertarian but withdrew prior to the primary .  Olivas is a small business owner and was previously a staff member in Congress.  I don’t think he will be too successful in securing the nomination

Republican candidates

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) thinks this is an opportunity for a pickup in the House to help maintain their majority.  It’s a district that should, at least, be competitive if they are able to find the right candidate.  There are five candidates with a viable shot of winning, in my opinion.

Wendy Rogers – Rogers ran as a candidate in Arizona’s 9th Congressional District in 2012 and 2014.  She lost in the primary in 2012 and in the general election in 2014.  In the 2012 Republican primary, she lost to Vernon Parker 22.5%-21%.  She lost to Kyrsten Sinema in the general election in 2014 54.7%-41.9% after she beat previous Arizona State quarterback Andrew Walter 59.4% -40.6% in the primary.  She is a business owner and previously served in the United States Air Force.  In 2014, she focused her general election campaign on running as an outsider.  She focused quite a bit on immigration.  This is one of the bigger issues facing Arizona’s 1st Congressional District, according to voters.  I think she will continue to focus on this issue.  Based on first quarter fundraising, she has raised over $100,000 in the first quarter.  She also endorsed Donald Trump very quickly so may get some added support from Trump as we approach the primary election.

Paul Babeu – Babeu is a sheriff from Pinal County.  He has been an extreme conservative on immigration and especially harsh on illegal immigration.  That being said, Babeu endured a scandal when he initially ran for Congress in 2012.  He had to admit that he was gay as an ex-boyfriend claimed Babeu threatened deportation unless the ex-boyfriend would keep quiet about Babeu’s sexuality.  He was re-elected as a sheriff despite this scandal.  He frequently attacked Eric Holder and the Obama administration over immigration.  His campaign will try to focus on immigration and deregulations, especially with the EPA.  Based on some polling in the district and his fundraising totals , Babeu is to be considered the favorite for the nomination.  It’s still early.  He has raised the second most amount of money in the first quarter with $157k raised.

David Gowan – Despite Babeu’s battles with the federal government over immigration, Gowan has received the endorsement of immigration’s favorite sheriff, Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  Gowan is the former speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives so he does have a considerable amount of legislative experience.  Gowan has the only high profile endorsement in the district, so far, on the Republican side.  He has run in the legislative district with the Congressional district since 2008, so he should have some experience in campaigning in the area.  Gowan has gotten quite a bit of financial support of the wealthy Republican community in the district.  He has received the backing of Johnson Utilities owner George Johnson; Tucson car deal Jim Click; and Arizona Cardinals President Michael Bidwell.  I would say that, as of right now, he is in a close second place.

Ken Bennett- the former Arizona Secretary of State and Republican gubernatorial candidate is now running for Congress against a crowded field.  On the one hand, he and Gary Kiehne have been named the NRCC Young Guns and are seen as the best shot of winning the general.  On the other hand, this is probably the worst election cycle to be an establishment favorite.  Bennett only raised $80k in the first quarter.  Most of the conservative donors seem to be focusing on giving to Gowan.  While Bennett should be the favorite on paper, his fundraising totals is not matching that opinion.

Gary Kiehne – Kiehne, a rancher in Arizona, came in second place in the Republican primary in 2014 losing only by 400 votes to former Arizona speaker of the House Andy Tobin to be Kirkpatrick’s opponent.  He is a wealthy rancher who has loaned his campaign $500,000 so far.  He was named as one of the Young Guns by the NRCC.  This seems like a weird nickname to give considering Kiehne’s comments in the 2014 campaign where he made a point saying that 99% of all mass shooters are Democrats.  In a year where wealthy outspoken people are doing well in the Republican primary, Kiehne should do fairly well at the end of August.