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.