You gotta hand it to Republican state Sen. Frank Antenori.
The latest scheme cooked up by the hard-charging right-winger may allow him to keep his options open in two separate elections this November, without committing to either.
Here’s how the trick works. This is dense, so stick with us.
Antenori announced earlier in the year that he was running in the special election for Congressional District 8 to replace Gabby Giffords. At the time, he said that no matter what happens, he was also “100 percent” in the race for the new Congressional District 2 in November.
But when he lost the special election primary to Republican Jesse Kelly, and Kelly started doing well in polls against his Democratic opponent Ron Barber, Antenori wasn't quite “100 percent” anymore. He said if Kelly won the election, he wouldn’t challenge him.
He also started collecting signatures to run for reelection to the state Senate, although (thanks to redistricting) he's now in a district that leans Democrat and cover much of central Tucson.
This scared Republican candidate Todd Clodfelter out of the state Senate race and into a run for the House of Representatives. That wasn't good news for Republican state Rep. Ted Vogt, who was running as a single-shot candidate in the House in that district, because having an extra Republican in the race would have hurt his already long odds. (Single-shot: One candidate from a party runs in a district where two representatives are elected. In-the-know-voters from that party select only their candidate and leave their other vote blank, thus increasing their boy’s odds.)
But back to Antenori, who has a timing problem: His signatures to get on the ballot for the legislative elections are due May 30, but he won't know who won the CD8 special election until June 12—and he can't be registered as a candidate for two different offices at the same time.
So either he drops out of the race for state Senate, and commits to Congress once again, or vice-versa. Right?
Enter the crazy-as-a-fox plan. Antenori tells The Range: "I could jump in CD2 and watch what happens on June 12. If Jesse turns out to be the guy, then good deal, I just run as a write-in (for state Senate)."
Write-in candidates don't need to collect signatures. With Clodfelter running for the House, Antenori will face no primary election opposition for his Senate seat and will only need about 500 voters to write in his name for it to appear on the general election ballot.
If Kelly loses the special election in June, Antenori is geared up and ready to get in the race for Congress in November.
It's a win-freaking-win, as Antenori might say.
"This is a special circumstance," Antenori says. "I don't think anybody could have foreseen the impact this special election would have on other races. There's no provision of state law dealing with this."
Only possible stick in the spokes of Antenori's turning wheels is if Clodfelter decides to call Antenori’s bluff and stay in the Senate race. Clodfelter doesn’t want to face Antenori in a primary, but seeing as how these two are old frenemies from the Republican district, he may not want to give Antenori a free pass either.
Antenori hasn't officially committed to his plan of not committing, but he told the Tucson Weekly he was kicking the idea around in his head.
Former Air Force fighter pilot Martha McSally, who came in second place in the CD8 GOP primary in March (and ahead of Antenori), is also planning to run in the CD2 race this fall if Kelly does not win the June 12 special election against Barber.
Kelly has also filed to run in that race, but whether he would stay in the race after two loses in CD8 remains to be seen. The new CD2 is friendlier to Democrats than the old CD8.