THE CD 8 SCRAMBLE BEGINS
With Gabrielle Giffords making her resignation official in a graceful exit from the House of Representatives last Wednesday, Jan. 25, Gov. Jan Brewer has set the schedule for the special election to fill out the remainder of Gabby's term: Voters in Congressional District 8 will go to the polls on Tuesday, April 17, for the partisan primary election, and on Tuesday, June 12, for the special general election.
Candidates for the special congressional election have until Feb. 27 to deliver their nominating petitions.
Republican Frank Antenori was the first one into the pool, announcing last Friday, Jan. 27, that he was running in both the special election to replace Giffords and the normal election to fill the seat in the new Congressional District 2, a tossup district which is slightly more Democratic than the current CD 8.
Antenori launched his campaign for CD 8 in Green Valley, delivering the standard Obama-bashing, base-riling campaign speech to a packed house of Green Valley Republicans. Antenori said the election would be decided by economic issues, and he's got a record of balancing budgets in tough times.
"We have got to do at a federal level what we did here in Arizona: We've got to get the adults back in charge, cut up the credit cards that they've been running wild with, and get the country back on the same sound financial footing that we have here in Arizona," Antenori said.
Antenori confirmed he is "110 percent" in the race for the newly drawn CD 2 in the regular November election.
"It's going to be a long haul," he said. "This is an unprecedented situation, running for two congressional seats at the same time. We're going to have four elections in less than a year. It's going to be tiring; it's going to be tough, but I'm there, and I'm going to fight."
Antenori, who plans to keep his state Senate seat at least until the budget is settled, wanted to get out ahead of Jesse Kelly, the Republican candidate who came within a few thousand votes of beating Giffords in 2010.
Kelly, who had relocated to Texas with his family after losing the congressional seat, raced back to Tucson last week with the intention of leaping into the special election.
Team Kelly released a poll last week that showed him in the front of the pack of probable Republican special-election candidates. The survey showed that Kelly had a combined 35 percent of definite and leaning voters. Antenori pulled 15 percent of definite and leaning voters, and local sports broadcaster Dave Sitton—a potential candidate who has not yet announced his plans—got 7 percent.
The poll, conducted on Jan. 24 and 25, sampled 300 likely primary voters from the current CD 8.
Antenori, who dismissed Kelly's poll as a "snapshot in time," said he had done his own polling for the seat, but he didn't ask whether voters supported Kelly, because he didn't think Kelly would run.
"What's really astonishing is that he had no intentions of running in the normal election, and he had already started cutting staff away, and all of a sudden, Mr. Opportunity is back in town. We went through a period of time in the state when there were a lot of political battles," Antenori said, citing tussles with the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission and the Tucson City Council. "Some of us stayed to fight those battles and work for the conservative cause in the party, and some of us didn't. When the going gets tough, Jesse Kelly gets going."
While that slugfest is shaping up, the picture is a lot murkier on the Democratic side, where most of the potential candidates are waiting to see if Giffords herself will endorse a candidate.
The Skinny hears persistent rumors that Ron Barber, the district director for CD 8, may get into the race later this week or early next week.
But Barber, who was shot twice on Jan. 8, 2011, is still dealing with a damaged left leg that remains numb below the knee. If he were to get into the race, he may only want to serve out the remainder of Giffords' CD 8 term. So if Barber gets into the race, he'll probably clear the field of other Democrats, who will refocus on the race for CD 2.
Democrat Matt Heinz told The Skinny earlier this week that he hopes to run in the special election for CD 8 and the regular election for CD 2.
"Southern Arizona needs representation, and we have a very short timeframe to get somebody like Gabby back in there to represent us in D.C.," said Heinz, who has no plans to resign from his seat in the Arizona House of Representatives. "I think with my record of moderate, bipartisan consensus-building, and my background as a physician, I'm the best candidate to do it."
But Heinz said that if Barber did get into the race for the special election, he'd reset his sights on the new Congressional District 2.
"I can think of no better person than Ron Barber to complete Gabby's term," Heinz said. "I'd start circulating petitions for him."
Meanwhile, other potential candidates are still waiting to see what Team Giffords decides to do. Among the potential candidates: State Sen. Paula Aboud; state Rep. Steve Farley; Nan Stockholm Walden, a former D.C. operative and attorney who owns pecan groves near Sahuarita; and Lisa Lovallo, vice president and system manager for Cox Communications' Southern Arizona operation.
Lovallo, who did not return a phone call from The Skinny, appears to be one of the most-unlikely candidates in a Democratic primary—because when we checked earlier this week, she was still registered as a Republican.
Republican Bob Westerman, the former chairman of the Pima County Republican Party, is considering a run for the Arizona House of Representatives in the new Legislative District 11.
LD 11, which includes Oro Valley, SaddleBrooke, the town of Maricopa and part of Casa Grande, is fairly safe GOP territory; the GOP holds an 11-point voter-registration advantage over Democrats.
LD 26 Sen. Al Melvin of SaddleBrooke and LD 23 Sen. Steve Smith of Maricopa both got drawn into the district. Earlier this week, Smith announced that he would sidestep a potential primary with Melvin and instead seek a House seat as part of a GOP slate with Melvin and Adam Kwasman, who managed Jesse Kelly's unsuccessful 2010 congressional campaign.
Meanwhile, it looks like a Democratic slate may be forming in the new LD 10, which includes much of central and eastern Tucson south of Speedway Boulevard. LD 10 is a competitive district where Democrats hold a 4-percentage-point voter-registration advantage.
Former state lawmaker Dave Bradley is looking at the Senate seat, while current LD 28 Rep. Bruce Wheeler may be joined in the district by Brandon Patrick, a political strategist who is now working for Tucson City Councilman Paul Cunningham.
"Tucson deserves another voice like Bruce Wheeler and Dave Bradley to reflect Tucson values," Patrick said.
On the other side of Speedway, in the new LD 9, it appears that state Rep. Steve Farley is angling for the Senate seat. On the House side, a primary battle is shaping up between Democrats Victoria Steele, Mohur Sidhwa and Dustin Cox.