by Jim Nintzel
The marquee race in Southern Arizona promises to be Congressional District 8, where Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has to overcome an anti-incumbent mood to hang onto her seat in a district where Republicans outnumber Democrats, but Independents make up nearly three out of every 10 voters.
Five Republicans have lined up to challenge Giffords. Jonathan Paton, who gave up his seat in the state Senate to challenge Giffords, has emerged as the establishment candidate, picking up support—and maximum contributions—from local business leaders such as auto dealer Jim Click and legendary land speculator Don Diamond. In the first quarter of 2010, Paton was able to raise more than a half-million dollars from more than 1,000 donors.
He’ll need all that and more. In the same reporting period, Giffords reported raising nearly $490,000—and had nearly $2 million in the bank as of March 31.
Paton complains that Giffords has portrayed herself as a Blue Dog moderate, but voted for the health-care reform package, a cap-and-trade measure to reduce greenhouse emissions and the stimulus plan.
“I’m running for Congress because I don’t understand why we would support a government right now that is forcing you to pay payroll taxes for something that you will never actually see,” Paton recently told a group of College Republicans at the University of Arizona. “If you’re a young person right now, you’re never going to realize a lot of the things that you are paying for at the moment. Why would we want to be supporting an agenda with a president who is regulating the freedoms that your fathers or your grandfathers or your grandmothers fought for? … They’re stealing your birthright.”
A fierce defender of Arizona’s new immigration law, SB 1070, Paton vows that he would not
request earmarks for Southern Arizona and promises to repeal the Democratic health-care reform plan.
Paton is facing a tough primary challenge from fellow Republican Jesse Kelly, a Marine combat vet in the Iraq war who now works for his father’s construction business. Kelly says he got into the race because “I love my country and I don’t like the direction it’s going in the very least. … This president and this Congress and this Senate have taken over and they expanding government. They’re expanding spending, they’re going to raise taxes, they want to tell you what kind of light bulbs you can keep in your house and what kind of health care you have to buy and that’s simply not America.”
Kelly, who has been endorsed by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, is positioning himself as the political outsider in the race. He’s called for “the demise of big-government Republicans” and allied himself with J.D. Hayworth, the firebrand conservative who is challenging U.S. Sen. John McCain.
For a political newcomer, he’s also done well with fundraising, bringing in $367,000 as of March 31.
Brian Miller, an Air Force veteran who still flies A-10s as a member of the Reserve, hails from the Ron Paul wing of the Republican Party.
“I love the idea of human freedom,” Miller says. “I love the ideas that are enshrined in our Constitution. I love the idea of American enterprise.”
Miller argues that the government has expanded much too far. Not only does he want to repeal the health-care reform package passed by Democrats earlier this year; he’d like to eliminate federal welfare programs, wean people off of Social Security and scrap Medicare for future recipients.
He also argues that the United States should withdraw troops from Afghanistan, putting him at odds with Paton and Kelly.
Andy Goss, an Army veteran who has proposed that members of Congress live in barracks on the Arizona-Mexico border, promises to “be the blunt instrument that is required for these times.”
An unexpected entry into the race was Jay Quick, who received 2 percent of the vote running as an Independent in 2006. Quick has been such a stealth candidate that even the other Republicans in the race didn’t realize he was running until he filed his paperwork last week.
Libertarian Steven Stoltz will also be on the November ballot.
Gabrielle Giffords' Web site.