by Jim Nintzel
The U.S. Senate race:
A year ago, Republican Rep. Jeff Flake was considered to have all but a total lock on this seat. But it has been a long year.
First, Flake was sucked into a quagmire of a primary with a self-funded rival from the right. The race went negative and drained his funds and attention until nearly September.
Democrats recruited former Surgeon General Richard Carmona. He has an Indiana Jones-esque background of intellectual and heroic achievements. So much so that even Arizona Republicans will concede his was an attractive get. As of press time, Flake’s lead in this race was close and narrowing.
The Congressional District 1 race:
Former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) has had the momentum since the state’s nonpartisan redistricting commission made this district more Democrat-friendly. She has had strong fundraising and is backed by EMILY’s List, and hungry Democrats from across the state are rooting hard for her. It was enough to push Gosar into the safe Republican 4th district, even though he defeated Kirkpatrick by 6 points in 2010. Even conservative operatives will concede that Kirkpatrick’s early start and early fundraising efforts have given her a slight advantage over her GOP rival, former state Sen. Jonathan Paton.
Paton has run a competent campaign, and more importantly, the National Republican Congressional Committee and outside groups are placing big bets on this race. Early on, the committee blocked off nearly $1 million for television ads. Democrats were quick to point out that the money could be easily shifted in the Phoenix market to the 9th district, but the NRCC followed through on the buy and has shown no signs of backing down.
The CD2 race:
What Republicans have going for them is their candidate. Retired Air Force Col. Martha McSally has charm, smarts and a fascinating military record. Generally, McSally has run with a positive tone — something that would work well for a district that has suffered the trauma that has faced Tucson residents since the Safeway shootings.
But given Barber’s larger-than-expected 7-point margin in the June special and the fact that the new 2nd district is more favorable territory for the Democrats, it is hard to see how Republicans have a better shot in the fall.