Brace yourself, Tucson: The politicians are loose upon the land.
Congressman Raúl Grijalva is once again fighting for his political life. We've got a battle for control of the Pima County Board of Supervisors. Sheriff Clarence Dupnik is up against five GOP challengers. Congressman Jeff Flake has to beat a wealthy upstart challenger before he can face Democrat Richard Carmona in what promises to be a bruising matchup for an open U.S. Senate seat. And no matter who wins the race between Republican Jesse Kelly and Democrat Ron Barber in next week's special congressional election, those candidates are promising to get right back on the campaign trail in an effort to win a full term.
Against the backdrop of a presidential election that will set Barack Obama against Mitt Romney, Election 2012 is officially underway.
Adding to the intrigue: scrambled political lines thanks to redistricting, which is creating competitive races in central Tucson for the Arizona Legislature.
Last week, candidates had to meet the deadline to file for state and local offices. We've rounded up most of the races we'll see in Southern Arizona, leaving out a few contests for constable and justice of the peace.
There's still more to come, including races for local school boards and campaigns for ballot propositions. (The deadlines for those candidates and petitions come later this summer.)
The Aug. 28 primary election is less than 12 weeks away. Let the games begin!
President of the United States
Democrats have spent the last few months selling the idea that Arizona might be in play in the presidential race. They point to a handful of polls showing a competitive race and hope that the recent actions of Gov. Jan Brewer and a conservative Arizona Legislature will trigger backlash among independent and Latino voters.
A series of polls early this year showed voters divided between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Two April surveys showed them knotted at about 40 percent each, and a February survey by Public Policy Polling showed them at 47 percent each.
But a more recent PPP poll, taken May 17-20, showed Romney with a 7 percentage-point lead, capturing 50 percent to Obama's 43 percent. The hurdles in front of the president are high: The same survey showed that only 41 percent of Arizona voters approved of Obama's job performance, and 46 percent had a favorable view of Mitt Romney, making Arizona one of the few states that PPP has polled where Romney's favorables exceed his unfavorables.
Congressman Jeff Flake, who has represented District 6 in Maricopa and Pinal counties since 2003, is hoping to land the seat held by retiring U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl.
For most of his congressional career, Flake has been a small-government, free-market, Libertarian-oriented Republican. While he has voted along party lines for the most part, he's pushed for opening trade with Cuba, eschewed earmarks and supported the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
Until he decided to seek the Senate seat, Flake was one of the few congressional Republicans who supported comprehensive immigration reform that would allow illegal immigrants now in the United States to receive legal status as long as they paid a fine and passed a background check. Since announcing his campaign, Flake has publicly backed away from that position, saying the United States must do more to secure the border before any other steps are taken.
Flake finds himself facing a primary challenge from Wil Cardon, who is pouring millions of his own dollars into a campaign to portray himself as a successful businessman and Washington, D.C., outsider.
Cardon is seeing some return on that investment, although he has a long way to go. A Public Policy Polling survey conducted May 17-20 showed that Cardon had the support of 20 percent of Republicans, while Flake had the support of 42 percent. Still, that was a big step up for Cardon, given that he had the support of only 7 percent of the voters in a February PPP poll, and trailed Flake by 49 percentage points.
Two other little-known Republicans, Bryan Hackbarth and Clair Van Steenwyk, also registered to run in the primary.
The winner of the GOP primary will face a tough fight from Democrat Richard Carmona, who faces token opposition from Tucson physician David A. Ruben, a political newcomer who filed nominating petitions last week.
Carmona has an impressive résumé: His parents hailed from Puerto Rico, and he grew up in a poor neighborhood in the Bronx. After high school, he earned two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts in Vietnam, where he served as a combat medic. After leaving the service, he became a trauma surgeon, joined the Pima County SWAT team, and served as one of President George W. Bush's surgeon generals, sometimes butting heads with administration officials when politics took precedence over science in health matters.
Libertarian Sheila Bilyeu has also filed to run.
Congressional District 1
Oro Valley and Marana are now part of Arizona's largest congressional district, which stretches from the north side of Pima County, around the eastern half of the state and then north to Flagstaff and the Navajo reservation.
It's a sprawling district with wildly different interest groups—SaddleBrooke's GOP retirees, Mormon cowboys, the Hopis and the Navajos, and Flagstaff's granola Democrats. The voter-registration numbers give Democrats a 9-point edge in CD 1, but many of those Democrats are conservative, rural voters, so it's a competitive district.
The Democratic primary is shaping up to be ugly. Ann Kirkpatrick, who served a large part of the new district for one term in Congress from 2009 to 2011 before losing to Tea Party GOP challenger Paul Gosar, is looking to make a comeback, but she's facing a fierce challenge from political newcomer Wenona Benally Baldenegro. A Harvard-educated attorney who would be the first Native American woman elected to Congress, Baldenegro is already complaining that she's being treated unfairly by the Arizona Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
On the Republican side, former state lawmaker Jonathan Paton is also looking to make a political comeback. Paton, who represented the east side of Tucson, Green Valley and Sierra Vista in the Arizona Legislature, lost a bid for Congress in 2010 to Jesse Kelly, who knocked him out in the GOP primary in CD 8.
Paton faces three GOP newcomers in the CD 1 race: Gaither Martin, who recently returned to Arizona after spending several years running a consulting business that helps investors and businesses set up shop in Iraq; Doug Wade, a contractor in Sedona; and Patrick Gatti, a small-government enthusiast from Show Low.
Libertarian Anthony Prowell has also filed to run in the district.
Congressional District 2
The fate of Congressional District 2 won't be fully clear until next week, when voters decide the June 12 special election between Democrat Ron Barber and Republican Jesse Kelly to complete Gabrielle Giffords' term.
The new CD 2 covers much of the same ground as the current Congressional District 8, but there have been some changes. Most dramatically, the new CD 2 will not include the GOP enclaves of Oro Valley, Marana and SaddleBrooke, which have shifted to Congressional District 1.
That means that the district will become more competitive. In CD 8, Republicans hold a 6-point voter-registration edge; in the new district, 34.7 percent of the voters are Republican, while 34.1 percent are Democrats, and 31.1 percent fall into the category of "other."
Both Kelly and Barber have said they intend to run in the new CD 2. On the GOP side, Martha McSally, a former Air Force fighter pilot who came in second in the April primary in the CD 8 special election, has filed to run in CD 2, but has said she'll drop out of the race if Kelly wins next week. Republican newcomer Mark Koskiniemi has also filed to run.
On the Democratic side, Barber will face Democrat Matt Heinz in the primary. Heinz, who is wrapping up his second term in the Arizona House of Representatives, said he'll stay in the race whether Barber wins or loses the CD 8 race next week.
Congressional District 3
Critics of Congressman Raúl Grijalva—and he's had his share over a long career that has included stints on the Pima County Board of Supervisors and the Tucson Unified School District governing board—have promised in each election cycle that voters would tire of the progressive Democrat.
Grijalva has consistently proved them wrong, climbing all the way to the U.S. House of Representatives a decade ago.
But last year, Grijalva faced one of his toughest races yet, against political neophyte Ruth McClung, who nearly knocked him out after he called for businesses to boycott Arizona in the wake of the passage of SB 1070, Arizona's controversial immigration law.
This year, Grijalva is running in a district that remains a Democratic stronghold—43 percent of the voters are registered Democrats, and just 22 percent are Republicans.
He's facing two challengers in the Democratic primary: former state lawmaker Amanda Aguirre, who represented Yuma for eight years at the state Capitol; and Manny Arreguin, a Tucson physician who is making his first foray into politics.
Both Aguirre and Arreguin have complained that the Democratic Party is out to protect Grijalva by refusing to give them access to voter lists in the new district.
In the GOP primary, Republican activist Gabriela Saucedo Mercer is set to face Jaime Vasquez, a general contractor and owner of a steel-fabrication company.
Libertarian Blanca Guerra is also in the race.
All of this year's races for the Pima County Board of Supervisors—which oversees a $1.3 billion budget and services throughout Pima County ranging from health care to transportation—will be contested.
• In District 1, Supervisor Ann Day is stepping down after three terms, leading to a rumble among Republicans who represent the Catalina foothills, Oro Valley and parts of Marana.
Four Republican candidates are in the primary: Vic Williams, who is giving up a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives to run for the county board; Ally Miller, a Tea Party organizer; Mike Hellon, a former Arizona Republican Party chairman and GOP national committeeman; and Stuart McDaniel, a mortgage broker who last dabbled in politics as a deputy campaign manager for Jesse Kelly's 2010 congressional effort.
The winner of the GOP primary will face Democrat Nancy Young Wright, a former state lawmaker and Amphitheater school-board member.
• In District 2, Supervisor Ramón Valadez, a Democrat who has been on the board since 2002, will face a challenge from Republican James Kelley, a party activist and occasional blogger.
• In District 3, Supervisor Sharon Bronson, a Democrat who has represented the westside since 1996, will face Republican newcomer Tanner Bell, a former UA football player who works for the UA Athletics Department as an academic adviser.
• In District 4, Supervisor Ray Carroll, who has served on the board since 1997, is challenged by fellow Republican Sean Collins, who left a career in the Air Force to work in the defense industry.
• In District 5, Democratic Supervisor Richard Elías is set to face Republican Fernando Gonzales, a businessman and political newcomer.
In other Pima County races:
• Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, a Democrat whose remarks about coarse political discourse set off a national firestorm in the wake of the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others on Jan. 8, 2011, is seeking a ninth term.
Dupnik has drawn five Republican challengers: Terry Frederick, a former county deputy who has worked as a private investigator; Vinson Holck, a retired Tucson police officer; Mark Napier, a former Tucson police captain; Walt Setzer, who has worked for the U.S. Border Patrol and the U.S. Marshals Service; and Chester Manning, a former police officer who appears to be partially funding his campaign through a variety of gun raffles and opportunities to fire automatic weapons.
Green Party candidate Dave Croteau, who has previously run for Tucson mayor, is making a second run for sheriff.
• County Attorney Barbara LaWall, a Democrat, has dodged a Republican challenger in her run for a fifth term as the county's top prosecutor, but has drawn opposition from Green Party leader Claudia Ellquist.
• County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez, a Democrat who has been in office since 1992, is facing a challenge from Republican Bill Beard.
• County Treasurer Beth Ford, a Republican who is seeking a fourth term, will face Democrat Elaine Richardson, a former state lawmaker who headed up the Arizona Department of Real Estate in the Napolitano administration.
• County Superintendent of Public Instruction Linda Arzoumanian faces a challenge in the GOP primary from political newcomer Mace Bravin.
The Arizona Legislature: Legislative District 2
State Sen. Linda Lopez, who has represented Tucson's south and southeast side for the last 11 years, in both the House and Senate, is running unopposed for the Senate in the new LD 2. The northern end of the district includes parts of Tucson and all of South Tucson, and then snakes south along the San Pedro River to swallow up Sahuarita, Green Valley, Arivaca and all of Santa Cruz County, including the border city of Nogales. More than 50 percent of the voters are Hispanic, and Democrats outnumber Republicans, 42 percent to 24 percent. Independent voters make up the remaining third of the electorate.
Two Democrats are running for House seats: Andrea Dalessandro lost House races in 2008 and 2010, but now that redistricting has drawn her into a heavily Democratic district, she's hoping the third time is the charm. A retired certified public accountant, Dalessandro said her skill with numbers will help her balance the budget.
"I was a teacher, so that prepared me to understand the challenges education is facing in the state," she said. "And because I was a CPA, I understand the budget and taxes, and because I was a small-business owner with my CPA practice, I know what we need for small business."
Rosanna Gabaldón has served on the Sahuarita Town Council since 2009 and said she is ready to take her leadership skills from a small community to the state Capitol.
"I can bring some common sense to the floor of the House," she said. "My time on the Sahuarita Town Council was short, but it did bring me experience with the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, and I was able to learn what was happening on the state level."
The two Democrats will face Republican John Ackerley, a physics teacher at Amphi High School who said he wants to articulate a coherent education policy.
Legislative District 3
Looks like Sen. Olivia Cajero Bedford will have to roll out the purple campaign pickup truck again for her sixth campaign for the state Legislature. She has served in both chambers since first winning office in 2002. She faces a primary challenge from Maria de la Luz Garcia, the widow of former Senate Minority Leader Jorge Luis Garcia. De la Luz Garcia, who was appointed to fill her husband's seat after his death at the end of 2010, said she hopes to carry on his tradition of working for constituents in this westside Tucson district.
Representatives Sally Ann Gonzales and Macario Saldate are running unopposed for the two House seats in LD 3, which is bordered by Campbell Avenue on the east and stretches west from the University of Arizona to the Drexel Heights neighborhood and Ryan Airfield. It's more than 50 percent Hispanic, and Democrats have an almost a 3-to-1 advantage over Republicans, with independents making up nearly a third of the voters.
Legislative District 4
LD 4 takes in a small portion of southern Tucson, but most of its population is in southwestern Arizona, including Yuma, Sells, Ajo, Why, the Tohono O'odham and Pascua Yaqui reservations, and Organ Pipe National Monument.
Democratic Rep. Lynne Pancrazi is running unopposed in her bid to move up to the Senate in the heavily Democratic, heavily Hispanic district. Democrats make up 40 percent of the voters; 25 percent are Republicans; and 35 percent are independents.
With no Republican opposition in sight, it's smooth sailing through the general election for the two winners of the three-way Democratic primary in LD 4. Contenders include Juan Carlos Escamilla, a 33-year-old Democratic former mayor and council member of the border city of San Luis, who wants to bring his border perspective to the House and represent the small, rural communities that he said the Legislature has left behind.
"I definitely want to focus on rural Arizona," Escamilla said. "Being in the local government, I've seen these bills that have come down from the state Capitol, and this one-size-fits-all doesn't work. It really hurts, and it puts a huge burden on smaller communities."
Charlene Fernandez has held a multitude of titles working for the Democratic Party over the past 30 years, and has served on the school board in Yuma for the past eight years.
"I think the Legislature isn't meeting the needs of people like me, an average person born and raised here in Arizona," she said. "I sent my children to public schools, and they went on to graduate from the state universities, so I really value public education."
Lisa Otondo, a real-estate agent from Yuma who ran an unsuccessful campaign for Congress in 2002, said she wants to change the culture at the Legislature and fight for economic development and education.
"I'm really discontented with the Arizona Legislature, and I think they need to refocus their priorities," she said. "There is an undercurrent of discontent, and it's not just from Democrats; it's from independents and Republicans, too."
Legislative District 9
Democratic Rep. Steve Farley wants to replace termed-out Sen. Paula Aboud, but is facing a challenge from Republican Tyler Mott, the president of the Pima County Young Republicans. Mott said he got into his first race for public office because he couldn't sit back and watch Farley run unopposed.
"The main reason I'm running is that even if there is a slight Democratic advantage in the district, I just don't think it's right to give (Farley) a free shot," he said. "It's about giving the voters options."
District 9 runs from Interstate 10 on the north side of town, east through the Catalina foothills and the Casas Adobes neighborhood, into midtown Tucson and to Sabino Canyon. It is considered one of the relatively few competitive districts in the state: Democrats hold about a 3.5 percentage-point lead in voter registration over Republicans, while independents make up almost 30 percent of the electorate.
Three Democrats are vying for the two open seats created in the House when Farley moved up to the Senate, and Rep. Bruce Wheeler was cut into another district.
Mohur Sidhwa, a longtime Democratic activist who lost a Democratic primary by less than 500 votes in her first run for the House in 2010, promised to bring a rational voice to combat the ideological babbling of Republicans in charge.
"Sanity demands that I run for office," she said. "I mean, if people who are sane don't get into the Legislature, Arizona is in big trouble."
Dustin Cox, a former nonprofit head who now runs a consulting business, came in fifth in an eight-way primary in 2010 during his first run for the House. He said his experience turning a failing nonprofit into a success and creating jobs makes him an attractive option for Republicans as well as fellow Democrats.
"You're not going to get party extremists who are going to win in this district," he said.
Although it's her first run for elected office, voters may remember Victoria Steele from her days as a news anchor in Tucson and Phoenix. She currently works as a counselor with her own practice and does student counseling at the University of Phoenix.
"I started seeing the effects of the decisions made at the state Legislature and how horribly it was affecting people," Steele said. "I was getting angry at what was happening, so I decided I was going to take my empowering and advocacy to more of a communitywide level, and I decided to run for office."
The winners will face Republican Ethan Orr, who has worked as the director for economic and community development for the city of South Tucson and now works in the nonprofit world, developing job-training programs for the homeless and developmentally disabled. Orr is hoping to pick off enough Democratic votes to push him over the top in this competitive district.
"I've done a lot in this community," Orr said. "There are a lot of traditionally Democratic people who are supporting me."
Legislative District 10
After giving up his hope of being elected to Congress this year, state Sen. Frank Antenori is trying to return to the Legislature. But he'll face a tough run against former state lawmaker David Bradley, who represented Tucson in the Legislature from 2003 until 2011.
Democrats have a slight voter advantage in this eastside Tucson district, which runs from Campbell Avenue between Speedway Boulevard and 22nd Street, and opens up to the east, capturing the Sabino Canyon and Tanque Verde areas.
Antenori called it a race between "the great bankrupter" (Bradley) and "the great repairer" (himself).
"When he left office, we were 20-something billion dollars in deficit; we had 10.2 percent unemployment; the state had lost 330,000 jobs; and there was no plan except raising everyone's taxes," Antenori said. "And then Antenori comes in, and what do we do? We control spending and control the size of state government. ... We balance the budget and add over 70,000 jobs, and it's still growing."
Bradley said that Antenori has upset a lot of people during his time in the Legislature and will have a hard time gaining traction in the new, more-moderate district.
"I don't see government as the enemy. I don't think it's the answer to everything, but it has a role and an ability to do good things," Bradley said. "And it's not just Antenori; that's the whole attitude or approach that this Legislature has."
In the House primary, Democrats will pick two candidates from three running, including Rep. Bruce Wheeler, who was elected to the House in 2010. Wheeler is asking voters to return him to the Capitol so he can fight the bad laws and short-sighted budgets he said Republicans are pushing.
"The Legislature is enacting really extremist, horrible legislation, and we need to put a stop to it," he said.
Democrat Brandon Patrick, a former Arabic translator for the Air Force in Iraq and Afghanistan who has worked as an aide to Tucson City Councilman Paul Cunningham, called the last two legislative sessions two of the worst the state has ever seen, especially for Tucson.
"They've messed with our elections; they've messed with our water policy; they've messed with our county; they've managed to screw up Rio Nuevo even worse than it was before, which I can't understand," he said. "So I'm interested in protecting Tucson from that kind of legislation."
Like Patrick, Stefanie Mach is a first-time candidate for elected office. She runs her own consulting business, which helps nonprofits run effectively, and said her main issue is funding the public K-12 system and keeping tuition for higher education down, which will in turn help businesses and the economy.
"While money doesn't solve all problems, we do need that base level of funding to have a quality education system," she said. "And, really, that leads into the quality jobs that everyone's seeking. Biotech, green-tech, green-energy and renewable-energy businesses are asking for a higher quality of education."
The winners of the Democratic primary will face Republican state Rep. Ted Vogt, who was appointed, and then elected, to the Legislature in 2010. Vogt said that although the new district is much more Democratic than his current district, voters will respect his record of making hard decisions to balance the budget, and return him to the House.
"I feel confident I can win in this district," he said. "I'll put my record up against anybody's. Look at what we did in the state of Arizona: We had a $3 billion deficit. And what do we have now? We have a balanced budget."
Joining Vogt on the GOP ticket is Todd Clodfelter, the GOP chairman of the current LD 30 who owns a graphics, consulting and printing business in Tucson. He said his experience negotiating in the worlds of business and politics will make him an attractive choice to conservatives in the district.
"I can offer the people of Arizona a continued path of the conservative approach—keeping the budget balanced and keeping spending down," he said. "And I think one thing I can offer that others can't is the ability to communicate. I can disagree and keep a dialogue."
Legislative District 11
Sen. Al Melvin is running for re-election, although he refused to talk about it with the Weekly.
"In all good conscience, I can't be a part of the Tucson Weekly. I just can't," said Melvin, who once stormed out of an Oro Valley diner when he discovered the Weekly was available to customers. "Your paper, the (Arizona Daily) Star and (The Arizona) Republic are in the tank for the left; you're propaganda outlets for the Democratic Party."
His Democratic opponent, Jo Holt, a retired research biochemist who worked at the University of Arizona, said that's part of the reason she has been urged to run for office: Melvin blows off anyone with whom he disagrees.
"My way of thinking about talking to the press and talking to constituents is 180 degrees different," she said. "When I'm senator, I'll represent everyone. Even people who disagree with me, I will listen to them. Sen. Melvin does the opposite."
Holt, who is running her first campaign for public office, will face an uphill battle in this heavily Republican district that runs from Marana and Oro Valley up to Casa Grande and the city of Maricopa, roughly following Interstate 10.
Libertarian Kim Allen is also in the race.
In order to avoid a primary battle with Melvin, Sen. Steve Smith, a border hawk from Maricopa who has garnered national attention for his bills to require hospitals and schools to track and report illegal immigrants, and to drug-test the unemployed, is stepping down from the Senate and running for the House of Representatives.
Completing the Republican ticket is first-time candidate Adam Kwasman, who managed Jesse Kelly's failed 2010 congressional campaign and has already picked up endorsements from the likes of House Speaker Andy Tobin, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and U.S. Rep. Trent Franks.
Kwasman described himself as a Tea Party champion who decided to run for office because of his passion for limited government.
The two will face Democrat David Joseph, a media entrepreneur and owner of several TV stations, who said Melvin and Smith are slaves to their ideology, and are taking the state in the wrong direction.
Joseph acknowledged his voter-registration disadvantage, but said he hoped that the far-right group of Republicans would turn off enough moderate voters to put him over the top.
"There's a lot of frustration, a lot of people who are disenfranchised, who feel like the (lawmakers) who are up there said they were about creating jobs, and then did all this other stuff that doesn't create jobs," Joseph said. "What they're doing has more to do with ideology than with real fiscal responsibility."
Legislative District 14
Republican Sen. Gail Griffin, a real-estate broker from Hereford who was elected to the Senate in 2010 after having served in the House from 1997 to 2001, will square off against former Democratic Rep. Pat Fleming, who was elected to the House in 2008, but lost her seat in the Republican wave of 2010.
Despite the fact that Griffin is the de facto incumbent in a very conservative district, Fleming points out that when the two went head to head in 2006, voters preferred her, though neither won in that round. She also boasts that she had her signatures to run for the office ready in February, and has already qualified for Clean Elections funding.
"The people who I talk to, the ones who are really paying attention, are very disappointed in the Legislature," she said. "People are not happy about giving big corporations tax breaks and making middle-class families pay for it."
LD 14 covers the southeast corner of the state, including a section of the Arizona-Mexico border and the towns of Sierra Vista, Vail, Willcox and Safford. Republicans have a 10-point lead over Democrats in voter registration.
Incumbent Reps. David Stevens and David Gowan from Sierra Vista are fighting off attacks from two Democratic precinct committeemen who are making their first runs for office: Robert Leach, who retired from the military and works at Fort Huachuca as an intelligence contractor, and Mark Holub Stonebraker, a computer scientist who used to develop software at Fort Huachuca.
Stonebraker said he decided to challenge the representatives because he dislikes the economic and social policies the incumbents are pushing.
"You can look at their voting record and legislation they've introduced, and very little of it has to do with improving the economic situation in our state," Stonebraker said.
Gowan and Stevens were both elected in 2008 and are trying to hold their seats by defending their record of balancing the state budget in tough times and fighting illegal immigration. Even with the numbers heavily in their favor, Stevens said the two are campaigning hard.
"You either run scared or run unopposed; I mean, anything could happen," Stevens said. "But I'm feeling better than I did two years ago. We're going to maintain."
Arizona Corporation Commission
The last of the Democrats holding statewide office serve on the Arizona Corporation Commission, a five-member body that has the job of regulating Arizona businesses and utilities, including deciding on rate hikes.
Commissioners Paul Newman and Sandra Kennedy are both are up for re-election this year. Democrat Marcia Busching, a political newcomer, is the third Democrat in the race for three seats.
On the GOP side, incumbent Republican Bob Stump is joined by Bob Burns, a former Arizona Senate president, and lobbyist and former congressional candidate Susan Bitter Smith.