The primary is behind us, and Labor Day weekend has come and gone. Now is the time, we're told, that the average voter starts to tune in.
To help out Mr. and Ms. Average Voter, we've assembled a list of Southern Arizona's most interesting races for state and federal office. They're not all competitive, but they're all contests that should generate some fireworks in the eight weeks between now and Nov. 2.
The national spotlight will be on Southern Arizona's Congressional District 8, as political prognosticators tune in to see whether a Tea Party favorite can knock out a two-term Democrat in a district that leans Republican.
Republican Jesse Kelly, a political newcomer who toppled establishment favorite and former state lawmaker Jonathan Paton in the GOP primary, will paint incumbent Democrat Gabrielle Giffords as an out-of-touch lapdog of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who supported the health-care reform bill, the stimulus package and cap-and-trade legislation.
Team Giffords has already started responding by pointing out the extreme positions that Kelly took during the campaign to win the support of anti-government Tea Partiers: his plans to sharply reduce benefits for future Social Security and Medicare recipients; his support for massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans; his opposition to the minimum wage; and his hostility toward government employees. He has described a government worker as someone "who lives and sucks off the taxpayer. They don't put anything into the system. They suck off of the system."
Given that Giffords has close to $2 million for her campaign while Kelly spent most of his funds to win the primary, she'll be in a better position to deliver her message. The big question: Will Kelly be able to persuade Republicans to pour money into his campaign to counter Giffords' advertising? And are CD 8 voters so angry at the Democratic Party that they will support a candidate far to the right of Republicans they have rejected in the past?
Congressman Raúl Grijalva has a huge Democratic voter-registration advantage, but that hasn't stopped scrappy Republican Ruth McClung from embarking on a long-shot challenge to the four-term Democrat. Look for McClung to portray Grijalva as an out-of-touch leftist who called for a boycott of his own state, while Grijalva will work to get out the troops that have kept in him in public office for more than two decades.
Libertarian George Keane is also on the November ballot.
U.S. Sen. John McCain showed that he's as cold-blooded as they come as he spent $20 million dispatching Republican J.D. Hayworth. The big question: Is Team McCain equally determined to destroy Democrat Rodney Glassman, who emerged battered from a tough primary fight that saw the guns of his opponents directed at him while his campaign staff fell apart? Or will McCain be a kinder, gentler statesman, because he doesn't view Glassman as a threat in a red-trending year?
Time will tell, but Glassman has his own set of questions to answer as he moves into the general election. At the top of the list: How does he salvage his reputation for a future career in politics? And does the Glassman family decide that his political reputation is worth investing the dollars that had reportedly been promised to the Arizona Democratic Party to boost the statewide ticket?
Libertarian David Nolan and Green Jerry Joslyn are also on the November ballot.
Gov. Jan Brewer had a defining moment last week when she stumbled into the deafening silence that has propelled her to YouTube stardom.
But can Democrat Terry Goddard turn Brewer's gaffe into game-changer? Despite her struggles on the stump, Brewer's popularity has skyrocketed since she signed SB 1070, the Arizona immigration law that put the state in the international spotlight this summer—so much so that her serious primary foes abandoned their campaigns long before Election Day.
While Goddard has statewide name ID after two terms as Arizona's attorney general, he'll have a tough time changing the subject from immigration back to the economy—and even if he does, he has to persuade voters that the state's problems are the result of the GOP-controlled Arizona Legislature and not the fault of the Obama administration and a Democratic Congress.
Libertarian Barry Hess and Green Larry Gist are also on the November ballot.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne narrowly survived a bruising GOP primary with former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas. Now he'll face Felecia Rotellini, a former state prosecutor who narrowly won her Democratic campaign for the nomination. Look for both candidates to focus on fighting border crime.
The normally sleepy race for state treasurer could get a lot more interesting this year as Andrei Cherny, a Democrat who served in the Clinton administration, starts to spend the half-million dollars he has stockpiled for the race. Republican Doug Ducey, a political newcomer who made a fortune by selling Cold Stone Creamery franchises, has plenty of his own money to spend on the race, but he faces a symbolic problem: his failure to pay property taxes on his own home. In any other race, the scandal would be a sidelight, but it gets to the heart of the office: The state treasurer is in charge of managing the state's many bank accounts.
Democratic incumbent Sen. Manny Alvarez will try to hang on to his seat against Republican Gail Griffin, a real-estate broker and property-rights activist who served two terms in the House of Representatives and has built a formidable political network in the swing district that includes Marana, Sierra Vista and most of the Arizona-Mexico border.
Over in the House, incumbent Rep. Pat Fleming and former state lawmaker Ruben Ortega are the Democratic team against Republican Rep. David Stevens and Peggy Judd, a Willcox Tea Party organizer and first-time candidate.
Republican Sen. Al Melvin is facing a rematch from Democratic challenger Cheryl Cage in this swing district, which stretches from the Catalina foothills to the retirement community of SaddleBrooke. Last time out, in a Democratic-trending year nationwide, Melvin beat Cage by less than 2,000 votes. Cage hopes to take him out this year by emphasizing Melvin's record of cutting education, slicing health care programs and attempting to expand nuclear power in Arizona.
"I think that people are understanding a little bit more (about) Mr. Melvin's really extreme views," she says. "And they realize that he's not a good fit for this district."
Melvin hopes his vote for SB 1070, his vice chairmanship on the powerful Appropriations Committee and his stance against everything socialist will carry him to re-election in November.
"(My) position is to fight the secular socialism of the Democratic Party of the Obama administration," Melvin says. "And we know that the Democratic Party of Arizona wants to duplicate everything the Obama administration is doing at the federal level."
In the House of Representatives, Democratic Rep. Nancy Young Wright will fight to keep her seat from two Republicans: incumbent Rep. Vic Williams and political newcomer Terri Proud, who follows in the Melvin mode of wanting to cut education spending, expand gun rights and generally shrink government.
Midtown Tucson's Legislative District 28 is typically a safe haven for Democrats, but this year, Democratic Sen. Paula Aboud is facing two left-leaning independents in the race—former Democratic state lawmaker Ted Downing and Green Party activist Dave Ewoldt. Seeing an opportunity to capitalize on a split Democratic base, Republican Greg Krino successfully ran a write-in campaign to land a spot on the November ballot.
"I think if there is any time when a Republican could get elected in District 28, it's going to be this time," says Krino, a former Air Force A-10 fighter pilot and a UA law-school graduate who recently took the bar exam.
Republican Sen. Frank Antenori made plenty of headlines in his first two years at the Arizona Legislature. A fierce anti-government crusader, Antenori voted to restrict abortion "to protect either our wives or our daughters," tried to pick a fight with the federal government over light-bulb regulation, and wanted to force anyone receiving government assistance to give up HBO.
Those proposals—along with his push to reduce eligibility for health-care coverage for children and the indigent, eliminate economic-development programs, and further cut taxes—have made him a star within the Republican Party. Antenori didn't even break a sweat in his easy victory over Marian McClure in the Republican primary.
The former Green Beret and current Raytheon employee will now face Democrat Todd Camenisch in the GOP-leaning district that includes eastern Tucson, Green Valley and Sierra Vista.
A Navy vet who works as a UA pharmacology and toxicology professor and serves on the Catalina Foothills School District governing board, Camenisch is undoubtedly the underdog. But the race promises plenty of colorful commentary from Antenori as he defends his record.
Secretary of State: Republican Ken Bennett, a former state lawmaker who was appointed Arizona Secretary of State by Gov. Jan Brewer in 2009, will face Democrat Chris Deschene, who has demonstrated his get-out-the-vote skills in Native American country.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction: Republican Sen. John Huppenthal faces former teacher and union activist Penny Kotterman in the race to head up the Arizona Department of Education.
Arizona Corporation Commission: Tucson-area Democratic lawmakers David Bradley and Jorge Luis Garcia face Republicans Gary Pierce, who is seeking another term on the ACC, and Brenda Burns, a former state Senate president.
State Mining Inspector: Incumbent Republican Joe Hart faces Democrat Manny Cruz.
Legislative District 27, House of Representatives: After the eight-way House Democratic primary, former state lawmaker Sally Ann Gonzales and Macario Saldate face Republican Robert Compton, Green Party candidate Kent Solberg and independent Gene Chewning in this heavily Democratic district, which covers the west side of Tucson and includes the University of Arizona. Democrat Olivia Cajero Bedford faces no opposition in her move from the House to the Senate.
Legislative District 28, House of Representatives: Democratic Rep. Steve Farley, the House minority policy leader, and former Tucson City Council member Bruce Wheeler face Republican Ken Smalley in this Dem-heavy district.
Legislative District 29, House of Representatives: Democratic Reps. Matt Heinz and Daniel Patterson face Republican Pat Kilburn in this heavily Democratic district. State Sen. Linda Lopez is running unopposed.
Legislative District 30, House of Representatives: Democrat Andrea Dalessandro taking a second shot in this GOP-heavy district. She'll face incumbent Reps. Ted Vogt (who was appointed to the office earlier this year) and David Gowan, who easily prevailed in a crowded primary field two weeks ago. A retired accountant who wants to put her budget skills to work at the Capitol, Dalessandro boasts that she came within 5,000 votes of winning a House seat in 2008. But she's likely to find her platform harder to sell in a year that's shaping up to be rough for Democrats.