A Quick Round-Up Of Your Congressional Candidates.
By Jim Nintzel
SINCE HIS ELECTION in 1984, Republican Congressman Jim Kolbe has represented southern Arizona's District 5. During those 14 years, he's made a name for himself with his ferocious support for the North American Free Trade Agreement. More recently, he's been working on tax reform and reinventing Social Security to allow investment in the stock market. He currently serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.
Through his time on the Hill, Kolbe has never faced a serious threat to his office. But there's a razor-thin margin between Democrats (156,647) and Republicans (156,909) in District 5, with about 52,000 additional voters who don't belong to either party. And this year, Kolbe could face a formidable challenge in the general election (As he has every term since 1994, Kolbe faces a GOP primary challenge from perennial candidate Joe Sweeney, who has also run five unsuccessful runs for the District 2 Congressional seat on the Democratic ticket.)
Kolbe will face the winner of the Democratic primary between former Tucson mayor Tom Volgy and Wayne Bryant, a union activist who lost a bid to unseat Pima County Supervisor Mike Boyd in 1996.
Volgy, whose term as mayor from 1987 to 1991 was preceded by a 10-year stint representing Ward 6, is a seasoned political veteran. This is his second shot at a congressional office; after giving up the mayor's office, Volgy ran for the District 2 seat in 1991, but lost a three-way primary to Ed Pastor. (Pastor has held the heavily Democratic district since and faces only token GOP opposition this year.)
Since that loss, Volgy has split his time between teaching political science at the UA and working with the U.S. State Department to help countries in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe make a transition to democracy.
Volgy, who was instrumental in the development of the City of Tucson's system of publicly financed campaigns, is turning down potential PAC contributions and funding his campaign through donations solicited through coffees with voters. He says he's already done more than 100 of these salons.
Bryant says he got into the race because he's, in a word, "pissed." He's building a platform opposing international trade agreements like NAFTA, gun laws and cuts in veteran benefits.
The local Democratic leadership leaned on Bryant to forgo the District 2 race, but the underdog candidate says he felt too far apart from Volgy philosophically to stay on the sidelines.
A potential spoiler in the general election is Libertarian Phil Murphy, who took a half-hearted stab at Kolbe's seat on the Libertarian ticket in 1994. Murphy's polished small-government message could resonate with rural southern Arizona voters. As a founding member of the gun-rights organization BrassRoots, Murphy may also pick up support from firearms enthusiasts who were upset by the U.S. Forest Service's recent decision to shut down the Tucson Rod & Gun Club.
Reform Party candidate Bob Connery Sr. will also be on the general election ballot.
MEANWHILE, U.S. SEN. John McCain, the current darling of the national media, faces a challenge from Democrat Ed Ranger.
An attorney who was been working in environmental law in Mexico until recently, Ranger is making his first stab at public office. He's raised more than $1 million in contributions and plans to campaign across the state on his red, white and blue Harley.
But Ranger, a political novice, has a rough road ahead in his bid to unseat McCain, whose approval rating hovered around 61 percent in a March KAET poll. McCain has thoroughly rehabilitated his image in recent years; these days, he's got the likes of Mike Wallace and Don Imus urging him to run for the presidency.
For a more critical examination of McCain, take a look at the Phoenix New Times' recently constructed "Running John" website at http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/extra/running_john/index.html.
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