The 2014 campaign season officially kicked off last week with the filing deadline to run for federal, state and local office.
The one obvious trend: There are a lot more Republicans than Democrats running for office this year.
Republicans have seven gubernatorial candidates; three candidates in each of the two most competitive congressional races in Southern Arizona, as well as the Secretary of State's race and the Treasurer's race; four candidates in the Corporation Commission race; and two candidates in the races for Attorney General and State Superintendent of Public Instruction race.
By contrast, Democrats have just one candidate in the congressional races and all but one of the major statewide races.
Here's a breakdown of some of the biggest races that we'll be following both online and in the print edition in the months ahead. We've concentrated on the local congressional races and the statewide contests; we'll bring you details of the local legislative races next week and other contests, such as the school board races and the various propositions, in the weeks to come.
A few dates to keep in mind: The deadline to register in the Aug. 26 primary is July 28. The deadline to register in the Nov. 4 general election is Oct. 6. Early voting in the primary starts in less than two months, on July 31.
The Governor's Race
With Gov. Jan Brewer stepping down, there's an open seat in the state's highest political office—and seven Republicans have rushed into the race to the top: Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, Arizona Treasurer Doug Ducey, attorney Christine Jones, former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, former California congressman Frank Riggs, state lawmaker Al Melvin and disbarred former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas.
Reliable independent polling is scarce in the race, but if polls taken earlier this year are any indication, the race remains up for grabs. A March Public Policy Polling survey had "undecided" at 34 percent, with none of the candidates breaking 20 percent.
Campaigning has already begun in earnest, with Ducey and his allies promoting the former Cold Stone Creamery exec as a successful businessman who has won voters' trust in his first term as treasurer. At the same time, independent campaigns supporting
Ducey (and other dark-money groups whose backers remain a mystery) are attacking both Jones and Smith as allies of President Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton. Jones has also been running TV ads and making the political circuit. The former general counsel at GoDaddy.com has opened her own wallet to fund her debut campaign, portraying her as a political outsider who can bring a fresh approach to government.
Smith is going after a more moderate slice of the GOP electorate by discussing his support for Brewer's Medicaid expansion and the Common Core learning standards, which are both opposed by the other candidates in the race.
Bennett, who served as Senate president before being appointed Secretary of State in 2009, is touting his ability to forge working relationships with members of the Legislature, but as a Clean Elections candidate, he'll be limited to spending about $750,000 on his campaign—a low threshold that will handicap his ability to reach voters in the same that Ducey, Jones and Smith will.
The other candidates—Melvin, Riggs and Thomas—will be fighting for various slices of the hardcore Republican right wing. Whether they will be able to draw enough way from the top-tier candidates to allow Smith an opening to win over moderates and business types remains a central question in the race.
The winner of the GOP primary will face Democrat Fred DuVal, who worked in for Bruce Babbitt's gubernatorial administration in the 1980s and Bill Clinton's presidential administration in the 1990s and more recently served on the Arizona Board of Regents.
Libertarian Barry Hess is also on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Attorney General Tom Horne has weathered in the a lot of bad press in the last year.
Horne is facing a demand by Republican Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk that his campaign repay $400,000 because he allegedly coordinated with an independent committee during his 2010 campaign. (Horne won a round in court on the case when an administrative law judge ruled that Polk couldn't prove the coordination, but Polk is still pursuing the case against Horne, who will next appear in Maricopa County Superior Court.) He had to plead no contest in a hit-and-run case that involved a lunch date with then-staffer. More recently, he was hit with allegations that his top staff was spending time at work plotting how to help Horne win reelection rather than on the business of the AG's office. (One memo that was unearthed as part of a document dump by a former staffer included these steps as part of a basic campaign plan: "1. Win court case. 2. Get shit together. 3. Raise money. 4. Run ideological race.")
Horne has soldiered on, claiming that he's facing trumped-up charges and holding fundraisers that feature the likes of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, actor Steven Seagal and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the co-author of Arizona's SB 1070.
He remains a remarkable vulnerable incumbent. Many Republicans fear he cannot beat his Democratic opponent, Felecia Rotellini, who nearly defeated Horne in 2010.
Enter Mark Brnovich, who is challenging Horne in the Republican primary. Brnovich has solid credentials: He has worked as a county, state and federal prosecutor; he headed up the Arizona Department of Gaming during Brewer's administration; he served as legal counsel to the private-prison behemoth Corrections Corporation of America; and he was director of the Goldwater Institute's Center for Constitutional Government.
Brnovich frequently rattles Horne's ethical lapses and legal troubles, dropping lines like: "Do you want an attorney general who has worked with law enforcement to investigate criminal activity or one who has been investigated for criminal activity?" At the same time, he rails against the Obama administration and federal directives.
Whoever comes out of the primary will have a tough race against Rotellini, has been a prosecutor for the Arizona Attorney General's Office and head of the State Banking Department. She only lost to Horne by 4 percentage points. Since then, she's built up name ID and raised more than $500,000, with a goal of raising $1.5 million by November.
Congressional District 1
Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick knows what it's like to win a congressional seat in a good year for Democrats—and she knows what it's like to lose in a bad year for Democrats.
Kirkpatrick, an attorney and former state lawmaker who was born and raised in Northern Arizona, won her first congressional race in 2008. She was knocked out office in the GOP wave of 2010, then returned to office in a redrawn congressional district in 2012.
Now she has to prove she can hang onto the seat in what's likely to be a bad year for Arizona Democrats. While the district leans Democratic in its voter registration, those Democrats—particularly on the rural Native American reservations—may not be the most dependable voters.
Kirkpatrick will face whoever comes out of the three-way GOP primary. The candidates include:
• House Speaker Andy Tobin, who has landed the most endorsements in the race, including nods of support from Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain, former senator Jon Kyl and 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Tobin has plenty of political experience, but his Republican opponents are portraying him as a business-as-usual moderate who doesn't even live in the district he wants to represent.
• State Rep. Adam Kwasman, an unapologetic conservative who believes that undocumented immigrants should all be deported; it's better to take insurance away from the poorest Arizonans than to allow Obamacare to gain a foothold in the state via Brewer's Medicaid expansion; and opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest. Kwasman hopes that he can win over the concentration of GOP voters in the southern part of the district (especially since he learned about organizing many of them while managing Republican Jesse Kelly's first unsuccessful run for Congress), but his struggles on the fundraising front—Kwasman has raised just over $130,000 and had just less than $65,000 in the bank at the end of March—could handicap his effort to get his message out.
• Political newcomer Gary Kiehne, a rancher/oilman/developer/hotel operator who has enough money to finance his own campaign. (Kiehne had loaned himself $200,000 of the $434,000 he had raised as of March 31. Kiehne has sought to portray himself as the outsider and his two opponents as career politicians, but his own lack of political experience had proven a liability in recent weeks as he made headlines for various gaffes, including his comment that Democrats are responsible for 99 percent of mass shootings. Kiehne later apologized, but Tobin still called for him to exit the race, saying it was just one example of the "bizarre comments" that would make Kiehne unelectable in a matchup against Kirkpatrick.
CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 2
Democrat Ron Barber faces a likely rematch against former A-10 squadron commander Martha McSally, who lost the 2012 by roughly 2,500 votes in a district that is the very definition of competitive—it's just about one-third Democrat, one-third Republican and one-third independent. Barber, anticipating a tough race, has frequently crossed party lines to vote alongside Republicans on various issues, including several Obamacare reforms as well as the recent creation of a new committee to investigate the Benghazi embassy bombings.
McSally is sailing with the full force of the NRCC behind her. Having captured the reputation of one of the GOP's best candidates this year, McSally has outraised Barber in the last three reporting quarters. (Team Barber still boasts that he has outraised her through the 2014 campaign cycle and, as of March 31, had $1.2 million on hand, compared to McSally's 847,000.)
But the spending by the candidates is likely to be dwarfed by the various third-party surrogates that have already waded into the fight, including the DCCC and the House Majority PAC on Barber's behalf and the NRCC, Americans for Prosperity and the LIBRE Initiative on McSally's behalf.
McSally still has to get through a primary that includes businesswoman Shelley Kais—a political rookie is says she's the "better candidate"—and Command Chief Master Sergeant (retired) and business executive Chuck Wooten. While both have enthusiastic supporters among Republicans who are skeptical of McSally's commitment to conservative values or worry that she will lose again to Barber, neither has raised much money or have much name ID among most primary voters.
OTHER RACES OF NOTE
There are a lot of other interesting and sometimes competitive races this year, including:
CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 3: Congressman Raul Grijalva faces 2012 opponent Gabby Saucedo Mercer again in this heavily Democratic district. Last time out, Grijalva won by 21 percentage points. Miguel Olivas is running as a Libertarian in the November general election.
ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE: Current Secretary of State Ken Bennett has jumped into the crowded Republican pool for governor, leaving an open seat that's just heartbeat—or resignation or a federal conviction or whatever—away from the governor's seat. (Over the last quarter century, three of the last six governors were secretaries of state who landed the top job by appointment.)
Two Republican state lawmakers—state Sen. Michele Reagan and state Rep. Justin Pearce—will be competing against the fabulously wealthy Wil Cardon in the GOP primary. (Cardon was last seen spending more than $8 million of his own money in the 2012 Republican primary for U.S. Senate; he got less than 22 percent of the vote against Jeff Flake.) The winner of that contest will face Democrat Terry Goddard, who has lost three statewide campaigns for governor but won two for attorney general. One thing is for sure: Voters know his name. He's been on the ballot in all but one of the state elections cycles since 1990.
ARIZONA SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION: Incumbent Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal has fallen out of favor with many primary voters over his support of the Common Core learning standards, but his Republican challenger, Diane Douglas, is an underfunded unknown who is unlikely to pose much of a threat to him.
This is one race where Democrats also have a primary. David Garcia is an Army veteran who now teaches at ASU's Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and has worked as Director of Research and Policy in the Superintendent of Public Instruction office. He's scheduled to face high-school teacher Sharon Thomas in the Democratic primary.
ARIZONA CORPORATION COMMISSION: Both Brenda Burns and Gary Pierce are leaving the Arizona Corporation Commission, leaving two open seats on the five-member Corporation Commission. While the agency oversees business filings and such, it also oversees most utilities in the state. As a result, the high-profile political battles in recent years have involved the subsidies that power companies have provided to homeowners and companies that have installed solar energy systems.
There are two unofficial slates of GOP candidates vying in the primary. Tom Forese and Doug Little have teamed up, as have former state lawmaker Lucy Mason and former Paradise Valley mayor Vernon Parker. Of the two slates, Mason and Parker lean more toward requiring utilities to continue providing solar subsidies.
The two top vote-getters in the GOP primary will face two Democrats, former ACC member Sandra Kennedy and Jim Holway, an expert in water and land-use policy who serves on the board of the Central Arizona Project Conservation District.
STATE TREASURER: No Democrat filed in this race, so baring a successful write-in campaign, the winner of the three-way primary between former Tempe mayor Hugh Hallman, former Arizona Republican Party chairman Randy Pullen and GOP activist Jeff Dewit will be the next treasurer.