Preseason Report

Your guide to statewide and congressional elections in 2010

Can Gov. Jan Brewer hang on to the office she inherited? Will Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords face Republican Jonathan Paton? Will Joe Sweeney once again embarrass the GOP with a quixotic campaign against Congressman Raúl Grijalva?

These questions and so many others will be answered later this year as candidates launch their campaigns, and voters make the call. Think of this as a preseason report of all the rumors, notes and half-truths we've been hearing in recent months.

At the top of the ticket, Republican John McCain is going from a race to become the most powerful man in the world, to a race to hang on to the Senate seat he first won in 1986. Whether he'll face much opposition remains to be seen.

A Rasmussen poll late last year showed that McCain may have some problems with the GOP base; he had the support of 45 percent of Republicans, while former congressman J.D. Hayworth had the support of 43 percent. Hayworth, who is now a Phoenix radio-show host, has been teasing conservatives with the idea of challenging McCain without actually taking any steps to do so.

McCain is facing a challenge from Republican Chris Simcox, a founder of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a group of border observers who made headlines a few years back.

Some other Republican we've never heard of, Jim Deakin, also fancies himself a giant-killer. On his Web site, Deakin lets us know that "America should not have Czars."

The only declared Democratic candidate against McCain is Rodolfo "Rudy" Garcia, a Nogales native and the former mayor of Bell Gardens, Calif. Democratic City Councilman Rodney Glassman is also flirting with the idea of challenging Arizona's senior senator.

Here in Southern Arizona, Republicans are targeting Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords over her support for health-care reform, the stimulus package and cap-and-trade legislation designed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

The big question: Will state Sen. Jonathan Paton jump into the Congressional District 8 race? Paton, who is finishing his first term in the Arizona Senate after four years in the Arizona House, is being courted by GOP bigwigs to challenge Giffords, but he has remained coy about his intentions.

Three other Republicans with little political experience have already said they want to challenge Giffords: Jesse Kelly, Brian Miller and Andy Goss. All three have military backgrounds and little political experience.

Democratic Congressman Raúl Grijalva, who represents reliably Democratic District 7, has drawn GOP opponent Ruth McClung, a Raytheon engineer making her first run for office. McClung will probably have to get past perennial candidate Joe Sweeney in a Republican primary.

Statewide offices are also up for grabs this year. Gov. Jan Brewer, who was elevated to the top office in the state when Democrat Janet Napolitano left to head up Homeland Security last year, has struggled to play well with the GOP-controlled Legislature.

Brewer is facing a number of Republican opponents who believe they can do a better job. Among the announced candidates: Tucson attorney John Munger and Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker.

Also said to be interested in the GOP gubernatorial primary: Arizona Treasurer Dean Martin. And polling well, at least according to Rasmussen, is Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who made headlines this week by admitting in a deposition that he hadn't read the book he had supposedly written. Arpaio is playing coy with the idea of running.

A number of other Republicans you've never heard of are also interested. One of them, Buz Mills, filed a report showing that he had put more than $2 million of his own money into his campaign last month.

The winner of the GOP primary will likely face Democrat Terry Goddard, who has reached his two-term limit as Arizona's attorney general. No other major Democrats have shown much interest in the race.

With Goddard leaving the AG's office, primaries are shaping up on both sides of the aisle for the state's top law-enforcement office. Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, who has drawn heat from a variety of critics for his willingness to indict his political enemies, is angling for the post, as is State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, who has also hit his term limit. (State Rep. Sam Crump was previously said to be interested in the office, but we hear he's thrown in the towel.)

On the Democratic side, attorney Felecia Rotellini is the first candidate to officially announce a plan to run. She's likely to face state Rep. David Lujan and Vince Rabago, an assistant attorney general who has served as chairman of the Pima County Democratic Party.

Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who was appointed by Brewer when she was elevated to the governor's office, appears to have clear sailing to the GOP nomination.

On the Democratic side, a primary is brewing between state Rep. Christopher Deschene and Sam Wercinski, who served as Arizona's real-estate commissioner in the Napolitano administration.

If Martin does give up the State Treasurer's Office to run for governor, Republican state Sen. Jim Waring is already sniffing around. He may face fellow state Sen. Thayer Verschoor in a primary.

Political newcomer Andrei Cherny is the only Democrat to show an interest in the race.

With Horne leaving his post as state superintendent of public instruction, Democrat Jason Williams, who lost a bid for the office four years ago, is taking another shot. He'll face former teacher and Arizona Education Association leader Penny Kotterman, who has already locked up the endorsement of the teachers' union.

On the GOP side, state Sen. John Huppenthal, an aggressive campaigner, is likely to face Horne assistant Margaret Dugan. Three other unknown Republicans have filed for the seat: Mary Lou Taylor, Beth Price and Gary Nine, who is no relation to Gary Seven of Star Trek fame.

There are two seats available on the Arizona Corporation Commission. Incumbent ACC member Gary Pierce is expected to seek a second term, while Republican Kris Mayes has hit her two-term limit.

Republican Brenda Burns, a former Arizona Senate president, and Republican Barry Wong, a former ACC member, are interested in running, as is Democrat Jorge Luis Garcia, the Arizona Senate minority leader.

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