The Skinny

Sinking Fast

Lea Márquez Peterson will not be questioned.
Lea Márquez Peterson will not be questioned.

Looks like Lea Márquez Peterson is getting washed away by a blue wave

The Skinny was feeling a little glum when Lea Márquez Peterson ghosted us after launching her congressional campaign this year. Until she became a politician, Marquez Peterson—who is facing Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick in Congressional District 2—was always game for a TV appearance, radio debate or print interview. But once she leapt into the ring, she suddenly became all media shy.

But it turns out we're not the only one that Marquez Peterson isn't talking to anymore. Even the mighty Arizona Republic has been blackballed, which led reporter Ronald Hansen to ask at last week's debate: "Ms. Peterson, you've largely ignored interview requests in the weeks leading up to the election. While leading the Chamber of Commerce, you made yourself available regularly. Why the sudden change?"

Lea's response: "I wouldn't state that it's a change. I think what I've done is be very strategic about outreach."

We beg to differ: It's a change, all right. For all her talk about being an independent problem solver who will shake up Washington, Márquez Peterson has been hiding from the press and the public throughout this campaign. Interview requests are ignored, her website is full of bland generalities, primary debates were held behind closed doors and her positions on most issues amounts to: "I'll make it better."

During her debate with Kirkpatrick last week, she couldn't even answer a question about whether she believes the science behind climate change. Where does she stand on the right of a woman to seek an abortion? Who knows? Does she support the Trump administration's developing plans to put undocumented minors in detention for more than 20 days? She won't say. After once championing the cause of Dreamers, why does she now oppose granting them citizenship? Your guess is as good as ours.

Is there anything more like your run-of-the-mill politician than someone who weasels out of talking about the issues?

The oddest thing about it was that Márquez Peterson was one of the few Republican politicians in Pima County who has a decent knowledge on many of these issues and good relationships with the press. Whoever is giving her advice on handling the media jackals ought to be fired. Note to Lea: You're paying a press guy to engage the media, not hide from them. The guy you've got now is a total waste of money.

But Lea has bigger problems than an incompetent spokesman. The National Republican Campaign Committee announced last week that they were pulling $450,000 worth of TV time in run-up to the election—a sure sign that her polling is in the toilet.

The only public poll we've seen is courtesy of the New York Times' Upshot section and Sienna College. It's quite a fascinating survey of the district, as it reveals a lot of data and even runs through various turnout scenarios: The types of people who voted in 2014, people who say they are certain to vote, people whose voting history suggests they will vote, the types of people who voted in 2016. Unfortunately for Márquez Peterson, every variation of turnout shows her losing to Kirkpatrick.

The poll shows Márquez Peterson is losing all sorts of voters: She's underwater with voters under 29 years old by more than 30 percentage points, voters between the ages of 30 and 44 by nearly 20 percentage points, and voters between the ages of 45 and 64 by 17 percentage points. (She breaks even with voters 65 and older.) She's losing white voters by 6 percentage points and Hispanic voters by 30 percentage points. She's losing independent voters by more than 20 percentage points. And check out this gender gap: While she's even with Kirkpatrick among male voters, she's losing female voters by nearly 20 percentage points.

There's still a few weeks until the election for Márquez Peterson to discover a game changer and turn it around, but she'd be defying powerful trends that are basically beyond her control—for example, the poll shows a 14-point margin between voters in the district who would prefer their representative serve as a check on the president's agenda and voters who want a representative who would support Trump. Given those numbers, it's no surprise that the NRCC has given up hope on their candidate in Southern Arizona.

The televised edition of Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel airs 6:30 p.m. Fridays on the Creative Tucson network, Cox Channel 20 and Comcast Channel 74. This week's guests are Tucson Weekly columnist Brian Smith; A.J. Flick, the author of Toxic Rage: A Tale of Murder in Tucson; and Susan Friese of Literacy Connects. The TV show repeats Sunday mornings at 9 a.m. The radio edition of Zona Politics airs at 5 p.m. Sundays on community radio KXCI, 91.3 FM.

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