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click to enlarge Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick

JD Fitzgerald

Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick

Senate Stretch

Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick wants a shot at John McCain's seat

Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick announced this week that she wanted a promotion to the U.S. Senate.

Kirkpatrick, a Democrat serving her third term in Congress, is seeking the seat now held by Sen. John McCain.

"I respect John McCain's service to our nation," Kirkpatrick said in a video announcing her plans to run for Senate. "I just believe our state is changing. I believe Arizonans should have a real choice who they send to the United States Senate."

McCain has already announced he's running for re-election, but the 78-year-old Republican may be vulnerable as he seeks his sixth term. A recent Public Policy Polling survey showed that his job approval rating was down to 41 percent, with half of the 600 voters surveyed saying they disapproved of the job he was doing.

In a head-to-head matchup, McCain had the support of 42 percent of those surveyed, while Kirkpatrick had the support of 36 percent. Trailing by 6 percentage points isn't a great place to start out, but the election is more than a year away and Kirkpatrick has proven she can win over independents in the competitive District 1, a massive and mostly rural district that includes Oro Valley and Marana as well as Flagstaff, most of eastern Arizona and the Native American reservations in northeastern Arizona.

Somewhat surprisingly, 41 percent of voters who identified as liberal approved of McCain's job performance; it was very conservative voters who were the most critical, with only 21 percent approving of McCain.

That suggests McCain might be more vulnerable in a primary than in a general election—but if he's going to lose a primary, a credible opponent would have to emerge. The PPP poll showed McCain in tight contests with two Arizona congressmen, Matt Salmon and David Schweikert, who were both within 2 percentage points of McCain. The only Republican actively exploring a run is state Sen. Kelli Ward of Lake Havasu City, but McCain had a big lead over her in the PPP poll—44 percent to 31 percent.

While Kirkpatrick would be one of the more formidable Democratic opponents McCain has faced, Democrats may be hoping they'll have better luck if—as has happened in other states—McCain were to lose the primary and she faced off against a conservative Republican who might not attract independent voters.

Kirkpatrick's decision also puts CD1 into play. The district is competitive now, but that could change. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on a lawsuit filed by Republicans in the Arizona Legislature who argue Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission doesn't have the authority to draw congressional districts. Although the Independent Redistricting Commission was created by Arizona voters in 2000, the GOP lawmakers make the case that the U.S. Constitution gives them sole authority to draw the maps.

A few Republicans are already eyeing the race, including former state lawmaker Andy Tobin, who lost to Kirkpatrick in 2014, and rancher Gary Kiehne, who narrowly lost to Tobin in the GOP primary.

There is no obvious Democrat heir apparent to carry the party's banner in 2016, but Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee officials said they'd fight to hang onto the competitive district.

"Democrats know what it takes to win in this district, as we have proven repeatedly," said DCCC spokesman Matt Thornton. "We are confident we will have a strong candidate who will keep this district in the Democratic column in 2016."

No Sweat

Looks like Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild is headed for an easy re-election

Whatever you might think of Democrat Rothschild's accomplishments in his first term as Tucson's mayor, you have to appreciate the astonishing luck he has in drawing some of the weakest challengers in Tucson history.

Candidates had to turn in their nominating petitions by 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 27, and as of our Tuesday deadline, the only guy who wanted to run against Rothschild on the Republican ticket was a lefty Democrat.

Robert Reus had barely more than a week to get a minimum of 1,306 signatures to qualify for the ballot. We're betting he won't make it.

Reus ran a quixotic campaign against former Tucson councilman Rodney Glassman in the 2007 Democratic primary. His political activity these days consists of railing against the council during the call to the audience segment at council meetings.

One Democrat did take out some paperwork to run against Rothschild in the August primary, but B-movie producer Chuck Williams didn't realize gathering signatures was a key part of the process. We're guessing he didn't turn in any nominating petitions either.

If this year looks easy, just take a look at what Rothschild dealt with in 2011: Two Republicans and an independent candidate filed to run against him, but all three were bounced from the ballot because they didn't collect enough valid signatures.

That left Rick Grinnell to run as a write-in candidate, but his ill-considered campaign proposals—such as cutting back trash service so residents would have to remember random days for collection—led to him getting trounced by 15 percentage points.

Oh, and then there was Rothschild's would-be Democratic opponent, the wackjob Marshall Home, who claimed, among other things, to be a "multi-billionaire" because he owned all of the houses in Tucson. (The Queen of England figured into it as well.) Unlike the other clowns who wanted to take on Rothschild, Home was able to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot but he got tossed off anyway because he didn't live in the city. Home tried to give Rothschild the same treatment with a lawsuit claiming that Rothschild was ineligible to run for mayor because he was a lawyer, but his legal argument held little sway in the courts.

Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel airs at 9:30 a.m. Sunday morning on KGUN-9. This week's guests include UA physics professors Michael Shupe and Shufang Su, who will discuss their work with the Large Hadron Collider, and Margaret Regan, author of Detained and Deported: Stories of Immigrant Families Under Fire.

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