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Congressional District 8 voters now must choose a new representative in a special election

After Gabrielle Giffords' formal resignation, Gov. Jan Brewer will have three days to set the dates for special election in Congressional District 8. A partisan primary must be held within 80 to 90 days; a general election follows 50 to 60 days after that.

That means CD 8 voters are looking at a primary election sometime in April, with the winners of that contest advancing to a general election in June.

Potential candidates will need to make quick decisions about whether to get into the race. They'll have just 30 days from when Brewer sets the election to deliver the roughly 800 signatures necessary to land a spot on the ballot.

While candidates are campaigning for the old CD 8 seat, they'll probably also be gathering signatures and raising funds to run for the new Congressional District 2 seat, which covers much of the same territory, although it does not include areas of Marana, Oro Valley and SaddleBrooke.

The primary for that race will be held in August, with the winners advancing to the November general election.

The dual elections create some unique political scenarios. For example, candidates who decide to run in both races could lose the first primary in April, but still have a shot at winning the primary for the new congressional district in August. Also, a state lawmaker who loses in the special primary election would still have time to run for a legislative seat.

Pima County Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Rogers anticipates that there will be "a good half-dozen people who will probably consider" a run on the Democratic side in the upcoming special election.

The names of a variety of state lawmakers have been tossed around in recent days. State Rep. Matt Heinz and state Sen. Paula Aboud were already quietly building support for a congressional run in case Giffords decided against running. Other names in the rumor mill include state lawmakers Steve Farley, Daniel Patterson and Bruce Wheeler, and unsuccessful congressional candidates Jeff Latas and Tim Sultan.

Another potential candidate, Nan Stockholm Walden, is expected to make a decision this week. Walden, who earned a law degree at Stanford, served as chief of staff for former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley and worked on urban and environmental policies in Washington in the 1990s.

She and her husband, Dick Walden, own Farmers Investment Co., which has a massive pecan farm near Sahuarita.

David Steele, a Democratic strategist and spokesman for Walden, said she would soon decide whether to join the race.

"She's not prepared to make a statement one way or another on her plans," Steele said on Monday, Jan. 23. "It will be a fairly quick decision."

The Tucson Weekly is hearing increased chatter that Giffords and her inner circle plan to endorse a successor, which would likely make that candidate an immediate front-runner in any Democratic contest.

On the Republican side of the aisle, state Sen. Frank Antenori, who had been weighing a run in the new CD 2 later this year, was meeting with supporters to determine whether he should run in the special election.

"I'm looking at it," said Antenori, who added that he did not anticipate making any announcement for at least a few days, until Giffords has finished her final days in office.

"She took a bullet for her country, just like many other people that I know, and she's to be commended for that," said Antenori, who served in the Army Special Forces. "Whether it's a veteran or a congresswoman, they're to be respected for that degree of sacrifice. We may disagree on politics, but the respect for being wounded is exclusive of political affiliation."

Antenori said he was surprised by the announcement that Giffords would resign later this week.

"I was taken off balance by her stepping down," he said.

John Ellinwood, who was the campaign spokesman for Jesse Kelly, the Republican candidate who came within a few thousand votes of unseating Giffords in 2010, said that Kelly was "seriously considering" running in the special election.

Kelly has relocated his family to Texas and has been working on a project there for his father's construction company, Don Kelly Construction, but he still owns a home in Arizona.

Sports broadcaster Dave Sitton, who has established an exploratory committee for Congressional District 2, is meeting with advisers and expects to make a decision regarding a run in the Congressional District 8 special election "very soon," according to campaign spokeswoman Linda Fahey.

Two other names are surfacing as potential Republican candidates: David Lane, who made a fortune selling off his family's independent bottling operation to Pepsi in 2008, and Benny White, a longtime GOP activist.

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