Arizona’s Congressional Primary Races

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With early voting less than a month away, Arizona Republic congressional reporter Rebekah Sanders provides an update on how the primary election races for Arizona’s congressional seats are shaping-up.

Steve Goldstein: Arizona's primary election is coming around soon, august 28th. Early voting starts August 2nd. That has candidates in several hotly contested congressional races ratcheting up the intensity of their campaigns. Here's is Rebekah Sanders, congressional reporter for the Arizona Republic. Welcome.

Rebekah Sanders: Thanks for having me.

Steve Goldstein: Ron Barber has the current congressional district 8 seat, Gabrielle Giffords's term. He actually has some primary opponent. Why is that?

Rebekah Sanders: That's right. This was a seat a lot of democrats in fact wanted when Gabrielle Giffords decided in January to resign to focus on her recovery. But for the primary, she endorsed Ron Barber and the other democrats out of respect dropped out. But state representative Matt Heinz has stayed in for this new, the fall election. He is saying that he's going to run hard and the voters deserve a choice.

Steve Goldstein: Okay. What about on the republican side? Jesse kelly was defeated twice. He's not running this time.

Rebekah Sanders: We have two candidates. Martha McSally is a retired air force pilot, definitely the frontrunner. Made quite the wave in the last election. Mark Koskiniemi, he's a pima county employee.

Steve Goldstein: The other candidates including Dave Sitton decided not to run.

Rebekah Sanders: Dave Sitton and Frank Antenori both decided they wouldn't continue. Frank is just running for reelection to the state legislature.

Steve Goldstein: Let's go to CD 9. Some big names on the democratic side. Republican side to my way of thinking, Vernon Parker is most recognizable what can you tell us about those two races so far.

Rebekah Sanders: This is the race that just has a lot of candidates and so you can imagine writing profiles of all of these is taking me quite a bit of time. On the republican side we have seven candidates coming out. Vernon Parker is known for being in Paradise Valley councilman. He ran for congress two years ago. Lost to Ben Quail. He's definitely got the name recognition, but we also have folks like Martin Sepulveda, knows his area pretty well. Then like I said, several others.

Steve Goldstein: On the democratic side, Andrei Cherny, Kyrsten Sinema, well known names.

Rebekah Sanders: Kyrsten Sinema and David Shapira has have made their names at the capitol while Andrei Cherny ran for state treasurer and was at the top of the democratic party here in Arizona. They all have their strengths. Their primary has gotten a bit more nasty than perhaps the republicans have so far.

Steve Goldstein: What is standing out as far as the nastiness. Who is raising the most money?

Rebekah Sanders: Andrei Cherny so far has raised the most money. We'll have new financial reports on Sunday, and that will be revealing for all of the races. It just -- you know, all three of these democrats really want this seat, and so they are lobbying pretty much everything they can find at each other. There's been some attacks on Cherny for some racially sensitive mailers he sent in a Salifornia race ten years ago. Then there's other allegations being lobbed at both David Shapira and Kyrsten Sinema about their potential baggage.

Steve Goldstein: It's most of the competitive in the state. Do the democrats see this as a real advantage? They think if I win this primary I have a very good chance in the general?

Rebekah Sanders: It's one of the closest calls of districts I think in the state. This is a district in much of metro phoenix that really is very -- has gone for both Republicans and Democrats in past elections. So it's a tough one. But certainly Democrats are talking up their game not only in this district but in others. So they are being very optimistic about their chances.

Steve Goldstein: One district where democrats don't seem to have much of a chance is the one that's a battle between incumbent congressman Paul Gosar - though it's not his district - and Ron Gould. Of course Sheriff Paul Babeu a lot of people thought he had been the frontrunner before he dropped out. What can you tell us about that so for?

Rebekah Sanders: That district is in much of Northern and Western Arizona, a very strongly Republican district. So it's really more about this primary fight than the general. Gosar represents about a third of his constituents are in this district. It was safer for him to run there. Ron Gould has a chance because he's got club for growth funding. He release add pretty creative ad a few weeks ago where he used the healthcare law as skeet shooting with his shotgun. Definitely made waves. Then Rick Murphy is the third candidate. He's a radio station owner. Paul Babeu, the sheriff from Pinal County, was thought to have a good chance there, but he went through a lot of trouble in February and March over his homosexuality and his relationship with a former boyfriend and a lot of allegations that just made it make more sense for him to go back and run for re-election as sheriff.

Steve Goldstein: Let's come back to money in this district as well. You mentioned club for growth. I would imagine Ron Gould has raised a lot of money through that club for growth, but Go

Rebekah Sanders: It will be real interesting to see this next report. In fact Gould raised very little money in the last cycle and in fact put in about a $90,000 personal loan just to kind of -- it made it look like a better deal for him. But club for growth could definitely start spending once we get closer to the election and things really -- the heat really turns up. Congressman Gosar has not put out official numbers but has been touting that he's had a good quarter although he has historically not been a great fund raise -- a great fund-raiser. It definitely is a big district. So it will take money to get their message out, but even more importantly, observers tell me, it's the shaking hands and kissing babies. So they have a lot of miles to cover in that very rural, sprawling district.

Steve Goldstein About a minute left. Let's go to what's been the highest profile race, the republican primary battle between incumbent Schweikert and Quail, which has gotten pretty nasty. Just based on what you've heard and seen so far, how does this stack up?

Rebekah Sanders: This is definitely nasty having an incumbent against an incumbent. It's blamed on redistricting. It's going to guarantee that at least one of Arizona's sitting Republican congressmen is not going to be in office next year. It's a tight race. I mean, Ben Quail has the advantage of his father's connections as former vice president. He has -- can draw on a lot of money. Has also made waves in the ad battle, most recently this week when he issued an ad that kind of rehashed his calling Obama the worst president in history. Hey that's red meat for a lot of voters. They like it. David Schweikert is known as a really hard working congressman who has been around politics for quite a few years and has those networks and is kind of thought of as the guy who has got the networks of the kind of -- the regular Joe on the street. We'll see if that pans out for him.

Steve Goldstein: Rebekah Sanders, thanks so much.

Rebekah Sanders: Thank you.

Rebekah Sanders - Arizona Republic

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