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Expect a Nasty Arizona Member-Vs.-Member Battle

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Expect the upcoming Arizona GOP primary between Reps. David Schweikert and Ben Quayle (above) to be a contentious and costly one.

When an Arizona Republican consultant was recently asked whether he was backing a candidate in the state's banner Member-vs.-Member race between Republican Reps. Ben Quayle and David Schweikert, the operative simply said, "We're not. Thank God."

That is because those who know Arizona politics well are prognosticating a nasty, costly race between two up-and-coming freshman Members.

And just as House Republicans are trying to move on from the bloody battle between Illinois Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Don Manzullo, this 6th district race is just getting started.

There's a familiar story line building, too.

"Like most races in Arizona, it's establishment versus grass-roots," said Maricopa County GOP Chairman Rob Haney. Quayle, as a political dynasty, is considered the more establishment candidate, while Schweikert is more grass-roots.

The two men are rising stars in Arizona and in the national party. The winner of the August primary will be a potential frontrunner to run for governor or for Senate if John McCain (R) retires in 2016.

The two men just barely missed being drawn into the same district when the Arizona map was released last fall. Quayle lives in the 9th district, just five houses away from the 6th.

The Schweikert camp has made great hay of that fact, calling Quayle a "carpetbagger" even though Schweikert, too, was drawn out of the district until modifications were made to the map.

Both men currently represent territory in the redrawn district, which is a safe Republican seat. About two-thirds are native to Quayle's current district, and Schweikert currently represents about one-third of the 6th district.

Estimates on the cost of the primary range from a base of $1 million to as much as $2 million. Both candidates' camps express confidence that money will not be an issue.

Sources in both camps also declare a desire to run positive, "issues-based" campaigns. But outside Republicans are doubtful that is how the race will actually play out.

Because the two men share similar voting records, the differences highlighted will be about style, personality and character.

The Quayle campaign is already describing him as the "leader," while Schweikert's campaign talks about his support from "the base."

The Club for Growth entered the fray Wednesday. The group's president, Chris Chocola, weighed in without drawing a definitive line in the sand. He wrote a letter to House GOP leaders demanding that they remain neutral in the primary. He then threatened to unleash the fundraising fury of his group should they back Quayle over Schweikert.

Arizona political strategists seem to have very strong mixed feelings about Quayle: They either really like him or cannot stand him.

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