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Land Swap Bill Could Help Paul Gosar for 2012

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo

Arizona lawmakers have been fighting for years for a land swap bill expected to pass the House this week. But it’s a relative newcomer, freshman Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), whose name is atop the legislation, and that attention might pay dividends as he prepares for a tough re-election battle in 2012.

Earlier this year, the Arizona GOP House delegation unanimously decided Gosar should carry the torch on the legislation, and Republican leadership OK’d the call.

Gosar introduced the bill May 13, and the decision was in line with historical precedent. Save for a brief period when former Rep. Rick Renzi (R) was enmeshed in allegations for corruption, lawmakers representing Gosar’s district have championed the legislation, since it will facilitate the construction of a copper mine there if passed. The state’s other Republican Members, Reps. Trent Franks, Jeff Flake, David Schweikert and Ben Quayle, all signed on as co-sponsors the same day it was introduced.

After winning a close race against then-Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) in 2010, Gosar likely faces another electoral challenge next year. He won last year with 50 percent of the vote to Kirkpatrick’s 44 percent. New Congressional lines proposed by Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission would make the district more Democratic, if they hold.

But if Gosar has a legislative victory, such as delivering on a longtime priority for Arizona’s copper mining interests, that is one more weapon he can deploy on the campaign trail.

The measure is even something Gosar and Kirkpatrick see eye to eye on, as she championed the land swap bill during the 111th Congress. The bill also has the advantage of fitting in to the jobs message that Republicans are looking to facilitate. And copper has a special place in Arizona lore, as the mining industry provided an early economic backbone for the state reaching back to its territorial days. The star in the middle of the state flag is copper, for instance.

The latest filings with the Federal Election Commission show Kirkpatrick raised $232,000 during the third quarter while Gosar raised $201,000. Kirkpatrick also has an edge in cash on hand over Gosar by more than $100,000, and she has no debts.

Add in a series of embarrassing troubles Gosar has had with staff turmoil, and there’s a definite case for Republicans to give the first-term lawmaker a big win on the House floor.

Meanwhile, Gosar has voted with GOP leadership on a series of tough votes, including on raising the debt ceiling and on a stopgap spending bill that was defeated on the House floor.

With top-ranking GOP lawmakers saying Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) is looking to reward Members who cooperate with leadership on tough votes, Gosar’s high-profile floor victory this week is the type of thing you might expect to see as a leadership “carrot.”

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