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Arizona Candidates Race for Giffords Seat

Jonathan Gibby/Getty Images

Rogers said he wouldn’t be surprised if Giffords endorses a candidate, but he doesn’t know which candidate that would be at this point. He said he’s spoken with a woman “who has a large national network of potential donors and also has quite a long history of being involved in politics” in Washington, D.C., but he was not free to reveal her name.

Democratic names previously floated to Roll Call include state Sen. Linda Lopez of Tucson, who is close to Giffords; state Senate Minority Whip Paula Aboud; state Rep. Steve Farley; Pima County Supervisor Ramon Valadez; and businesswoman Nan Stockholm Walden.

”This is not a typical race from many norms of judging races,” Farley said. Farley is from Tucson, knows Giffords and said he would run if she or her husband, Mark Kelly, asked him to do so.

Republicans expected to run include state Sen. Frank Antenori and Dave Sitton, both of whom had previously opened exploratory committees. Former state Sen. Jonathan Paton, who lost in the 2010 primary, had been looking at the new 1st district, but he lives in this one.

Once Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) declares the seat vacant, Gov. Jan Brewer (R) must set the special primary 80 to 90 days following the vacancy, and the general election must occur 50 to 60 days after the primary.

Making things more confusing, candidates hoping to run for a full term must file in May for the Aug. 28 primary. Thanks to redistricting, the candidates who make it beyond the April special primary and are also running for a full term will be running for at least a month in two districts with different lines.

“What’s going to make it unusual is you have a special election being run in the old district right on the heels of which is going to be a regular election in the new district, and it’s going to be very hard for the candidates to sort that out,” said former Rep. Jim Kolbe (R), who held the seat before Giffords. Rogers, the Pima County Democratic Party chairman, called it a “logistical nightmare.”

Under the current lines, the partisan makeup of the district is slightly more favorable for Republicans than under the new lines. The partisan voting index of the current district favors Republicans by 4 points, and that advantage will be cut in half in November.

One Arizona Democrat told Roll Call that there is some discussion that candidates might opt to skip the special election and run for the more Democratic-friendly redrawn seat.

“It’s always been highly independent,” said Margaret Kenski, a Tucson-based GOP pollster who worked for two Congressmen who once represented the area, Kolbe and Democratic Rep. Mo Udall.

“It’s a moderate swing district, fiscally somewhat conservative, socially a bit moderate,” she said. “Sincerely, this district is about 30-to-35 percent independent in inclination. The crossover voting for both [Kolbe and Udall] was substantial.”

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