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Parties Face Contrasting Concerns in Arizona’s 9th

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
State Senate Minority Leader David Schapira is one of three strong Democratic candidates in Arizona's new 9th district.

In the tossup race for Arizona’s new 9th district, Democrats and Republicans have the exact opposite problem.

The Democratic field is crowded with three up-and-coming stars, while the universal description of the GOP field is “weak” and enthusiasm lags.

Both parties have much at stake in the Aug. 28 primary — and early voting begins Thursday.

On the Democratic side, former state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has emerged as the frontrunner.

Democrats cannot agree, however, on which other candidate poses the strongest threat to her in the primary — former state party Chairman Andrei Cherny or state Senate Minority Leader David Schapira.

“It’s an embarrassment of riches,” said Pima County Democratic Chairman Jeff Rogers, who is very involved in state party politics. “It’s a shame we can’t spread them across more races because at the end of August two of them will lose and not be in leadership positions.”

Sinema has been on the political scene for about a decade. She has cultivated a national profile and has the backing of EMILY’s List, and many expect the female vote to solidify around her in the primary.

Cherny has made his tenure in the White House working for President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore central to his direct-mail and television advertising. And Schapira is relying on his name identification, a grass-roots campaign and the support of local Democratic figures such as Rep. Raúl Grijalva and former Rep. Harry Mitchell.

Because of an absence of reliable public polling, Democrats placed added weight on the latest fundraising reports. Sinema had the strongest quarter, but Cherny had the most in cash on hand at the end of June.  

Cherny has had the largest presence on television, spending nearly six figures as of the end of last week, according to a source in the campaign. That figure is very modest for the Phoenix market but still enough to eclipse his opponents.

Sinema is on the air as well, and her advertising has been generally positive. But as early voting approaches, it has gotten downright nasty between the two. Opposition research against both has surfaced in reports and press releases.

Central to Cherny’s case for the nomination is a common Republican theme: that Sinema is unelectable in the fall.  

Operatives from both parties call her “media savvy.” That ability to garner media attention has hurt her in this race, though.

About 10 years worth of statements, interviews, photos and votes are in the public record, have surfaced in the primary and will be a factor if she is the nominee.

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