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In the wake of Republican Sen. Jon Kyl’s retirement announcement, Roll Call Politics has moved the open-seat Arizona Senate race to the more competitive category of Leans Republican. It had been rated Safe Republican.
How competitive the race is in the Republican-leaning state largely depends on the field of candidates Democrats are able to recruit to the race. Republicans already have candidates beginning to line up, with Rep. Jeff Flake believed to be at the front of the line.
Kyl, the Minority Whip, was first elected in 1994 after four terms in the House. He was re-elected in 2000 with 79 percent of the vote. Democrat Jim Pederson gave Kyl a run for his money in the 2006 cycle, with both spending around $15 million. Kyl won by 10 points with 53 percent.
Democrats believe they have a chance at the open seat since population gains could favor them. The state is gaining a seat in reapportionment and will increase in prominence for the presidential race as well. President Barack Obama considered contesting the state during the 2008 presidential election but opted against spending time and money there once Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) became the GOP nominee. McCain won 54 percent to 45 percent. In 2012, Arizona’s 10 or 11 electoral votes could be up for grabs.