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Farm Team: Arizona Raises Drama, Candidates

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Quayle is being mentioned as a possible candidate for Arizona’s 9th District.

There are two certainties in Arizona politics: churn and drama.

“Arizona is the Wild West when it comes to political opportunities,” GOP consultant Chris DeRose said. “There are plenty of ambitious politicians and plenty of races for them to run in.”

There are only a handful of entrenched incumbents on the ballot thanks to state term limits, a unique redistricting process and a booming Hispanic population that makes the former GOP stronghold more competitive with every cycle. And so for the ambitious politician, opportunities — and contested races — abound.

In 2014, Republicans have their eye on freshman Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema in the 9th District. One of their top choices to challenger her is a familiar GOP face: former Rep. Ben Quayle.

It’s a competitive seat, and many Republicans wanted Quayle to run there instead of challenging fellow Republican Rep. David Schweikert in their member-vs.-member primary last year. Both Sinema and Quayle boast national fundraising networks and profiles, which would make for Quayle’s second marquee Arizona race in as many cycles.

But the former vice president’s son remains a source of interest in Arizona GOP circles, and Republicans mention his name for nearly every office in the state.

Two other Republicans, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Wendy Rogers and businessman Martin Sepulveda, signaled to CQ Roll Call last fall that they were considering challenging Sinema. At least one GOP consultant said Vernon Parker, the party’s 2012 nominee for the 9th District, could run again.

The 2014 stakes are especially high for Quayle, Schweikert and Sinema. They are all mentioned as someday Senate candidates, along with Republican Rep. Matt Salmon.

But someday might be a while away still. The next Senate contest is 2016, when Republican John McCain is up. Many local GOP operatives bet McCain will not retire, but that does not stop speculation about who his successor could be.

For Democrats, political speculation continues to focus on another well-known name: former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. She explored a Senate run before she was shot outside a Tucson, Ariz., supermarket in 2011.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz essentially endorsed her friend Giffords for Senate at an EMILY’s List event in Washington, D.C., last spring.

“We all know, when we talk about future careers in the United States Senate, Gabby will be back,” Wasserman Schultz said.

But Arizona sources are unsure whether Giffords will ever be able to make a full physical and political comeback. Local Democrats have turned their sights on her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, instead.

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