As the new Congressional lines in Arizona become more certain, the political maneuvering has only just begun.
A drama-infused independent commission redistricting process resulted in major changes to the state’s Congressional lines, and two Members of Congress are publicly undecided on where they will run for re-election.
One of those races could be a banner Member-vs.-Member contest between Republicans Reps. Ben Quayle and David Schweikert in the newly drawn 6th district.
In the October draft map, neither incumbent lived in the district, but Schweikert swiftly announced his candidacy and made plans to relocate to the 6th.
The map passed Tuesday night moved Schweikert’s home base of Fountain Hills into the 6th district and is viewed as a major strategic victory for Schweikert. The Schweikert camp had argued that Fountain Hills should be paired with nearby Scottsdale.
“David is very pleased,” Schweikert adviser Chris Baker said.
Quayle, on the other hand, lives in the 9th district but is literally footsteps from the 6th district.
The 6th is viewed as safe Republican territory, while the 9th is considered a tossup. Although there were indications in October that Quayle would run against Schweikert in the 6th district, he remains publicly noncommittal.
“Congressman Quayle has not made any final decisions about his plans for the 2012 election,” Quayle spokesman Richard Cullen told Roll Call. “Throughout this process, Mr. Quayle has consistently maintained that at the end of the day, he’s going to run in a district that represents the majority of his current constituency.”
The other big question coming out of this map is GOP Rep. Paul Gosar’s intentions. Former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D), whom he ousted in 2010, has launched a fierce challenge to take back her old seat.
Many Republican insiders speculate he will run in the new 4th district, which covers the western part of the state. His office has maintained an “all options are on the table” stance throughout the fall and as late as Tuesday.
Should Gosar run in the 4th district, he will have company in the GOP primary. State Sen. Ron Gould has an exploratory committee and is viewed as extremely conservative. Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu also has an exploratory committee, and he is famously known as the sheriff whom Sen. John McCain once instructed to “complete the dang fence.”
The new makeup of Arizona is four safe Republican seats, two safe Democratic seats and three tossups. The current delegation is three Democrats and four Republicans.
Only three incumbents seem to be safe bets to return to Congress: Rep. Trent Franks (R) and Democratic Reps. Raúl Grijalva and Ed Pastor. Both parties say they view Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ 2nd district as a tossup seat. But in light of last year’s shooting, should she choose to seek re-election, there is little appetite among Republicans to launch a serious challenge.
The commission spokesman described the map as tentative and “pending legal and technical analysis.” It will also need federal pre-clearance approval before it becomes law. There is some discussion among Arizona Republicans about possible litigation against the new map.