Politics

Who Will Take On Ann Kirkpatrick in Arizona? | The Field

The list of Republicans lining up to challenge Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, a Democrat in the marginally Republican 1st District of Arizona, is remarkably short. Among state and national Republican strategists, only one name emerges.

"All the buzz in CD 1 is centering around Adam Kwasman," Arizona Republican political consultant Chris DeRose said. He described the field as "coalescing" around Kwasman, a 30-year-old freshman state representative.

DeRose is informally advising Kwasman but said he is not on any campaign payroll. While o thers worry that Kwasman is too green to challenge Kirkpatrick,  he is the only name Republicans mention.

Should he run, he will be getting a far earlier start than 2012 nominee Jonathan Paton, who lost to Kirkpatrick by 4 points. Kwasman lives in Oro Valley, a Tucson suburb,  according to his official biography . In 2010, he was tea party candidate Jesse Kelly's campaign manager in his bitter race against Gabrielle Giffords for the neighboring Tucson-based district.

So why are no other names emerging? Kirkpatrick, a perennially strong fundraiser, is among several incumbent Democrats who have already raised more than $300,000 early in the election cycle, putting any challenger in catch-up mode. Yet she is one of 11 Democrats in the House who start the 2014 campaign at risk, according to Roll Call Contributing Editor Stuart Rothenberg.

Republicans pose a number of other theories on the dearth of candidates.

Some say it's too early in the cycle for candidates to jump in. Also, the 1st isn't a wealthy district, lacking both a donor base and candidates who can self-fund. It's a rural, expansive district with no major city, so there isn't much of a population center for a local or state official coming up through the ranks to build a political base.

Despite the lack of obvious names, national Republicans express optimism about the seat. Few states have such a clear tea-party-vs.-establishment divide as Arizona. Paton, a GOP political insider, had a fairly easy path to his party's nomination in 2012. But one national operative said the shared anger over losing a seat with Republican DNA has the potential to energize both factions.

“For the first time, tea party leaders are talking about electability," he said.