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Updated Oct. 14, 2010
If Arizona's controversial immigration law has an effect on any House race, it will be this one. The Tucson-based district borders Mexico and is home to a large percentage of the country's border-related arrests.
Giffords' opponent, Jesse Kelly, is using speeches and advertising to put Giffords on the defensive for her record in Congress. That includes her stances on health care reform, taxes, spending and border security.
Kelly, an Iraq War veteran and construction executive, already defeated one establishment candidate, former state Sen. Jonathan Paton, in the GOP primary. Kelly won with tea party backing and a promise to go on the attack against Giffords, something previous GOP nominees have declined to do.
For her part, Giffords recognized the threat early and went on the air with three ads before the primary. Her first general election ad attacked Kelly for wanting to phase out Social Security, a hot topic in a district where nearly one-fifth of voters are older than 65.
Despite Kelly's attacks tying Giffords to Democratic leadership in Washington, she has headed several immigration bills in Congress and cast herself as a centrist. The National Republican Congressional Committee appears to still be unsure about her vulnerability, as the district was not among the first 55 districts in which it has reserved TV time.
Through early August, Giffords was closing in on $2 million in the bank, while Kelly's cash on hand was below $100,000, thanks to a competitive primary.
District Profile from Politics in America
Nestled in the state's southeastern corner, the 8th District is home to swing voters and independents. Cochise County accounts for most of the 8th's land area, but most district residents live in Pima County in the Tucson area. The district runs along more than 100 miles of Arizona's border with Mexico, and immigration and border security are major issues here.
Tucson is surrounded by several mountain ranges and "sky islands" towering over the desert, but the majestic Santa Catalinas north of the city are the local landmark. Decades of population growth in Tucson and north of the city led to new home construction and put a strain on water resources and water services in this arid region. Recovery from and high unemployment rates and a housing market collapse continues slowly. South of the city, Green Valley is known for retirement communities, and more than 70 percent of the population is older than 65.
Military jets flying past Tucson on their way to or from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, southeast of the city, reveal one the area's economic engines: the military. Defense and aerospace contractor Raytheon Missile Systems is a major district employer, and local officials hope to lure biotechnology and other high-technology companies to the area.
In Sierra Vista to the south, Fort Huachuca -- home to the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence -- employs thousands of contractors. Although its flagship campus is in the neighboring 7th, the University of Arizona has a campus in Sierra Vista and it is one of the largest employers in the district, supporting research and development interests across the region.
Military, aerospace, technology
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, 6,361 military, 1,487 civilian; Fort Huachuca (Army), 4,729 military, 3,004 civilian (2009)
Tucson (pt.), 272,643; Casas Adobes (unincorporated), 66,795; Catalina Foothills (unincorporated), 50,796; Sierra Vista, 43,888
Tombstone, notorious for its mining-boomtown lawlessness in the late 1800s, has been a popular setting for outlaw fiction and Westerns.
|2010||general||Gabrielle Giffords (D)||138,280||48.8%|
|Jesse Kelly (R)||134,124||47.3%|
|Steven Stoltz (LIBERT)||11,174||3.9%|
|2008||general||Gabrielle Giffords (D)||179,629||54.7%|
|Timothy Bee (R)||140,553||42.8%|
|Paul Davis (LIBERT)||8,081||2.5%|
|2006||general||Gabrielle Giffords (D)||137,655||54.2%|
|Randy Graf (R)||106,790||42.1%|
|David Nolan (LIBERT)||4,849||1.9%|
|Jay Quick (I)||4,408||1.7%|
|2004||general||Jim Kolbe (R)||183,363||60.4%|
|Eva Bacal (D)||109,963||36.2%|
|Robert Anderson (LIBERT)||10,443||3.4%|
|2002||general||Jim Kolbe (R)||126,930||63.3%|
|Mary Ryan (D)||67,328||33.6%|
|Joe Duarte (LIBERT)||6,142||3.1%|
|2008||Barack Obama: 46%||John McCain: 52%|
|2004||John Kerry: 46%||George W. Bush: 53%|
|2000||Al Gore: 47%||George W. Bush: 49%|