Arizona Voters Set Up Competitive Contests

Posted September 3, 2008 at 4:02pm

Former Maricopa County Treasurer David Schweikert held off government relations executive Susan Bitter Smith by less than 2 points on Tuesday to capture the Republican nomination in Arizona’s 5th district.

With all precincts reporting, according to unofficial results from the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office, Schweikert topped Bitter Smith 29.9 percent to 28 percent. The four other candidates running in the primary finished well out of contention.

Schweikert, who was endorsed by the anti-tax Club for Growth in the primary, told supporters in his Scottsdale campaign office late Tuesday that he would focus on eliminating the federal budget deficit if he is elected in November.

“We are devastatingly broke as a country,” he said.

Schweikert now moves on to face freshman Rep. Harry Mitchell (D) in the general election. The Phoenix-area 5th district leans Republican, but Mitchell is a longtime elected official from the region who is well-liked by voters of all stripes.

Still, the GOP’s registration edge and the fact that Mitchell is serving in only his first term has buoyed Republicans, who believe the Congressman’s House voting record on key issues has made him politically vulnerable.

Schweikert last ran for Congress in 1994, when he lost in a GOP primary to local television news sportscaster J.D. Hayworth, who served in Congress until 2006, when he was ousted by Mitchell.

Primary voters in Arizona also set up another very competitive general election race in the 1st district, where former state Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) will square off against anti-tax activist Sydney Hay (R) in the race to replace indicted Rep. Rick Renzi (R).

The sprawling 1st district, which takes in the northern third of the state, has more enrolled Democrats than Republicans but leans conservative, so it should be a very close race. However, Democrats consider Kirkpatrick a top-tier candidate, whereas national Republicans spent the first part of the election cycle trying to recruit someone other than Hay into the race.

Meanwhile, at least two other competitive races are on tap this fall: In the GOP-leaning 8th district, freshman Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) is trying to hold off a top GOP recruit, state Senate President Tim Bee, and in the conservative 3rd district, Rep. John Shadegg (R) has a tougher than expected challenge from attorney Bob Lord (D).