Southwest: Teague, McCain Bloody Fights Get Top Billing

Arizona


Filing deadline: May 26 | Primary: Aug. 24

Senate

Incumbent: John McCain (R)
4th term (77 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Just days after he lost his 2008 White House bid, McCain put out the word that he would seek a fifth term in 2010, when he will be 74.

But the early announcement didn’t clear the GOP field, and McCain now faces a serious primary challenge from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, who is also known in the state as a former sportscaster and current radio talk-show host.

Hayworth, who calls himself the “consistent conservative” in his radio and television ads, is trying to position himself to McCain’s ideological right in the primary. He’s painted McCain as a moderate on immigration and as someone who played a role in deepening the deficit by voting to bail out Wall Street.

Hayworth joined the race in early February and garnered attention by raking in more than $1 million by the end of March.

McCain, meanwhile, is boosting his conservative image by bringing top conservative leaders — including his former running mate, Sarah Palin — to campaign with him. Deficit-hawk Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) offered his support by cutting a commercial for the Senator in early April. McCain, who boasted a $4.6 million war chest at the end of March, has used that hefty sum to launch an aggressive media strategy to promote a strong anti-illegal-immigration message.

Most polls show McCain with a strong, but not overwhelming, lead over Hayworth.

Several Democrats are vying for the chance to take on the winner in the fall.

Former Tucson City Councilman Rodney Glassman is considered the early Democratic frontrunner, but civil rights lawyer Randy Parraz garnered attention when he joined the race after the state passed a strict new law regarding illegal immigration.

House

5th district
Incumbent: Harry Mitchell (D)
2nd term (53 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Mitchell was among the 20 House Democrats who voted for the controversial health care overhaul bill in March and represent districts that backed Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. That vote will now be front and center in the effort to target Mitchell this fall.

But first Republicans will have to sort out a contested primary.

Former state Rep. David Schweikert — who raised $1.4 million but lost by 9 points to Mitchell in 2008 — is running again. His most threatening challenger appears to be businessman Jim Ward (R).

Schweikert had only a slight cash-on-hand lead over Ward at the end of the first quarter, and both men have been named to the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” program.

In a Republican-leaning district and in a favorable political environment for the GOP, Mitchell has to be on guard. It’s likely that he’ll have to dig deep into his campaign war chest to make it to a third term.

8th district
Incumbent: Gabrielle Giffords (D)
2nd term (55 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

A field of four Republicans is hammering Giffords for voting “yes” on the controversial health care overhaul in March, and national GOP officials are hoping the issue will be a determining factor when voters decide whether to send her back for a third term in November.

Giffords, who has earned the dubious distinction of making former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s (R) 2010 electoral hit list, was already facing a tough fight before Jonathan Paton (R) resigned his seat in the state Senate to challenge her. Paton pulled in more than $500,000 in the first quarter after declaring in mid-January, a mark that surpassed Giffords.

Tea-party-favored candidate Jesse Kelly, a 28-year-old local construction manager who has been in the race for about a year, is probably Paton’s biggest threat in the primary. Kelly trailed Paton badly in first-quarter fundraising and remaining cash on hand.

The district maintains a narrow Republican registration advantage and regularly gives an edge to GOP presidential nominees — including Arizona Sen. John McCain, who in 2008 carried the district with 52 percent.

But Giffords, a former member of both the state House and Senate, has had success casting herself as a centrist and a pragmatist, gaining support from moderate voters in the process. The Congresswoman had nearly $2 million in cash on hand as of March 31.

New Mexico


Filing deadline: Passed | Primary: June 1

House

1st district
Incumbent: Martin Heinrich (D)
1st term (56 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Heinrich, a former Albuquerque city councilor, put the central New Mexico seat in the Democratic column for the first time in 40 years last cycle, convincing Democrats that the seat would remain in their hands for the foreseeable future. And by most standards, the telegenic and hardworking freshman is doing what he needs to be doing to ensure a long House career.

But in businessman Jon Barela, the Republicans have found a formidable and equally attractive foe. The fact that he’s Hispanic could be key in a heavily Hispanic district.

Still, the Albuquerque area is trending Democratic generally, and Heinrich had a significant fundraising advantage as of March 31: more than $1 million on hand to Barela’s $392,000. Heinrich remains the favorite, for now.

2nd district
Incumbent: Harry Teague (D)
1st term (56 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

Although he has many strengths and fits his southern New Mexico district well given his long history in the oil industry, Teague, a freshman, remains one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country.

Former Rep. Steve Pearce (R) is trying to win his old job back. Pearce gave up the seat in 2008 to run for Senate. He was clobbered by now-Sen. Tom Udall (D), but he dusted himself off and has launched an aggressive campaign.

While the 2nd district has more registered Democrats than Republicans, it is quite conservative, and despite Teague’s own moderate politics, Republicans are effectively hanging the liberal leadership of the Democratic Congress around his neck. He’s probably most vulnerable on the issue of climate change, having voted for the cap-and-trade bill that passed the House last year. They didn’t like that in the oil patch.

Don’t assume Teague is dead, though. He’s an affable man with a lifetime of contacts in the district, and he shares a political base with Pearce. Plus, he’s rich: He spent about $1.7 million of his own money in 2008 and may be willing to pony up again this time.

Pearce, another wealthy oil man, says he’s willing to spend some of his own money on this race if he needs to — and that would be a first for him. As of March 31, Teague had $927,000 in the bank to Pearce’s $709,000.

Oklahoma


Filing deadline: June 9 | Primary: July 27 | Runoff: Aug. 24

Senate

Incumbent: Tom Coburn (R)
1st term (53 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Coburn waited until Memorial Day 2009 to announce his re-election plans. As such, that also became the day that any thought of Democrats challenging for this seat went out the window.

Coburn, a conservative champion with a $1.5 million war chest, will cruise to re-election this fall in a state that gave Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain 66 percent of the vote in 2008.

House

5th district
Open seat: Mary Fallin (R) is running for governor
Outlook: Safe Republican

The 5th district is a safely Republican seat where the winner of the GOP primary will be a shoo-in come November.

Although state Corporation Commissioner Jeff Cloud dropped his bid in February citing health concerns, there are still over half a dozen candidates in the GOP primary. It seems likely that GOP voters won’t have a nominee until the August runoff.

The early frontrunner appears to be state Rep. Kevin Calvey, who has snagged the endorsement of the powerful anti-tax group Club for Growth and was leading in the money chase at the end of the first quarter.

Calvey had $561,000 in the bank at the end of the first quarter, but fellow state Rep. Mike Thompson, who also entered the race early last year, showed a healthy $439,000.

No other candidate had broken the $100,000 cash-on-hand mark as of March 31. However, urologist Johnny Roy, who also ran in 2006, and youth camp director James Lankford both showed more than $90,000 in their accounts.

Texas


Filing deadline: Passed | Primary: Passed | Runoff: Passed

House

17th district
Incumbent: Chet Edwards (D)
10th term (53 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Edwards has been a political survivor, a centrist Democrat in one of the nation’s most heavily Republican districts. He’s managed to win in part by emphasizing a record of looking out for military veterans and their families and pursing economic development projects in and around Waco and Bryan.

He may yet face his toughest test from Bill Flores, a businessman who secured the Republican nomination in mid-April after beating Edwards’ 2008 opponent in a runoff. He’s been touting his long experience in the private sector.

Flores’ campaign last week touted an internal poll that had him leading Edwards by 12 points, a result that Edwards’ campaign dismissed as “wishful thinking.”

Edwards is mindful he’ll face a tough race though, and he’s begun questioning Flores’ ties to the district by referring to him as a wealthy “Houston oil executive” who has never voted in a general election in the 17th.

Edwards had $1.8 million in his campaign account as April began, the most that the Congressman banked at this point in an election cycle. Flores is working to replenish his treasury after nearly exhausting it to win the runoff.

23rd district
Incumbent: Ciro Rodriguez (D)
2nd term (56 percent; previously served four terms)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

This race could test the Republican Party’s appeal to Hispanics, who make up about two-thirds of the population in a 48,000-square-mile district that stretches from San Antonio almost to El Paso.

Ahead of his victory in the runoff last month, Republican attorney Francisco “Quico” Canseco said the GOP needed to nominate a Hispanic to oppose Rodriguez; now he’ll get his chance after two previous House campaigns that failed.

Canseco is running on a platform of fiscal conservatism and opposition to the health care overhaul that Rodriguez backed and Canseco says he will vote to repeal. Canseco begins the race as a distinct underdog in part because of the district’s Democratic lean, but Rodriguez’s 56 percent showing two years ago in a Democratic environment suggests this race could become very competitive.