Arizona GOP Makes Its Picks for Three Competitive House Races

Posted August 25, 2010 at 12:27am

Updated: 3:21 a.m.

Sen. John McCain’s big win in his Arizona GOP primary had top billing Tuesday, but three Republican House primaries set up competitive general election contests — and one decided that a Quayle will likely be the next Congressman from the 3rd district.

The headliner may have been Iraq War veteran Jesse Kelly’s victory over former state Sen. Jonathan Paton in the Tucson-based 8th district, where Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is running for a third term. With 96 percent of precincts reporting, the Associated Press called the race for Kelly, who led 49 percent to Paton’s 41 percent. Paton entered the race late, but national Republicans believed he was a candidate who could defeat Giffords.

Kelly is a political newcomer with a thin résumé, but he excited the GOP base and will have plenty of establishment support. Many southeastern Arizona Republicans were frustrated by 2008 nominee Tim Bee’s unwillingness to attack Giffords. In Kelly, they see a bulldog of a candidate.

Despite the inherent challenge of running in a moderate district in a strong year for Republicans, Giffords has built up a $2 million war chest and has worked hard to reduce her vulnerability. Plus, the National Republican Congressional Committee left the district off its initial list of races it plans to target with TV ads, a sign that it is unsure how competitive the race will be.

In the 5th district, Rep. Harry Mitchell (D) will face David Schweikert (R), whom he defeated by 9 points in 2008. However, this Phoenix-area district was once represented by conservative Republican Rep. J.D. Hayworth, who just lost the Senate primary to McCain. With 91 percent of precincts reporting in the GOP primary, the AP called the race for Schweikert, who received 38 percent.

A third House race to watch is in the 1st district, where freshman Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) will need to hold off a challenge from an apparently well-connected dentist in Paul Gosar (R), who defeated 2008 nominee Sydney Hay and former state Senate Majority Leader Rusty Bowers. Gosar was confirmed the winner with 31 percent of the vote with 96 percent of precincts reporting.

Gosar, taking donations from dentists across the country, easily led the field in fundraising and spent more than twice as much as anyone else.

The winner in the 3rd district Republican primary was Ben Quayle, the son of former Vice President Dan Quayle, who overcame an odd stumble — the revelation that he assisted a racy startup website — to edge out the 10-candidate field hoping to replace retiring Rep. John Shadegg (R). The AP declared him the winner with 23 percent of the vote, with 99 percent of precincts reporting.

Quayle’s victory in the Republican-leaning district north of Phoenix likely means there will be a Quayle in Congress for the first time since 1989, when Dan Quayle left the Senate to serve as vice president.