Southwest: GOP Looks to Pick Up 3 House Seats in Arizona

Posted October 1, 2010 at 11:27am

Arizona


Senate

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

McCain’s handling of the most difficult primary challenge of his career has often been cited as an example of how incumbents should run their campaigns in an unpredictable election cycle.

Despite former Rep. J.D. Hayworth’s best efforts, McCain won the Aug. 24 contest 56 percent to 32 percent. The Senator recognized the threat early, was on the airwaves with ads by the beginning of the year and went on to spend more than $20 million — much of it on TV ads that either attacked Hayworth or painted McCain as a conservative on issues such as border security.

His path forward should be far easier and less expensive, as McCain is heavily favored for a fifth term against Democrat Rodney Glassman, a former Tucson City councilman. He’s not taking his own race for granted, but much of McCain’s attention will be turned toward helping Republican candidates around the country get elected.

House

1st district
Incumbent: Ann Kirkpatrick (D)
1st term (56 percent)
Outlook: Leans Republican

Coming off a 17-point win in a Republican-held open seat in 2008, Kirkpatrick was initially viewed as less vulnerable than her Democratic colleagues in the 5th and 8th districts. But in this Republican-leaning district, Kirkpatrick now faces a steep climb to a second term.

Paul Gosar, a dentist, emerged from the crowded Republican primary with a significant amount of money thanks largely to his nationwide network of dentistry-associated donors. Gosar embraces the “rogue dentist” label some Democrats have given him.

Two Republican polls taken shortly after the primary showed the race as a tossup. While the district wasn’t on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s initial list of targets for TV ads, the committee went on the air Sept. 12 and has more than five weeks of TV time reserved.

Going forward, Kirkpatrick will work to paint Gosar’s conservative views, including closing the Department of Education and privatizing Social Security, as out of touch with the district.

Meanwhile, Gosar plans to focus on Kirkpatrick’s support for health care reform. Don’t expect to see many debates here; in a twist, it’s Gosar who refuses to debate Kirkpatrick, preferring more of a town hall style to a traditional debate platform.

3rd district
Open seat: John Shadegg (R) is retiring
Outlook: Safe Republican

Ben Quayle’s victory in the GOP primary means there will very likely be a Quayle in Congress for the first time since 1989, when his father, Dan Quayle, resigned his Indiana Senate seat to serve as vice president.

Ben Quayle overcame some bad press to win the 10-candidate primary, but he should have little trouble moving past lawyer Jon Hulburd in this Republican-leaning district, which lies north of Phoenix.

In a better political climate, Democrats might have been able to target this race. But given the realities of this cycle, this seat is nowhere close to being in reach.

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

Mitchell is one of more than a few members of the Democrats’ vaunted class of 2006 in jeopardy this cycle. He knocked then-Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R) out of office that year, and in 2008, with help from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, he fended off a challenge from former state Rep. David Schweikert.

After winning a competitive primary, Schweikert is challenging Mitchell once again. Schweikert brings reinforcements from the National Republican Congressional Committee, which named him a Young Gun and has reserved three weeks of TV time in the district, as well as fundraising help from the anti-tax Club for Growth.

Polling by both parties shows the seat is up for grabs: Internal polling for Schweikert found he led Mitchell by 8 points, while a poll conducted for Mitchell showed the race was a dead heat. The Mitchell campaign continues to accuse Schweikert of making money off foreclosed homes, referring to him as a “vulture.”

Meanwhile, a Schweikert ad in mid-September summed up the challenger’s argument against Mitchell: “Congressman Mitchell. Liberal, negative, wrong.”

Schweikert announced his campaign had hit the $1 million mark in total contributions on Sept. 24, but through the most recent fundraising report on Aug. 4, he was trailing Mitchell by $610,000 in cash on hand.

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

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.

New Mexico


House

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

While this Albuquerque-based district is trending Democratic, Heinrich is running in a traditionally Republican area, in a favorable cycle for Republicans and against a highly touted GOP challenger in businessman Jon Barela.

That could be a recipe for defeat, but not necessarily. Heinrich’s fundraising has been strong, and neither national party campaign committee included the district on its initial advertising target list — though the National Republican Congressional Committee added it later.

Heinrich opened his general election TV campaign with two positive ads highlighting his work in the district and calling himself “all New Mexico, all the time.” His third ad went directly after Barela, attacking his support for less Wall Street regulation and stating that the Republican wants to return the country to “the policies of George Bush and Dick Cheney.”

Barela has gone after Heinrich’s votes for the stimulus, health care reform and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). By early September, outside conservative groups began dropping ads against Heinrich that also tied him to Pelosi. This is a race that has the potential to move into the Tossup category before Election Day.

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

Of the state’s three freshman Democrats, Teague is in the most conservative district and therefore is the most vulnerable. Should he return to Congress next year, it will be a true success story for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

After an expensive 2008 campaign, Teague is up against a more difficult opponent in former Rep. Steve Pearce (R), a seasoned campaigner who left the seat open last cycle for an unsuccessful Senate bid.

Both Teague and Pearce have gotten rich off of oil, and both could spend some of their own money if necessary. It may not be, as both have been successful in raising money and were running nearly even in cash on hand through the first half of the year.

Outside groups and both party campaign committees are targeting the district with TV ads. The first ad on TV was by the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, an environmental group that labeled Pearce, who served three terms in the House, “one of the most corrupt Members of Congress.”

Pearce has attacked Teague for his support for the stimulus, cap-and-trade and “big government, liberal policies” in general.

Oklahoma


Senate

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

Coburn seriously considered leaving the Senate but ultimately announced that he would run for re-election. Democrats essentially conceded the race at that point, and Coburn has since been endorsing Republican Senate candidates in need of a boost, including Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire and Dino Rossi in Washington.

This is expected to be Coburn’s last re-election race. When he first ran in 2004, he pledged to only serve two terms in the Senate, and he has repeated that he won’t run again in 2016.

Democrat Jim Rogers, a perennial candidate who has run for Senate four times, is Coburn’s opponent.

House

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

Former youth camp director James Lankford surprised many Republicans when he emerged as one of the top two finishers in the seven-way GOP primary. He then defeated former state Rep. Kevin Calvey in the Aug. 24 runoff and is all but assured of becoming the next Member from the Sooner State.

Calvey, who had the support of the anti-tax Club for Growth, narrowly won the district’s largest county, but Lankford was victorious in the other two. Lankford finished with 34 percent to Calvey’s
32 percent.

Lankford got the endorsements of all but one of the other primary candidates, and in the runoff, he finished with a resounding 65 percent of the vote. He faces Democrat Billy Coyle, a lawyer in Oklahoma City, in the general election. In a district this conservative, though, the Republican primary is the only contest that really matters.

Texas


House

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

Edwards’ most famous constituent is President George W. Bush, and he represents the second-best-performing district for 2008 Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) still held by a Democrat.

As such, he has faced a tough re-election almost every cycle, and 2010 is no exception. Businessman Bill Flores led the five-candidate Republican primary in March with 33 percent and won the April runoff with 65 percent of the vote.

Since then the two men have tangled over Big 12 conference football, Edwards’ endorsement from the National Rifle Association, who to support for Speaker, whether to eliminate the Department of Energy, whether Flores voted in the 2008 Republican primary, and whether Flores’ energy company laid off more than 3,000 workers, among other things.

An OnMessage Inc. poll taken for the Flores campaign Sept. 18-19 showed decided voters supporting the Republican, 55 percent to 36 percent. The poll had a margin of error of 4.9 points.

Flores was named to the National Republican Congressional Committee’s list of Young Guns in early May. By the end of June, Flores had loaned his campaign $671,000.

Edwards is a tough campaigner and a savvy politician. But, at this point, it’s very difficult to see how he returns to the 112th Congress given the overwhelming Republican nature of his district and the current mood of voters.

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

Republican attorney Francisco “Quico” Canseco will give Rodriguez yet another tough challenge in this closely divided, Hispanic-majority border district.

After losing two previous GOP primary campaigns, Canseco won this year’s runoff after finishing second in the primary.

Canseco has emphasized that he would work to repeal health care reform, and he made light of a town hall where Rodriguez lost his temper when a constituent pressed him on why he voted for the legislation. Canseco was promoted to the top tier of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Young Guns program in early August. He had loaned his campaign $598,000 by the end of June.

A mid-August poll taken for the Republican showed Canseco ahead of Rodriguez, 43 percent to 37 percent — not a positive sign if it’s accurate.