14 Days to Election Day: Arizona

At the beginning of this presidential campaign, the Obama team believed that Arizona would be in play for their side. However, that dream was soon tempered by reality and Romney should garner their 11 electoral votes. In 2008, McCain won by slightly less than 200,000 votes. Perhaps, the low percentage of the vote- 53%- gave the Democrats a false sense of hope, but this writer cannot see an Obama victory here. In fact, I will venture that Romney will improve on McCain’s numbers.

In the Senate, GOP incumbent John Kyl is retiring. Kyl has been a tireless opponent of earmarks and has practically dedicated his Senatorial tenure towards combatting them. On the Democratic side challenging to take this seat from Republicans is former Bush surgeon general Rich Carmona while current Third District representative Jeff Flake will run for the Republicans. Unlike Carmona, Flake had to go through what many believed would be a tough primary against real estate investor Wil Cardon. However, it was not even close as Flake won his primary easily with almost 70% of the vote. The primary campaign was testy at times pitting Republican against Republican but eventually everyone rallied behind Flake. He enters the general election the favorite and despite Carmona’s internal polling showing a dead heat, independent polling gives Flake an average four point lead. Recently, some advertisements have portrayed Carmona as not the person he makes himself to be. One is a testimonial about how a female supervisor while Carmona was in the Bush Administration was afarid because of his temper and behavior. Since that ad began running, Flake opened up a 6 point lead blunting any momentum that Carmona may have had. Thus far, Flake has been the better fundraiser outdoing Carmona 5-3 with an almost equal breakdown of funding sources. Therefore, this seat will remain in Republican hands come November.

Arizona gained a seat in the House. As a result of redistricting, there was some rearrangement of the chairs including one Republican versus Republican primary. In the First District, incumbent Paul Gosar for the GOP moves over to the 4th leaving this an open race between former representative Ann Kirkpatrick who won in 2008 only to be ousted in 2010. Although being a vocal opponent of cap and trade legislation, she also voted for Obamacare and the stimulus. Jonathan Paton is her opponent who lost a 2010 primary bid to a Tea Party backed candidate. This race, although it tends to lean towards Kirkpatrick, could be closer in the end than most pundits like to think. Obamacare looms largely unpopular in Arizona and her vote in 2009 actually cost her job in 2010. And generally speaking, the First is somewhat conservative. Going against the grain of most pundits, I am predicting a minor upset here with a Kirkpatrick loss. In the 2nd, Ron Barber won a special election to succeed the retired Gabrielle Giffords and now seeks a full term against Martha McSally. She lost to Jesse Kelly in the special GOP primary in the 2nd district special election and became the GOP favorite when Kelly decided against a rematch against Barber. Barber will likely win, but this may be a race to watch.

The Third and Fourth Districts are uninteresting as Democrat Raul Grijalva is expected to crush Gabriela Mercer and Paul Gosar, the Republican incumbent, is running unopposed in the 4th. With Jeff Flake’s senatorial candidacy, the Fifth District became an open race in one of the most conservative districts in Arizona. Hence, former representative Matt Salmon is expected to defeat Spencer Morgan in this race. The Sixth was interesting because of a Republican vs. Republican primary pitting David Schweikert against Ben Quayle. Schweikert came out the winner and will likely beat his Democratic opponent, former state representative Matt Jette. Neither Democrat Ed Pastor in the 7th or Republican Trent Franks are expected to have any problems in their bids for reelection in the Seventh and Eighth Districts, respectively.

That leaves only the new district- the 9th. This will be an interesting race to say the least. It was deliberately drawn to be competitive. On the Republican side is Vernon Parker. He is known in Arizona politics and has worked in Washington in both Bush administrations. He was most recently on the City Council of Paradise Valley. In 2010, he was seen as a viable candidate to run against eventual gubernatorial winner, Jan Brewer, but instead opted for a run to succeed retiring Republican representative John Shaddeg which was ultimately a failure.

What can be said about his opponent, Democratic state senator Kyrsten Sinema. Openly bisexual, she led the fight in the state legislature to keep the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman off the ballot, denying Arizona’s voters the chance to decide the issue. She has been linked to the Communist Party with the Arizona Communist Party publication calling her out by name. Sinema also gave a rather profanity laced interview with a Phoenix magazine where she basically denounced stay-at-home mothers as a false feminism. She claims that her interest in politics piqued at an early age when she came to reject the politics of her parent’s Mormon faith. She has also been linked to some Wicca (modern day witchcraft) anti-war group. In short, she is not your typical politician and that may eventually be her undoing. Even in a district that leans slightly Republican, her liberalism might just be a tad too much for its constituents. Thus far, she has out-raised her opponent 7-2, but cannot seem to pull too far ahead in the polls. For that reason, although I originally had Sinema winning this district, perhaps it is time to give Parker a better chance. However, and again because I view this from a worst case scenario for the GOP, I will give the race to Sinema, but would not be slightly surprised if Parker pulls this one off.

There are some interesting questions on the Arizona ballot. The first would increase the terms of judges from six to eight years, but lower the retirement age from 75 to 70. A real important question would change the way elections are conducted in the state. Instead of the current system, they would move to an open system much like that in neighboring California where the top two vote-getters from the primary are then pitted against one another in the general election despite party affiliation. Another question would allow the state legislature to exchange lands held in trust while a fourth deals with disbursements from the permanent fund.

There is also a proposed property tax break for businesses that purchase new equipment and another that would allow the legislature to enact laws that limit the growth of local property tax valuation assessments. The final question of interest is a crime victim’s protection act. Basically, it would shield from criminal prosecution or civil liability anyone who causes death or injury to another if that person was involved in the committing of a felony. If a law-abiding system intervened in a robbery, for example, and shot the thief, the thief’s family could not then sue the shooter. Think Robert Zimmerman and you get the picture as the law would codify this shield against prosecution or civil liability.

In conclusion: Mitt Romney wins Arizona’s 11 electoral votes while Jeff Flake will keep Kyl’s senate seat in the hands of the GOP. Republicans control the House delegation 5-3 right now. Come November 7th, Republicans will have the lead 5-4 in seats.

Running totals thus far: Obama leads in the electoral vote count 206-170 while the Senate is tied 37-37 and lead in the House 154-145 at this point.

Next: Indiana