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Saturday, June 23, 2007

AZ-01: Dems Lining Up to Take on Renzi

If the Democrats heed Horace Greeley's advice in 2008 and "Go West" to expand their majorities in Congress, they start in Arizona's sprawling first district. An ethically challenged incumbent, a Democratic registration advantage in a state where the Dems picked up two seats in 2006 combine to make this district one of the top three Western targets.

#1) AZ-01: Renzi [wiki] (PVI R+2) (RR = Lean GOP)*
  • Democratic Line-Up: THREE declared challengers with SEVEN more rumored to be considering entering the race
  • POSSIBLE resignation, due to ethics/legal probes
  • PRIMARY challenge possible (three rumored challengers)

  • Demographics Favor Dems: The sprawling First District is a race Dems should be able to win, as Democrats hold a registration advantage (40-35%) in the district and they held Renzi to 52% in his 2006 re-election effort, despite Renzi's huge financial advantage over Dem '06 nominee Ellen Simon.

    Incumbent Corruption Top Issue: Renzi is the target of an ongoing FBI investigation. When the FBI raided his family business offices in late April, he resigned his seat on the House Intelligence Committee. Not surprisingly, Renzi makes CREW's list of 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress and it remains unclear as to whether he plans to run for another term. Regardless, local Democrats are lining up to challenge for this seat, including Winslow Mayor Allan Affeldt, Flagstaff attorney Howard Shanker, and Arizona journalist Mary Kim Titla have all declared their intention to run. In late May, CQPolitics provided a full roster of potential candidates including AZ state Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, lawyer Jim Ledbetter, businessman George Cordova, and former Casa Grande Mayor Bob Mitchell.

    Possible Resignation: Immediately after the FBI raids, some GOP leaders considered Renzi's troubles serious enough to lead some to urge Renzi resigning as their best hope to retain GOP control of the seat. These rumors have died down in recent weeks as the FEC cleared Renzi of some of the ethical questions hanging over his head. Back in April, the Phoenix Business Journal listed state Senate President Ken Bennett, state Sen. Tom O'Halleran and state Rep. Bill Konopnicki as possible Republican replacements if Renzi was forced from office. Two months later, it appears Renzi is determined to hold onto the seat and has dug his heals in. If Renzi does resign, the Arizona governor would call for a special election that would result in a primary within 75 - 100 days of his resignation.


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