Sunday, February 13, 2011

Kyl's decision not to seek 4th term could set off political wave

From: AZ Central

U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl's seismic decision not to seek a fourth term has put into motion a chain reaction that could dramatically shake up Arizona's political hierarchy.

The lure of an open Senate seat - the state has had only three in the past 40 years, and this is the first since 1994 - attracted a legion of interested parties in just the first few hours, including a number of sitting U.S. House lawmakers.

Many will quickly abandon the notion, but others will forge ahead, possibly resigning seats or declining to seek re-election to their own jobs to pursue what, for most, will be a failed bid for office in a state where evolving voter demographics are making it increasingly difficult for candidates deemed too far left or too far right to win.

"It's just going to continue the tradition of wild and woolly elections in Arizona," said Bruce Merrill, a veteran political scientist and pollster and professor emeritus at Arizona State University. "I go back 40 years here and, being in my field of political behavior, this is like working in a candy store."

Three congressional seats could open up if U.S. Reps. Jeff Flake, Trent Franks and Ed Pastor enter the race.

The number could rise to four depending on wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Before she was shot in the head Jan. 8 near Tucson, Giffords was considered a potential, perhaps even likely, 2012 Senate contender, too.

And regardless of any House seats affected by the Senate competition, Arizona also will get a new, ninth congressional district as a result of population growth documented in the 2010 census. The state's entire congressional map will be redrawn, adding to the confusion and anxiety.

Reverberations likely will be felt downstream as upwardly mobile state legislators, mayors and elected county officials weigh whether to step down as required by Arizona's resign-to-run law to get an early fundraising jump on rivals. State lawmakers also are barred from raising money while the Legislature is in regular session.

Speculative list grows

Kyl, R-Ariz., announced Thursday that he will retire when his current term ends in January 2013. By the next day, the speculative list of Republican and Democratic successors had grown to a ridiculous length, ranging from candidates who are ready, willing and able to run to others who are, to be charitable, much longer shots.

Some are moving ahead with plans while others may just appreciate being included in the conversation.

"There are serious people who have had long careers and certain accomplishments, but that doesn't necessarily make them a serious contender for a U.S. Senate seat," said Stuart Rothenberg, a national political analyst who publishes the nonpartisan "Rothenberg Political Report." "Some people won't be able to raise the money. Some people are too liberal or too conservative. Some people don't have the kind of personality that you need to win."

Besides Giffords and Pastor, the potential Democratic field includes former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, now President Barack Obama's Homeland Security secretary; Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon; Dennis Burke, the U.S. attorney for Arizona; Felecia Rotellini, the 2010 Democratic nominee for Arizona attorney general; former Arizona Democratic Party Chairman Jim Pederson; and Fred DuVal, a longtime party activist and Arizona Board of Regents member.

Republicans could include Flake, Franks, former U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth, former state Attorney General Grant Woods, former Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, former state Treasurer Dean Martin, Maricopa County Supervisor Andy Kunasek and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu. Former U.S. Rep. John Shadegg was considered an early GOP front-runner but announced Friday that he had concluded the timing was wrong for a Senate campaign. Freshman U.S. Rep. Ben Quayle, R-Ariz., also says he has no plans to run for Kyl's seat.

The names of many more past and present political officeholders and candidates have come up.

"You kind of have a responsibility to yourself to look at an open Senate seat because it just doesn't come around that often," said Jennifer Duffy, who analyzes Senate races for another newsletter, the nonpartisan, Washington, D.C.-based "Cook Political Report." "I think most of these people will look at it and opt not to do it."

Who can win?

The assorted possible Senate candidates would bring various strengths and weaknesses to a statewide race.
Cash will be a crucial factor in paring down the pack. Candidates who have a talent for fundraising or who are wealthy enough to bankroll their own campaigns will have an advantage. Pederson, a retail developer, largely self-financed his unsuccessful 2006 challenge to Kyl.

Kyl told The Arizona Republic he decided to make his plans known early so that candidates could get a head start on their fundraising. If a Republican can pull far enough ahead in the money chase fast enough, Democrats might be discouraged from sinking too much money into the race, he said.

"I would have preferred to wait awhile, but to be fair, you really need to be starting now," said Kyl, who doesn't plan to anoint a possible GOP successor, at least at the start. "I had to raise over $15 million in 2006. This time, for an open-seat race, it could be even more than that."

In 2010, U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of Arizona's best-known politicians, spent more than $20 million in his bid for a fifth term. He smashed a GOP primary challenge from Hayworth and easily defeated Democratic opponent Rodney Glassman. But Kyl called that spending "an aberration" because McCain was in the unusual position of having access to leftover funds from his 2008 presidential campaign.

Political experts warn that some candidates popular with their party's base may be too far to the left or too far to the right to win the general election in a state where independent-voter registration is on the rise.

Independents now outnumber Democrats in Arizona.

"Clearly, you need someone who has got the kind of broad appeal that isn't perceived as too narrowly partisan, but who is on the right side of the issues," said Margaret Kenski, a Tucson-based political scientist and pollster who has worked for Kyl and other Republicans.

Her research indicates that the top issues in Arizona right now are the economy, jobs and deficit. Illegal immigration remains a concern but is no longer deemed the biggest one, she said.

Some of the would-be senators who could prove formidable in the general election might have difficulty making it out of their primaries.

Woods, a moderate-to-liberal Republican, is said to be considering an independent campaign that would allow him to avoid the judgment of conservative primary voters.

Flake also is expected to draw opposition from some "tea party" elements in the Republican Party. Though Flake's credentials as a fiscal conservative are well-established - the influential national anti-tax group Club for Growth on Thursday hailed him as "one of America's most vocal champions for limited government and economic liberty" - he has angered some grass-roots GOP activists with his support for comprehensive immigration reform, which opponents say would provide "amnesty" for illegal immigrants. In December, Flake crossed party lines as one of only 15 House Republicans who voted to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

The general notion that a political centrist would have a better shot at replacing Kyl than a more partisan warrior was echoed by others who spoke to The Republic.

"To get elected, in my opinion, you have to be in the middle," said former U.S. Sen. Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz., Kyl's predecessor who served three terms from 1977 to 1995. "Because Arizonans are pretty good at voting for people in the middle."

To that end, DeConcini suggested Napolitano, Burke and DuVal, whom he described as centrists, would be among the Democrats' strongest potential candidates.

Sen. Giffords?

Giffords, who won re-election to her third House term last year in a swing district and has demonstrated fundraising prowess, immediately would have been one of her party's Senate frontrunners. Some say she could be again.

A national Democratic source told The Republic as early as October 2009 that Giffords was signaling interest in the 2012 race.

"I would not hold my breath," Giffords said at the time, noting she still had a 2010 House campaign ahead of her.

Merrill predicted that Giffords, if she can recover from her head injury, could be unbeatable. But that's a big "if." He doubted she could run a campaign from a hospital room. Giffords is undergoing rehabilitation in Houston and recently has started speaking again.

"She has to be ambulatory, she has to be articulate, she has to make public appearances," Merrill said. "If she's walking around and talking and making cogent statements, I think the outpouring of support would be absolutely enormous."

Rothenberg said Giffords would have been "a perfect candidate," but now it's "way, way too premature" to contemplate a Giffords Senate bid.

"There are so many unanswered questions about her condition that it makes me uncomfortable even to hear her name being floated, to be honest," Rothenberg said.

A Giffords aide declined to discuss the prospect of Giffords running for the Senate. He said her congressional staff is focused on constituent casework while she recovers.

"The speculation swirls around us and we're going to do our best to let that stay on the outside because we've got so much to do right here," said C.J. Karamargin, a Giffords spokesman.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

wibiya widget