Party leaders pick favorites in CD-1 race
Perhaps no one will ever know whether the chicken or the egg came first in the hotly contested race for Arizona's open 1st Congressional District seat.
Will national and state party support help Ann Kirkpatrick and Sydney Hay emerge as winners in the CD-1 primary election Tuesday, or are the parties just following the voters' lead?
Whether it affects the outcome of the race in this huge rural district or not, national and state party support for certain candidates before contested primaries is causing some local party officials to cry foul.
National Democratic Party leaders have concluded that Flagstaff attorney Ann Kirkpatrick, who is a former state legislator, has the best chance to win the open seat that indicted Republican Rick Renzi is vacating at the end of the year.
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Congressman Harry Mitchell and Gov. Janet Napolitano also have endorsed Kirkpatrick. The governor appears on more than one of Kirkpatrick's campaign mailers.
State Republican Party leaders have concluded that Arizona Mining Association President and conservative lobbyist Sydney Hay, a Republican who has homes in Munds Park and Scottsdale, has the best chance to win. She previously ran in 2002 and lost. Her ads already are focusing on Kirkpatrick.
The non-partisan Cook Political Report first labeled the CD-1 race as a "toss up," but on Aug. 7 it moved to "leans Democratic," concluding that "Democrats got their top choice to run here, and Republicans did not."
Republican leaders who considered running for the seat but then backed out included former Arizona Senate President Ken Bennett of Prescott, Arizona Sen. Tom O'Halleran of Sedona and Arizona Corporation Commissioner Kris Mayes.
Red to Blue
Before the slate of candidates was even final, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) placed Kirkpatrick in its "Red to Blue" program that brings financial, communications and strategic support to a candidate. She faces competition from three other Democrats.
"I think it's fair," Kirkpatrick said, noting that the party won't give her the $1.7 million it set aside for TV ads unless she wins the primary.
The program offers strategic support before the primary, and donors notice, said Yoni Cohen, western regional press secretary for the DCCC.
"We heard from a lot of different people that Ann generates the most excitement and support," Cohen said. "We followed the lead of the people of Arizona."
But some local voters don't like it, and the other candidates certainly do not.
"The DCCC decided it's going to buy a candidate, and buy them early," charged Prescott Valley resident Kathy Thompson after a recent candidate forum. She supports Democrat Howard Shanker, an attorney with homes in Flagstaff and Ahwatukee.
"I think it stinks," Shanker said of the party support for Kirkpatrick. "It compromises our democracy."
This isn't the first time state Democratic leaders have thrown their support behind a CD-1 candidate facing primary competition this century, but in the past, it didn't work.
"CD-1 voters don't like to be told who to vote for. History has shown that," said competitor Mary Kim Titla, a member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe who publishes a magazine for American Indian youth.
Yavapai County Democratic Chair Ben Furlong said he has mixed feelings about the action, but it has been divisive and could affect the outcome of the race. He and other county leaders avoid supporting candidates in contested primaries.
"There were some choices made from the outside (in the past), and they were not good choices, and I resented it at the time," Furlong said.
Rule 11 letter
Also before the candidate petition filing deadline, the three Arizona Republican State Committee members signed a "Rule 11" letter (available on gop.com) that restricted the party's voter vault information to Hay.
The Rule 11 letter allowed the national Republican Party to start supporting Hay in the primary even though three other Republicans are in the race.
"It doesn't mean we endorse her," said national committeeman Bruce Ash, who co-signed the letter. "It gives her and the Republican National Committee an opportunity to gear up for the general election.
"It is a vehicle that allows a candidate to facilitate fundraising for their campaign.
"The voters are always going to be the ultimate deciders."
Hay said she doesn't even use the state party's voter vault because it's voter information is too outdated, and the Republicans are just trying to hold onto their seat because they didn't think the other Republican candidates were viable.
As with the Democratic compe-titors, her Republican competitors don't like what's going on.
"It's Maricopa County trying to tell us who to vote for," said Republican competitor Sandra Livingstone, an attorney who was raised in Prescott but spent most of her adult life working abroad.
Several county Republican chairs opposed the state party action, Coconino County Republican Chair John Echols said.
"It's about the political structure of the state Republican Party who do not reside in CD-1 meddling and trying to force a candidate down our throat," Echols said.
He and other county chairs in CD-1 gave the other candidates access to the voter vault information, Echols said.
"I think they (state leaders) flat wanted Sidney, and that was very frustrating for me," said Echols, who supports Livingstone.
He also disagrees about how the state party leaders interpret the national Rule 11, and wants to discuss it at the next state meeting in January.
The Yavapai Repub-lican Party unanimously approved a motion that states, "We need to send a letter to our state chairman which conveys our outrage at the directives outlined in Rule No. 11 and its unconstitutionality."
A letter from Yavapai Republican Chair Jan Smith to Arizona Republican Party Chair Randy Pullen says Rule 11 is unconstitutional because it "indicates that the Republican Party at the county level has no say in whom we are allowed to endorse. Only the state party can name the one Republican candidate as a nominee, and apparently we are expected to follow suit."
The Yavapai Republican Men's Forum also wrote to Pullen about its concerns related to the Rule 11 action. Forum President Bob Burges listed six concerns, including, "The negative perception that the State Executive Committee is the one determining our Congressional candidate, not the people," and "It hinders the democratic process and ultimately damages the Republican Party by giving the perception that we utilize the 'good ol' boy' system
for selecting candi-dates."
Pullen and Ash said they will support whoever wins the Re-publican primary.
"We are not trying to undermine anyone's efforts," Pullen wrote to angry Dewey Republican Frances Barwood, a former Phoenix City Council member. "None of the other candidates have demonstrated the characteristics necessary to win a general election."
If fundraising is any indicator, state party officials could be right about the frontrunners.
"Generally speaking, money is an important indicator of strength," said Fred Solop, chair of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University. "So we do use that as a benchmark of how well a candidate is doing, although it is not necessarily true that a candidate with the most money is going to win."
Kirkpatrick is far out in front in the fundraising category, raising $1.1 million as of Aug. 13. About one-fourth of the money came from political action committees (PACs).
Titla, who hopes to be the first American Indian woman in Congress, has raised $213,000 with the help of more than 50 Indian tribes across the nation.
Shanker has raised $192,000 mostly through individual contributions.
Hay has raised $412,000, including $57,400 from PACs and her own $70,000 loan.
Livingstone has raised $227,000 but $200,000 of that came out of her own pocket, despite no indication of wealth on her personal financial disclosure.
Tucson Electric Power VP Tom Hansen of St. Johns hasn't raised any money, but he put about $17,000 of his own money into his Republican campaign.
Democrat and community activist Jeffrey Brown of Munds Park; Republican Barry Hall, who is a retired Baptist minister from Sedona; and lone Independent candidate Brent Maupin, an engineer/architect/contractor from the Village of Oak Creek, apparently haven't raised or spent enough money ($5,000) to file a report.
In the Legislative District One Senate race, which is the only contested LD-1 race, Prescott rancher Steve Pierce also has committed a substantial amount of personal money to the race. Pierce is challenging incumbent Arizona Sen. Tom O'Halleran of Sedona.
While both candidates have raised about $58,000 in individual contributions, Pierce has added $160,000 of his own money.
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