Originally Published: August 23, 2010 10:41 p.m.
Does campaign spending indicate who will win an election? Or could high-profile endorsements be a better indicator? And can small-scale straw polls help predict the outcome when scientific polls are not available?
First Congressional District voters might have a better answer to those questions Tuesday night when the primary election results pour in from the crowded CD1 Republican primary race.
Fred Solop, a Northern Arizona University political science professor who is director of the NAU Social Research Lab, follows such issues closely and has been keeping tabs on the CD1 races for years.
But Solop is reticent to narrow the potential field of winners to a number smaller than half of the CD1 Republican candidates: Globe attorney Bradley Beauchamp, Flagstaff dentist Paul Gosar, Munds Park/Scottsdale conservative activist and mining lobbyist Sydney Hay, and Rusty Bowers of Superior, who is a sculptor, mining lobbyist and former state legislator.
Straw polls that The Daily Courier could locate all pointed to Beauchamp.
Beauchamp won a straw poll of about 250 Republican precinct committee members and other citizens attending a July 17 candidate forum in Payson. He got support from 51 percent compared to 17 percent for Bowers, 14 percent for Show Low doctor Steve Mehta and 9 percent for Hay.
The Yavapai Tea Party conducted an online member survey with 610 respondents in mid-August, and 35.1 percent went with Beauchamp compared to 27.5 percent for Gosar, 11.6 percent for Hay and 8.7 percent for Bowers.
But 53.7 percent of those Yavapai Tea Party respondents also picked J.D. Hayworth compared to 24.6 percent for Sen. John McCain in the U.S. Senate race, while scientific polls show McCain with a sizable lead.
Sedona Tea Party members responding to an unscientific poll also picked Beauchamp, by an even stronger margin of 75 percent compared to 9 percent for Bowers and Gosar. Sedona Tea Party leaders didn't answer a question by press time about how many people voted.
"Beauchamp just came across as a regular guy," Sedona Tea Party co-founder Kevin Fowler said. Beauchamp also has extensive knowledge of the U.S. Constitution, Fowler added.
Gosar is safely ahead in the fundraising category with about $414,000, and that money will help him gain name recognition in a field of eight candidates, Solop said. However, it doesn't necessarily indicate widespread CD1 voter support since most of the contributions came from people in the dental field throughout the state and country.
Hay's spending is nearly matching Gosar after she threw in $200,000 of her own money.
And Hay already has some name recognition from running for the CD1 Republican nomination two previous times in this century. She won the party nomination two years ago but lost to Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick in the general, 39 percent to 56 percent.
Despite the losses, Hay's name recognition is a factor in a race that covers such a huge geographical area as CD1 and its 58,000 square miles, Solop noted.
Bowers and Beauchamp both have raised about $150,000.
"Money does play a role (in elections), but we know it's not the only factor," Solop observed.
Maximum spending in the 2008 Republican primary was just about the same as 2010.
However, voter turnout could be much lower this time around, if early voting in the Republican-dominated Yavapai County is any indication.
By Friday, only 51 percent of the 48,818 people who have early ballots had returned them to the Yavapai County Recorder's Office, where officials said that number is low in comparison to other recent years.
Endorsements from high-profile figures also can help a candidate, Solop noted. They can help send a signal to voters that a candidate is legitimate.
Gosar has some high-profile endorsements from out of the district in the form of Sarah Palin and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, along with in-district Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.
Palin said Gosar "stands firmly behind Gov. Jan Brewer's efforts to protect Arizonans ... by securing the border."
Bowers, the only CD1 Republican candidate with prior legislative experience, has the support of several state legislators including Sen. Russell Pearce (author of the SB1070 immigration law), Sen. Sylvia Allen and Sen. Chuck Gray. Other supporters include State Lands Commissioner Maria Baier and Yavapai County Supervisor Carol Springer.
Beauchamp has the longest list of endorsements of any of the CD1 Republican candidates' websites.
They include Arizona Rep. Andy Tobin of Paulden, Yavapai County Supervisor Chip Davis, Yavapai County Sheriff Steve Waugh, Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan, Yavapai County Contractors Association Executive Director Sandy Griffis, the National Border Patrol Local #2544 with nearly 3,000 border patrol officer members, and chairs of the Republican Party in the counties of Greenlee, Navajo, Apache and Graham.
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