The Healthcare Football; AZ-1 Race Tightens

Arkansas Senate

There is no doubt that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare, will be a front-burner issue as we progress through campaign prime time. In the toss-up Arkansas Senate race incumbent Mark Pryor (D), a supporter of the national healthcare legislation, just released a new ad that handles the topic in rather unique fashion.

Seated at a kitchen table with his father, former Arkansas US representative, governor, and Sen. David Pryor (D), the current incumbent discusses his successful fight against cancer. In the ad, the senator and his dad outline the family’s battle with their health insurance company to pay for the treatment that ultimately proved life saving.

On the opposite side of the political spectrum, Pryor’s Republican opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4), has been framing the senator as the deciding vote for enacting the ACA legislation. Since the original bill passed the Senate by only one vote, and the Democrats were unanimous in support, each can be individually credited with being the difference maker. Therefore, we are seeing this theme appear in every Senate Republican challenger race.

Attempting to blunt Cotton’s healthcare attack that he, Sen. Pryor, was “putting everyone’s healthcare at risk” (when he voted in favor of Obamacare), the incumbent speaks to the camera and talks about helping to pass a new law that “stops insurance companies from canceling your coverage if you get sick or deny coverage for pre-existing conditions”. At no time does he identify the new law about which he speaks as the ACA. It is a sure bet that Cotton will soon clarify this “omission.”


The expansive 1st Congressional District of eastern Arizona is a swing seat that routinely flips back and forth between the two parties, and may soon do so again.

In the last two presidential elections, Pres. Barack Obama drew a consistent 47.9 and 47.8 percent in 2012 and 2008, respectively. The two Republican nominees scored 50.4% in 2012 (Mitt Romney) and 51.0 percent in 2008 (John McCain). The latter number is telling, and helps define the region as truly swing because even its home state presidential nominee could do no better than to capture a bare majority.

At the congressional level, current Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) was first elected in 2008, defeated in 2010, and re-elected in 2012. In those years, her vote percentage was 55.9 percent (2008), 43.7 percent (2010), and, in the post-redistricting election (2012), 48.8 percent. Therefore, even though she has won the district twice, Rep. Kirkpatrick has eclipsed the majority mark only one time.

Under this backdrop, and with southeast Arizona being a flash point on the explosive immigration issue, the congresswoman stands for another re-election. On Tuesday, her general election opponent will become known, and a new Republican primary poll suggests the outcome will be much closer than conventional wisdom originally forecast.

State House Speaker Andy Tobin is the nationally preferred Republican candidate, but state Rep. Adam Kwasman and rancher Gary Kiehne are both now trending within upset range.

The Missouri-based Remington Research Group independently surveyed the Republican electorate (Aug. 8/14-17; 420 likely AZ-1 Republican primary voters) and found Tobin clinging only to a 30-29-21 percnet slight edge over Kwasman and Kiehne. This tells us a dogfight is ensuing between Tobin and Kwasman, but Kiehne is also a serious factor particularly when recalling the prevalent polling inaccuracies that have plagued the 2014 election cycle.

AZ-1 is a prime conversion opportunity race for Republicans, and even more so when the immigration issue is overlaid. Though this controversial subject cuts in a different manner regionally, it is likely to help Republican candidates in point of entry areas, such as southeastern Arizona. This makes Rep. Kirkpatrick’s already sizable re-election challenge even more formidable.

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