Tag Archives: Jon Kyl

Franks Flirting with Arizona Senate; All House Races Potentially Competitive

Reports continue to emanate from Arizona that Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ-2) will soon join the Republican primary battle for Sen. Jon Kyl’s Senate seat. Mr. Kyl already has announced that he will not seek a fourth term in 2012. So far, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) is the only major office holder officially in the race.

Should Franks and Flake square-off, it is likely that the latter will be the better funded of the two as the Phoenix-area congressman has become a prolific national fundraiser without the aid of PAC contributions. Mr. Flake ended 2010 with just over $627,000 in the bank. Franks, on the other hand, has not performed as well in the money-gathering arena. Also originally elected in 2002, he continues to carry a debt of more than $264,000 and reports only $15,658 cash-on-hand at the end of last year.

If he is to upset Flake for his party’s Senate nomination, Franks will have to become the Arizona Tea Party’s cause celeb and generate a large volume of financial contributions from conservatives most concerned with social issues. Both men are among the most conservative House members, though Flake drifts toward the Libertarian philosophy on several issues.

Franks’ appearance in the race could change the equation dramatically and will be a significant factor in determining the outcome. He begins in the underdog position against Flake in a one-on-one race but, if the field becomes crowded, the candidate with the most fervent support within a political base is the most likely person to win, particularly in places like Arizona that don’t feature a post-election run-off between the top two primary finishers.

Democrats have yet to make many moves to field a candidate, largely because it is so early in the cycle. A group of stronger contenders entering the Republican side leads to a tougher primary battle, thus increasing the chances of a fractured outcome that could produce a weak nominee as we saw in places like Colorado and Nevada during the 2010 campaign. Arizona Democrats are hoping such will happen here resulting in an improved opportunity in the general election.

The Senate race will become increasingly interesting, but so will House delegation developments. With Flake already vacating his seat, and Franks potentially following suit and run for the Senate, at least three Arizona congressional seats, and maybe four, will be open. Democratic Rep. Ed Pastor (D-AZ-4) also said this week that he is assessing his own chances of running in the statewide contest. In addition to the vacating members, reapportionment has expanded the state’s representation to nine seats, meaning one new district will be electing a congressman for the first time.

Aside from the competitive open seats, three freshmen incumbents, Reps. Paul Gosar (R-AZ-1), Ben Quayle (R-AZ-3), and David Schweikert (R-AZ-5), will all be seeking their first re-election and can expect credible opponents.

But the political upheaval is not confined to the Republicans. Obviously, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8), who is still recovering from being shot in the head earlier in the year, is not yet in any condition to determine what future political moves she will make, if any. All scenarios involving her potential candidacy for any office is pure speculation at this point. And the possibility that her 8th district may be open next year must be considered.

Finally, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-7) also is in a potentially vulnerable situation. Despite representing a Voting Rights Act district, Grijalva found himself competitively challenged by GOP scientist Ruth McClung in 2012, and won with only 50% of the vote. Redistricting will change southern Arizona, but it remains to be seen who will be the initial beneficiaries of the new boundaries.

In conclusion, should all of the House members considering the Senate race actually run, it is possible, particularly when the Arizona Redistricting Commission actions pertaining to the state’s new congressional map are considered, that all nine of the state’s seats could host significant campaigns. In what used to be one of the most quiet and politically stable states in the Union, Arizona politics are moving in the exact opposite medium in the 21st Century. A great deal of attention will again be paid to this state in the 2012 election cycle.
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New Political Heat in the Arizona Desert

Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake (R-6)

More torrid political action is coming to Arizona. As expected, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) announced yesterday that he will leave the House at the end of next year to run for the Senate, now that Republican Whip Jon Kyl (R) has made his retirement plans known. Flake, who attracts some national attention for opposing earmarks and his fervent support of reducing government spending, may have the right message for a like-minded constituency at exactly the proper time. He certainly will be formidable in a Republican primary and, today, must be cast as the general election favorite too.

The Congressman’s short-term objective is to discourage other top Republicans from challenging him, thus making his road to the GOP nomination smooth and easy. Several already have officially declined to run, including former Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ-3) and freshmen Reps. Ben Quayle (R-AZ-3) and David Schweikert (R-AZ-5), in addition to retired NFL quarterback Kurt Warner. Another office-holder previously thinking about the Senate race has reportedly altered his plans. Russell Pearce, the Arizona Senate president, is said to be mounting a campaign for Flake’s open House seat, wherever it might be drawn, rather than enter the statewide fray.

The Flake decision also impacts redistricting. With an incumbent-less suburban Republican seat unprotected, it becomes easier for map drawers to make drastic changes in the congressional map.

Politics in the Grand Canyon State are still in a relative state of chaos, rendering it almost impossible to accurately forecast future elections. Considering this tentative back-drop, it appears that Mr. Flake’s decision to run for Senate is a sensible one.
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What’s Next in New York and Arizona?

The surprise resignation of Rep. Chris Lee (R-NY-26) will soon set off yet another special congressional election in New York. The 26th district, stretching from the Buffalo suburbs to the outlying Rochester area, is strongly Republican. With a new, short-term incumbent, however, the district stands a chance of being collapsed in the 2012 redistricting plan, since the state loses two congressional seats in reapportionment. Therefore, redistricting is certainly a factor for the potential candidates assessing their special election chances and prospects for a long tenure in the House. Republicans will have the advantage in this short-term contest.

Previously, when then-Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY-20) was appointed to the Senate, a special election was held to choose a replacement for the House seat. Democrat Scott Murphy prevailed, but current Rep. Chris Gibson (R) subsequently defeated him in November. Rep. John McHugh’s (R-NY-23) appointment as Army Secretary led to a divisive special election allowing Democrat Bill Owens to slip through a three-way contest to capture the normally Republican seat. Owens went on to win a full term last November in similar fashion.

The major political parties will caucus and select a nominee; thus, there will be no primary election. Early reports suggest that Republican Assemblywoman Jane Corwin is already beginning to assemble a campaign operation. Among Democrats, Erie County legislator Kathy Konst has the potential of quickly becoming a consensus candidate. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has a wide time frame in which to schedule the vote but once he does, the election will be held just 30-40 days from his official call.

In Arizona, Sen. Jon Kyl’s (R) announcement yesterday that he will not seek a fourth term sets the state’s political apparatus in motion. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) previously indicated interest in making a statewide bid should Kyl retire. The five-term Representative is a nationally known budget hawk, and has a strong following in the state. He has over $627,000 in the bank according to his year-end financial statement. The only other veteran Republican congressman in the Arizona delegation, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ-2) is more likely to remain in the House.

For the Democrats, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ (D-AZ-8) name is already surfacing, but the congresswoman, recovering from a senseless assassination attempt, is not currently in a position to run a grueling statewide campaign. Had it not been for the tragic Tucson shooting that injured her and killed six others, Rep. Giffords would very likely have joined the field of Senate candidates and been among the favorites to capture not only the Democratic nomination, but possibly the seat itself. Homeland Security Secretary and former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano is also being mentioned as a person having interest in running. But recent polling indicates that her stint in Washington has cost her dearly among her former constituents.

Turning to other potential Senate candidates, former Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ-3) is saying he might have interest in such a race. Former Attorney General Grant Woods, known as a liberal Republican, is another mentioned as a potential candidate. Ex-Democratic Party state chairman and 2006 Senatorial nominee Jim Pederson will also find his name prominently on a list of potential office seekers. Former state Treasurer Dean Martin (R), who briefly challenged Gov. Jan Brewer in the Republican primary, is another GOP possibility.

This race will be hard-fought, as the state is rife with controversial issues and the voting base becomes ever more marginal and competitive. Republicans will start out with an advantage, but this race will be one to watch throughout the 2012 election cycle.
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Arizona Speculation: Is Kyle In or Out?

Public Policy Polling (Jan. 28-30; 599 registered AZ voters) just completed a survey of the new in-cycle senate race featuring three-term incumbent Jon Kyl (R). Disregarding the burgeoning rumors that the senator may decide to retire, the poll shows him to be in sound political position. The retirement conjecture gains more credibility, however, when observing that the normally cautious Kyl is not engaged in any overt action to formulate a 2012 campaign structure.

If he runs, the senator fares well against every potential Democratic opponent. The person doing best against him, former Attorney General Terry Goddard, fell victim to Gov. Jan Brewer (R) in the 2010 election. Goddard trails Kyl 40-50% according to the PPP data. The senator does even better against Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon (54-33%) and defeated Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1; 51-35%). He posts a healthy 53-41% margin over Homeland Security Secretary and former Gov. Janet Napolitano. The Secretary’s job performance in Washington has clearly turned her own electorate against her. Riding a wave of Arizona popularity when she headed to Washington, PPP now detects her personal approval rating to be a miserable 40:55% favorable to unfavorable. These numbers represent a huge negative turnaround and suggest she would fare very poorly in an Arizona statewide race.

If Sen. Kyl decides to retire, who might run in his place? Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) already is saying that he considers the Senate an option if the seat is open. He’s the logical person from the congressional delegation to make the attempt to run statewide. He has solid conservative/libertarian credentials and has made a national name for himself as a spending/anti-earmark hawk at precisely the right time. Three of the other congressional Republicans are freshmen who more than likely would not yet be ready to make a statewide bid. Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ-2) has never been noted as a powerful fundraiser or campaigner, so it is also doubtful that he would take the plunge.

Democrats are much weaker. Goddard, who appears to be their best candidate, already lost a race to Brewer by a substantial margin. Gordon, as the mayor of the state’s dominant city — a position that usually does not prove itself as a good launching pad to higher office in any state — has poor favorability ratings. According to the PPP poll, his personal approval ratio is 19:37%.

Normally, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8) would certainly be in the conversation as a top potential statewide candidate. But, the tragic and senseless shooting that leaves her recovering in a Houston medical facility almost assuredly takes her out of any 2012 statewide conversation, thus leaving the Democrats in a bind. Judging from the approval ratings of the other well-known Arizona political names, Giffords would probably have been the party’s strongest candidate.

Sen. Kyl promises to make and announce a re-election decision before February ends. Either way, Republicans will be favored to hold the seat in November of 2012, but their road to their victory will likely be smoother if the incumbent seeks another term.
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Senate Race Tight in Montana; Dems to Make Connecticut Intersting

Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL) will officially announce his challenge to first-term Sen. Jon Tester (D) this coming weekend in what will become one of the nation’s top statewide campaigns. In 2006, Tester unseated three-term Sen. Conrad Burns (R), in a strong Democratic year running against a scandal-tainted incumbent. Burns was scrutinized by the Justice Department as part of its exhaustive Abramoff lobbying scandal investigation. Soon after the election, the defeated Senator received a DOJ letter fully clearing him of any wrongdoing. Tester won the election by seven-tenths of one percentage point, or 2,847 votes, one of the closest results in the nation.

Rehberg originally won the at-large House seat in 2000. He had previously served as the state’s lieutenant governor and won three elections to the Montana House of Representatives. The congressman begins his challenge with more than $500,000 in the bank, according to his just-released year-end disclosure statement. Sen. Tester reported just under $503,000 cash-on-hand at the end of September. In a race with major national implications, money will be no object for either candidate, particularly when campaigning before such a small electorate.

Along with his pre-announcement indication that he would run for the Senate, Rep. Rehberg also released the results of his internal statewide poll. The Opinion Diagnostics study was conducted of 400 Montana registered voters on Jan. 5, and gave the Republican congressman a 49-43% advantage over the Democratic senator. Count on this being a difficult election. Rehberg feels the presidential year helps him, but Pres. Obama was competitive in Montana during the 2008 campaign. John McCain ended up carrying the state, but barely, 49-47%. Rate this campaign as an early cycle toss-up.

Connecticut: The open Connecticut Senate race is already turning into a mad dash for the finish even though we are more than a year from crowning a winner. As in Texas among the Republicans, the new senator will be determined in the Democratic primary, but an intra-party war is about to commence. With Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) and former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz already officially running, it appears that Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT-2) is also making decided moves to join the field of senatorial candidates. To make matters even more interesting, Ted Kennedy, Jr., son of the late Massachusetts Senator, is making public appearances in Connecticut.

Nebraska: A new Public Policy Polling survey (Jan. 26-27; 977 registered Nebraska voters) is confirming a mid-December Magellan Strategies poll that reveals Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) is in deep political trouble. According to the data, Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) enjoys a 50-39% advantage over Sen. Nelson. State Treasurer Don Stenberg leads by four points, 45-41%. These numbers are similar to the Magellan findings, suggesting that Nelson’s situation continues to lag without improvement. Along with the open North Dakota seat, Nebraska continues to be one of the GOP’s best national conversion opportunities.

Arizona: Not yet quelling retirement rumors, Sen. Jon Kyl (R) says he will announce whether or not he will seek a fourth term in mid-February. Kyl has not been running his traditionally aggressive pre-election fundraising operation, causing some to speculate that he may be leaning toward retirement. Democrats would immediately contest Arizona in an open seat situation, as the state is continues to stray to the political middle. Depending upon candidates, this race will probably start in the toss-up column.
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