Sabatos Crystal Ball

Arizona Races

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Arizona (01)

Outlook: Toss-up


November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Rep. Rick Renzi (R) won reelection over Ellen Simon (D) with 51% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Rick Renzi (R) will win reelection over Ellen Simon (D). The Crystal Ball knows that Renzi had no problem solidifying his base in the 2004 election, but it wasn’t all that long ago he scored a narrow open seat victory in this marginal district. Renzi has received some bad press over the past few weeks concerning personal land dealings; the allegations won’t be sorted out until after the election, but we still predict Renzi will escape with a narrow win.


Candidates

Rick Renzi (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $1,908,442.07 | Total Spent: $1,464,408.95
Website

Ellen Simon – Democrat – Total Raised: $570,142.66 | Total Spent: $1,204,868.50
Website

Arizona (05)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Harry Mitchell (D) unseated Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R) with 51% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Harry Mitchell (D) will unseat Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R). Democrats are betting heavily that a late push in Arizona can put many of their candidates over the top. Mitchell has received some high-profile Republican endorsements, and seems to have the momentum in what has become a very ugly race. We’ll pick Mitchell to pull the upset by a hair.

October 3, 2006 Update:

Add alleged links to Jack Abramoff and recently resigned Florida Congressman Mark Foley to the list of ammunition with which Harry Mitchell is attacking J.D. Hayworth. That’s right–Mitchell is trying to make ethics a key issue in this campaign. More specifically, he is appealing to voters to help fix what he states are the ethical problems of the current Republican-controlled Congress. As September came to a close, SurveyUSA found Hayworth leading Mitchell 52 percent to 40 percent. Will allegations and associations with negative topics in the news be enough to sway voters and close the gap? Mitchell is counting on it.

Brenan Richards, Crystal Ball Pacific Regional Correspondent

June 29, 2006 Update:

A new entry into the Dirty Thirty, the battle in this Tempe/Scottsdale district has emerged as one of the top priorities of national parties and interest groups. Since announcing his candidacy in April, former Tempe mayor and State Sen. Harry Mitchell has been the beneficiary of fundraising help from Sen. John Kerry and legendary operative James Carville, while 12-year veteran GOP Rep. J.D. Hayworth held a fundraiser with former Vice President Dan Quayle this past week.

As of the end of March, Hayworth boasted a 3-1 cash on hand advantage over his Democratic rival, and a GOP poll conducted in early June showed the incumbent up 49% to 34%. Although Mitchell is the Democrats’ dream candidate in this Republican-leaning district, Hayworth is taking nothing for granted and remains the favorite to be reelected in November.

April 11, 2006 Update:

One of the closest races in the West, this suburban/exurban battle has seen GOP Rep. J.D. Hayworth pound the immigration issue hard and State Sen. Harry Mitchell roll out a long list of GOP endorsements, some from notable former officeholders bucking their party. For now, our sense is that Hayworth maintains a narrow edge here, but it could evaporate in no time under the hot Arizona sun.


March 2006 Outlook

At this time last year, no political analyst in their right mind could have guessed Democrats would have a shot at completely erasing their four-seat deficit in Arizona’s House delegation. Yet today, a key GOP retirement in one district and allegations of impropriety in another have guaranteed the state battleground status this year. Sure, ex-Indian Affairs official Jack Jackson‘s decision to abandon his challenge to 1st District GOP Rep. Rick Renzi was a setback for national Democrats here, but these other developments have led the Crystal Ball to believe a 4-4 tie in this important Southwest battleground, while still improbable, is more possible than ever post-2006.

The GOP’s problems here started over Thanksgiving of last year, when moderate Rep. Jim Kolbe announced that his current 11th term in Congress would be his last representing this Tucson-based 8th district. Either frontrunner for the Democratic nomination promises to be a strong candidate in the general in this swing seat, and there’s a growing consensus that if conservative State Rep. Randy Graf is the GOP’s nominee, Republican chances of holding the open seat will be in some Grand Canyon-deep trouble.

Now, it appears likely Arizona Republicans will have to play some serious defense in a second district. Former state Democratic chair, Tempe mayor, and State Sen. Harry Mitchell announced he would challenge six-term GOP Rep. J.D. Hayworth in the Tempe/Scottsdale-based 5th District. Even though the district dropped strongly Democratic Indian reservation counties in 2002 redistricting and favored President Bush by a 9-point margin in 2004, Mitchell represents a top-tier Democratic recruit, and Hayworth has faced only nominal opposition since he dispatched serious challenges from Democrat Steve Owens twice in the late ’90s.

Hayworth, a former TV sportscaster, is probably no longer quite the abrasive personality he was when he first came to Congress as an insurgent, hard-right freshman in the class of 1994, but questions surrounding contributions he had accepted from now-disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff have recently hamstrung his efforts to continue broadening his electoral appeal. There’s no doubt Democrats plan to use the donations in question as ammunition against Hayworth ad nauseum over the next few months in an attempt to recreate the old ’90s portrait of Hayworth as a brash and polarizing partisan.

So, to what extent could these charges of impropriety cause headaches for Hayworth? A January poll taken by SurveyUSA for KPNX-TV Phoenix (before Mitchell’s entry into the race) shed some light on this matter: 62 percent of the 500 adults polled stated they believed Hayworth was not “telling the truth when he says he received a twenty two hundred and fifty dollar campaign contribution from Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist who has pleaded guilty to charges of fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion.” Although thi
s question’s wording is puzzlingly problematic, the level of distrust exhibited for Hayworth is somewhat startling for a 12-year incumbent.

Under Arizona’s resign-to-run law, Mitchell must forfeit his seat in the legislature in order to mount a campaign, but as a longtime area politician, there is reason to believe he will retain strong name recognition through November. By the same token, his experience as both a mayor and legislator will give Hayworth’s opposition researchers a long record of actions and votes to pick apart. For now, given the district’s considerable GOP tilt, the Crystal Ball rates this race in the Leans Republican column, but there’s no doubt this contest is on the move.

Candidates

J.D. Hayworth (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $2,526,301.14 | Total Spent: $1,843,085.80
Website

Harry Mitchell – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,440,033.75 | Total Spent: $1,047,049.68
Website

Arizona (08) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Likely Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Gabrielle Giffords (D) defeated Randy Graf (R) with 54% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Gabrielle Giffords (D) will defeat Randy Graf (R). Despite late talk of a Graf comeback, it’s obvious that both national parties gave up on this race long ago, thanks to Graf’s very hard-right views and Giffords’s personal appeal. Democrats can count on this seat as one of their three likeliest pickups in the country.

September 26, 2006 Update:

The House seat of retiring Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe makes most political analysts’ lists of possible Democratic pickups. The Republican Party poured $200,000 into the primary campaign of moderate Steve Huffman, who lost Sept. 13 to the more conservative Randy Graf, a former state representative. Graf now faces Democrat Gabrielle Giffords, a former state senator.

Brenan Richards, Crystal Ball Pacific Regional Correspondent

June 29, 2006 Update:

In the wake of moderate GOP Rep. Jim Kolbe’s decision to retire from Congress this year, this Tucson-based district is experiencing a total free-for-all on each side. The two top Democratic contenders are women: TV anchorwoman Patty Weiss and State Sen. Gabrielle Giffords. Although Weiss has more name recognition in the district at this point thanks to her former presence on Tucson news, the Crystal Ball gives a slight edge to Giffords, who has amassed the support of both EMILY’s List and the Sierra Club and leads in the money chase.

On the GOP side, anti-illegal immigration activist and former State Rep. Randy Graf continues to enjoy strong support from conservatives in his party thanks to the salience of immigration as a campaign issue in this border district. If moderate Republicans are to prevent his nomination, they will likely have to rally around either former state GOP Chair Mike Hellon or State Rep. Steve Huffman, who holds a decided financial advantage in the GOP primary and has the backing of the outgoing Kolbe.

Arizona’s September primary will leave little time for the parties to rally around their nominees and mount vigorous general election campaigns, and the Crystal Ball senses that the GOP field, deeply ideologically divided, is less likely to heal wounds quickly – especially if Graf, whom Kolbe clearly can’t stand, is the nominee. As such, this remains one of Democrats’ best takeover opportunities in the country.

February 22, 2006 Update:

The storyline hasn’t changed much here in Tucson: general election party prospects hinge almost entirely on the results of the primary election. State Sen. Gabrielle Giffords remains a strong favorite over TV anchorwoman Patty Weiss in the Democratic primary, but would then face stiff general election competition if State Rep. Steve Huffman were to prevail in the GOP’s nomination contest. And if the staunch conservative Graf were to win? Giffords would have to be considered a solid favorite to win a ticket to Washington.


February 2006 Outlook:

Republicans were dealt a significant setback in November of last year when GOP Rep. Jim Kolbe, a veteran moderate and the party’s only openly gay member of Congress, announced his retirement. Now, the GOP will be forced to play defense in this Tucson-based district, which carries a slight Republican lean but is certainly much more marginal than most other Arizona seats the party holds.

First to jump into the race on the Democratic side was State Sen. Gabrielle Giffords, a DLC Democrat and avid motorcyclist who at 34 years old can already point to a long list of personal and professional accomplishments in business and politics. Having raised an impressive $247,637.29 in the final month of 2005, she starts the race as a slight favorite for the Democratic nomination over local TV anchorwoman Patty Weiss, who also boasts strong name recognition, and several other minor candidates who had entered the race before Kolbe called it quits. Were former Tucson Mayor Tom Volgy to jump into the primary fray, he would likely also be a major factor, though he has kept mum up to this point.

Meanwhile, Republicans will likely host a more contentious primary. Current candidates include conservative, anti-immigration former State Rep. Randy Graf, who took 43 percent in a 2004 primary challenge to Kolbe and was planning on another primary challenge anyway, State Rep. Steve Huffman, and former state GOP Chair Mike Hellon, though others such as State Sen. Tim Bee could soon enter the race as well. A win in Arizona’s late primary by any one of the Republicans except Graf, who could probably never receive enthusiastic support from the outgoing Kolbe, would give this race pure Toss-up status looking ahead to November.

Candidates

Gabrielle Giffords – Democrat – Total Raised: $2,183,607.55 | Total Spent: $1,770,000.51
Website

Randy Graf – Republican – Total Raised: $984,300.29 | Total Spent: $779,849.60
Website