KNAU and Arizona News
Mon September 1, 2008
Renzi's indictment clouds the CD-1 race
By Laurel Morales
Flagstaff, AZ – The indictment of three term incumbent Congressman Rick Renzi earlier this year has cast a long shadow over the primary campaign. He's pled not guilty, but many are wondering how the so called Renzi Effect will play out in the First Congressional District race.
Arizona Corporation Commissioner Kris Mayes is a Republican, who says her Party has to be aggressive if the GOPs want to keep this seat.
MAYES: You got to be honest about that. The Renzi situation was difficult is difficult for the Republican Party. No doubt that is going to have an impact on the race. Additionally we've got a lot of work to do in the Republican Party sort of rebuilding our party trying to strengthen it.
Mayes had been tapped to run for the open seat, but decided to stick out her term on the commission. She wasn't alone; a few other Republicans decided this wasn't their year to run.
MAYES: A lot of heavy hitters in my party including myself and Ken Bennett and Steve Pierce and others took a look at it and said this may not be the year to make this run. That having been said I think we will come out of the primary with a good candidate.
Mayes supports Sandra Livingstone, one of four Republicans running.
Whoever wins the primary will face a well-funded opposition. Democratic frontrunner Ann Kirkpatrick has already spent about $700,000 dollars.
Mayes is concerned about her party raising enough money to win.
MAYES: They're throwing a lot of money at this race and that's tough to deal with if you're a challenger. The Republican Party is going to have to find a way to spend enough money to be competitive. We're probably not going to be able to spend as much money as the Democrats. I hope that we can focus on this race because it matters for Arizona and it matters for the country.
Northern Arizona University political science chair Fred Solop says both parties need this seat to have a Congressional majority the next two years.
Solop says Renzi poses a challenge but not necessarily a problem for the Republican Party.
SOLOP: Ted Stevens in Alaska who also has been indicted just won his primary election. So we see that just because you've been indicted the district is going to turn against you or think that there's a problem here or say there's an issue that all republicans are affected. Democrats will paint a broad picture here the Republican Party is not an ethical party. Republicans will resist that and say we're not Rick Renzi. So while Democrats try to raise the issue of corruption Republicans will try to distance themselves from corruption.
Solop says the Republicans even have an advantage that's been given to them by the Democrats.
SOLOP: That advantage is for years Democrats have been talking about Renzi isn't from Arizona. He's really from Virginia he's an outsider he's not in touch with our values. Now if Democrats start talking about corruption, the Republicans are going to say look all these years you've been saying he's not one of us we agree. We do things differently.
Solop says while District One has more registered Democrats than Republicans, the Democrats tend to be conservative and the Republicans tend to be moderate. He says while Republicans tend to vote with their party, Democrats aren't as unified.
But Congressman Chris Van Hollen from Maryland, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is hopeful.
VAN HOLLEN: I think people are looking for a new direction in this district as many people are around the country. After seven years of the Bush Cheney administration people want a fresh start in this district. You have the scandal surrounding the incumbent. People want to turn the page and I think that means not just bringing in a new member of Congress but someone from the Democratic Party.
Arizona's Republican Party spokeswoman Camilla Strongin says she's counting on voters to look at candidates as individuals and how best those individuals will represent them.
STRONGIN: We're certainly not ready to concede that seat. We feel very confident there has been a lot of support for Republicans in CD-1. I don't think that Ann Kirkpatrick or any of the Democratic candidates can assume CD-1 is theirs for the taking.
She says we won't know whether Renzi's indictment will have an impact or not until the primary election on September 2nd.
For Arizona Public Radio I'm Laurel Morales in Flagstaff.