Crowds of Arizona Republicans take part in contested primaries

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona’s congressional primaries are teeming with Republican candidates as the party attempts to trim the state’s majority Democratic delegation. They have a good chance with a redistricting that favored the GOP.

Flipping a single district in November could help Republicans in Congress regain a majority in the U.S. House and advance priorities including bolstering U.S.-Mexico border security.

Primary voting ends Tuesday.

GOP candidates in Arizona have been bragging about their military service, jostling over who is the most conservative lie and aggressively promoting the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Eight of Arizona’s nine congressional seats are up for grabs, with a holder running unopposed.


The collapsing economy and soaring inflation are the biggest problems for most Americans.

“Republicans are in really good shape this year,” said GOP consultant Lorna Romero Ferguson. “Everything that is happening in Washington, DC, is a disaster for Democrats. Nothing really seems to be going their way.

Democratic candidates must separate themselves from economic issues under President Joe Biden’s administration while finding ways to address the problem, said Democratic consultant Chad Campbell.

“They have these big hurdles to jump over in the general,” he said. “It’s not something they do or don’t do, it’s more the national vibe and the fact that it’s a midterm election.”

Arizona’s congressional delegation currently has five Democrats and four Republicans. An independent state redistricting commission approved new district boundaries at the end of 2021, resulting in four solidly Republican districts and two where Democrats are likely to dominate.

Three other districts could be relatively competitive. Voting patterns in the past nine elections show one district heavily favoring Democrats and two lean Republicans, meaning the Democrats will likely lose ground in Arizona.

No race has more Republican candidates than the sprawling 2nd District that encompasses much of the northern and eastern parts of the state, including Flagstaff, Prescott and more than half of Arizona’s 22 Native American reservations.

Here is an overview of the hotly contested places:

2ND CONGRESS DISTRICT

Seven people are vying for the GOP candidacy to face incumbent U.S. Representative Tom O’Halleran, a moderate Democrat, in November. He doesn’t have a primary challenger in the district that heavily favors Republicans.

Among the Republican candidates is Ron Watkins, one of the most prominent figures in the QAnon conspiracy movement and a prominent proponent of false claims that the presidency was stolen from Donald Trump. He raised just over $250,000 for his congressional run in which he said he hopes to “fix the machine from the inside out.” More than a third of the money came from a loan he gave to his campaign.

Watkins is considered a longshot with spending that trails other Republicans in the race. Eli Crane, a former Navy SEAL and political newcomer who owns a bottle opener business and was endorsed by Trump, raised $1.9 million in late June. Businessman Mark DeLuzio loaned his campaign $1 million and State Rep. Walter Blackman raised nearly $1.1 million, according to campaign finance reports.

Camp Verde farmer Steven Krystofiak, longtime Williams mayor John Moore and self-proclaimed perennial optimist Andy Yates round out the field.

1ST CONGRESS DISTRICT

Six-term Republican Rep. David Schweikert faces an aggressive challenge from businessman Elijah Norton who has attacked Schweikert over past ethical issues. Schweikert retaliated with advertising but was sued over the content.

Whoever emerges from the primary will face one of the three Democrats – Jevin Hodge, the owner of an advance program; Adam Metzendorf, who works in professional sports management; and write-in candidate Delina DiSanto.

The district covers the northern and eastern suburbs of Phoenix.

4TH CONGRESS DISTRICT

Incumbent Greg Stanton, former mayor of Phoenix, faces no opposition in the Democratic primary.

Five Republicans are running to challenge him for the Phoenix-area seat, including perennial candidate Dave Giles.

Jerone Davison, a former NFL running back and the only black Republican in that House race, has drawn attention for a controversial ad in which he is seen holding an AR-15 rifle as people in robes and Ku Klux Klan hoods with donkey logos attempt to storm a house. Davison says in the ad that Democrats say no one needs these guns for self-defense, but “you might need that semi-automatic and the 30 rounds.”

Kelly Cooper, a Marine Corps veteran; René Lopez, a Navy veteran who serves on the Chandler City Council; and Tanya Contreras Wheeless, a Phoenix Suns executive, are also seeking the GOP nomination. 6TH CONGRESS DISTRICT

Both sides hope to capture an open siege that encompasses much of southeastern Arizona. The former district was a fairly solid Democratic seat but now leans heavily Republican after the redistricting.

Republicans have six candidates, including former senior adviser to Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, Juan Ciscomani, who significantly outpaced other candidates in fundraising.

He takes on Brandon Martin, the 2020 Republican nominee in what was then the 2nd congressional district. Newspaper publisher Lucretia Free, Air Force veteran Young Mayberry and Kathleen Winn, who has aligned herself with gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, are also in the running. Jordan Flayer is a write-in candidate.

On the Democratic side are engineer Avery Anderson, Daniel Hernandez and Kirsten Engel. Hernandez and Engel have name recognition, raised over $1 million, and served in the state legislature. Both invoked the name of former U.S. Representative from Arizona Gabby Giffords, who was shot in 2011 and is still recovering.

Hernandez was an intern at the time and hailed as a hero for helping save his life. Engel, a professor of environmental law, said Giffords was one of his role models.

“This one is definitely going to be a stunning, protracted fight for lack of a better term,” Campbell said.

OTHER DISTRICTS

Republican incumbent Debbie Lesko is unopposed in her race to represent the 8th congressional district.

Democratic incumbents Ruben Gallego in the 3rd District and Raul Grijalva in the 7th District face no main challengers or major opposition from the Republican side. Republican incumbents Andy Biggs in the 5th District and Paul Gosar in the 9th District have primary opponents but aren’t expected to be eliminated.

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