Tuesday night, Democrat Ron Barber beat Republican Jesse Kelly in a special U.S. House election in Arizona.
Wednesday morning, one of my regular sources in Arizona wrote in, offering his assessment of what went wrong: “The district has a lot of independents, but the Pima County GOTV decided to ignore them and only target Republican voters, especially those who vote early.”
The Pima County Republican party really didn’t like that assessment, and wrote in, laying out that they did in fact target independents. Walt Stephenson, the Get-Out-the-Vote chairman for the Pima County Republican party, says:
We had three “consultants”, two from D.C. and one from the West Coast that came in to help us with the special election around the end of March. Additionally we received NRCC phones at our HQ office with Jesse Kelly’s office getting the Victory Solutions phone system. Up until that time we were targeting Republican voters growing our “PEVL” list (permanent early voter list). As you know the NRCC phone system and the universe it calls into is controlled by the folks in DC that are looking at special data. We, at the county level, have no control over what universe is being called with this phone system. We just supply the volunteers to make the phone calls and do the door knocking. Pima County does not have the money nor the data resources the special consultants have so to think we could or would refuse to act on their recommendation is absurd and since they programmed the phone system quite impossible. I personally made hundreds of phone calls from Pima County Republican HQ to Independents and voters identified as “soft Democrats” by our consulting team.
. . . In this special election we targeted all potential voters that we identified as supporting Jesse Kelly.
My guy in Arizona laid out what he had heard, which I would describe as initial conversations suggesting that independent voters would not be the priority, but it was far from a final, laid-out policy to “ignore” them. So I regret passing along an assertion from a source that was too sweeping in its assessment and did not represent the totality of the county party’s efforts.
Of course, a lot of factors go into any election result, and after that post, I also heard from other Campaign Spot readers in the district who were unimpressed with Jesse Kelly as a candidate. Kelly announced Thursday he has decided to not pursue the seat in the November election.
Finally, it’s worth noting that this was a race in which former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, now a figure of enormous, bipartisan public sympathy and admiration for her comeback from near-fatal injuries, campaigned pretty extensively for her former staffer, Barber. With such a heartstring-tugging emotional factor in this race, it may be that the independents were never really that much in play.
More than a year after the nation’s attention was focused on critically injured then–U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and those killed and wounded alongside her, the spotlight returned Tuesday to southern Arizona as her former aide Ron Barber won the special election to serve out her remaining term.
With nearly 66 percent of the precincts reporting, Barber had nearly 53 percent of the vote, up 8 points over Republican opponent Jesse Kelly, with most early ballots counted, according to unofficial election results.
Kelly conceded the race a little before 9:45 p.m.
The district lines will shift in November and there will be a GOP primary before then. One of my Arizona guys wrote in late last night, “Yuck! Going to numb myself with a few glasses of sherry . . . I think the problem was with county GOP GOTV effort.”
UPDATE: My Arizona guy, active in GOP politics in his corner of the state, sends along this assessment:
It’s early morning in Tucson and it’s time to look the loss by Jesse Kelly in the congressional race straight in the face.
We should have won this. In 2010 Kelly lost to Giffords, a better candidate by only 4,000 votes. This year he lost to a weaker candidate by 13,000 votes and 7% in a district that has more Republicans than Democrats.
The problem this year was the Get Out the Vote program (GOTV). The district has a lot of independents, but the Pima County GOTV decided to ignore them and only target Republican voters, especially those who vote early. This was contrary to what the NRCC and the Arizona State party recommended. The county party responded by saying its only responsibility was to deliver Republicans.
The result was that Kelly lost many independents. Precincts that he won in 2010 because of the independents were lost this year.
The moral is that GOTV is critical. Republicans must work to get their more independent minded neighbors out to the polls and vote Republican. If we only rely on Republican voters, Obama will win again this year.
In November, Barber will face different district lines in a slightly Republican-leaning district; “as of July, the new 2nd Congressional District had slightly more registered Republicans, 131,000, than registered Democrats, 129,000. It also had 117,000 voters registered as independents or with third parties.” Under the new lines, Santa Cruz County will not be included.
The old lines:
The new lines:
UPDATE: The Pima County GOP strongly disagrees with the characterization of their efforts from my source, and lays out their efforts in this race here.
A week from Tuesday, voters in Arizona’s eight congressional district – the one formerly represented by Gabrielle Giffords – will go to the polls for a primary election.
There is only one Democrat candidate running, Ron Barber, Giffords’ former district director. But there are four Republicans competing for the nomination for the special election held June 12. The GOP contenders are state Sen. Frank Antenori;Jesse Kelly, a veteran who narrowly lost to Giffords in the 2010 congressional elections; Martha E. McSally, a veteran who was the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat, and University of Arizona broadcaster Dave Sitton.
Early voting is already underway: “Through Friday afternoon, about 73,350 early ballots had been returned. Voters have until April 17 to get them back to their county elections office.”
Under its current lines, Arizona’s eighth congressional district scores R+4 in the Cook Partisan Voting Index.
One of the ten remaining undecided House races was settled late Friday: “Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has won a third term in the U.S. House over Republican Jesse Kelly, leaving just eight congressional races still undecided. Kelly, an Iraq war veteran and Tea Party favorite, conceded to Giffords late Friday, saying in a statement, ‘We are blessed by God to live in a nation where we get the government we deserve and the government that we chose. The voters of Southern Arizona have spoken and I respect their decision.’”
According to the Secretary of State, Giffords won 133,046 votes, while Kelly won 129,405 votes. A Libertarian candidate, Steven Stoltz, won 10,642 votes, larger than the margin between Giffords and Kelly.
My original list didn’t include North Carolina Republican Renee Ellmers, who is preparing for a recount with Bob Etheridge. See the link below about helping her with the costs of all of those election monitors.
The American Action Forum has completed its round of surveys in key West Coast House districts. Their previous rounds in other parts of the country have shown generally good news for Republicans, but I think we can call today’s numbers the nightmare scenario for Democrats.
Among their collective findings:
Voters say the country is on the wrong track by a nearly three-to-one margin. Sixty-eight percent of the likely voters in these districts say the country is on the wrong track, while just 24 percent say the country is heading in the right direction.
A plurality of voters prefers a Republican on the generic ballot test. While each of these ten districts have Democratic incumbents, voters in these districts prefer a Republican to a Democrat as their next congressman by a 41 to 34 percent margin.
President Obama and Speaker Pelosi are both viewed unfavorably in these districts. Voters in these districts give Barack Obama a 44 to 51 percent favorable-to-unfavorable rating and give Nancy Pelosi a 29 to 58 percent rating.
A majority of the likely voters in these districts oppose the health-care reform plan. Voters oppose the new law by a 53 to 39 percent margin, including 45 percent who strongly oppose it.
In the individual districts, they found . . .
AZ-1: “Despite Representative Ann Kirkpatrick having 95 percent name ID (with a 42 to 37 percent favorable-unfavorable rating) compared to challenger Paul Gosar’s 46 percent (23 to 6 percent favorable), Gosar leads on the ballot by a 47 to 41 percent margin.”
AZ-5: “Despite Representative Harry Mitchell having 97 percent name ID (with a 42 to 46 percent favorable-unfavorable rating) compared to challenger David Schweikert’s 77 percent (33 to 18 percent favorable), Schweikert leads on the ballot by a 50 to 44 percent margin.”
AZ-8: “Despite Representative Gabrielle Giffords having 99 percent name ID (with a 52 to 41 percent favorable-unfavorable rating) compared to challenger Jesse Kelly’s 78 percent (33 to 25 percent favorable), Giffords and Kelly are currently tied on the ballot at 46 percent each.”
CA-11: “Despite Representative Jerry McNerney having 93 percent name ID (with a 41 to 34 percent favorable-unfavorable rating) compared to challenger David Harmer’s 47 percent (19 to 8 percent favorable), Harmer currently leads McNerney on the ballot by a razor-thin 45 to 44 percent margin.”
CA-47: “Despite Representative Loretta Sanchez having 96 percent name ID (with a 46 to 44 percent favorable-unfavorable rating) compared to challenger Van Tran’s 67 percent (26 to 18 percent favorable), Sanchez leads on the ballot by just a 45 to 43 percent margin.”
CO-3: “Despite Representative John Salazar having 98 percent name ID (with a 45 to 44 percent favorable-unfavorable rating) compared to challenger Scott Tipton’s 73 percent (28 to 19 percent favorable), Tipton leads on the ballot by a 51 to 43 percent margin.”
CO-4: “Despite Representative Betsey Markey having 98 percent name ID (with a 37 to 50 percent favorable-unfavorable rating) compared to challenger Cory Gardner’s 57 percent (23 to 13 percent favorable), Gardner leads on the ballot by a 50 to 39 percent margin.”
NM-1: “Despite Representative Martin Heinrich having 97 percent name ID (with a 46 to 39 percent favorable-unfavorable rating) compared to challenger Jon Barela’s 48 percent (20 to 11 percent favorable), Heinrich is under 50 percent on the ballot, leading Barela by a 49 to 42 percent margin.”
[Note that this is what qualifies as "good news" for Democrats, an incumbent below 50 with a 7 percentage point lead.]
NV-3: “Despite Representative Dina Titus having 99 percent name ID (with a 46 to 46 percent favorable-unfavorable rating) compared to challenger Joe Heck’s 78 percent (32 to 21 percent favorable), Heck leads Titus on the ballot by a 48 to 45 percent margin.”
OR-5: “Despite Representative Kurt Schrader having 83 percent name ID (with a 34 to 24 percent favorable-unfavorable rating) compared to challenger Scott Bruun’s 40 percent (11 to 7 percent favorable), Schrader is under 50 percent on the ballot, leading Bruun by a 44 to 36 percent margin.”
Arizona GOP voters are surprising me in two House races. At this hour, Ben Quayle (sigh) leads a divided, crowded primary in the 3rd district; perhaps he will get to knock the hell out of Washington after all.
And in Arizona’s 8th district primary, I figured Jonathan Paton had a leg up on Jesse Kelly. It’s early, but Kelly leads, about 50 percent to about 39 percent.
Tomorrow is primary day in four states, and runoff elections occur in a fifth.
Alaska: The Senate GOP primary featuring Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Palin-backed Joe Miller is one of those races I’ve been meaning to take a look at, although it’s entirely possible — in fact, likely — that we’ll get the predictable win by the incumbent. There hasn’t been a ton of polling, and Alaska seems like one of the tougher states to poll; what little polling there is shows Murkowski ahead comfortably. It’s not unthinkable that Miller could get some traction, but it’s not yet clear that Alaska Republicans see Murkowski as an unacceptable squish on par with Arlen Specter or Charlie Crist. She has a lifetime ACU rating of 70. (The Power Line guys examined whether Murkowski rates as a “RINO” here.)
Arizona: Earlier this year, the John McCain-J. D. Hayworth fight in the Arizona Senate primary looked like one of this cycle’s clashes of the titans, but Hayworth hasn’t really been able to get within striking distance.
In Arizona’s 3rd congressional district, John Shadegg is retiring, and a crowd of Republicans (10!) seek to fill his shoes. The most famous name belongs to the son of a former vice president, with a rather odd commercial:
Somebody’s going to be sent to knock the hell out of Washington, but it’s probably going to be Pamela Gorman, Steven Moak, Paradise Valley mayor Vernon Parker, or former state senator Jim Waring. (If Gorman doesn’t win, the winner ought to hire her for security.)
In Arizona’s 8th, it’s a simpler but no less hard-fought GOP primary. Former state senator Jonathan Paton is the fund-raising leader and establishment choice, but Iraq War veteran Jesse Kelly is coming on strong. A mid-July poll showed Paton with a one-percentage-point lead over incumbent Democrat Gabrielle Giffords.
Florida: In the Sunshine State’s statewide races, we know four of the big six candidates. The Senate race will feature Republican Marco Rubio, independent Charlie Crist, and an underdog Democrat. Right now, that Democrat appears to be Kendrick Meek, who is coming back against Jeff Greene, who has spent a king’s ransom in his bid. (More on the impact of negative ads in that race here.)
In the governor’s race, the Democrat will be Alex Sink, the independent will be Lawton Chiles III, and the Republican will be either health-care executive and anti-Obamacare activist Rick Scott or state attorney general Bill McCollum. McCollum appears to be enjoying a surge, in the Mason-Dixon and the Quinnipiac poll.
There are a couple of interesting House primaries in Florida. In the 8th district, every Republican and their brother is itching to take on an infamous incumbent. The likely favorite is former state senator Daniel Webster (Republican–Winter Garden) but he’s facing a strong push from state representative Kurt Kelly (Republican–Ocala). The winner faces off against U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson (Troll–Daily Kos).
In the 24th district, incumbent Democrat Suzanne Kosmas looked beatable even before her vote for health-care reform and more job losses on Florida’s Space Coast. If former Ruth’s Chris steakhouse chain CEO Craig Miller wins the primary, I will require an immediate catered interview. A bit behind in fundraising are state representative Sandy Adams and Winter Park vice mayor Karen Diebel.
Oklahoma runoff: Republicans in two House districts will vote in runoffs. In the eastern 2nd district, Charles Thompson, Jr. received 34 percent in the July 27 primary; Daniel Edmonds received 28 percent. The winner takes on incumbent Democrat Dan Boren, a well-established conservative Democrat. However, in a year like this in a district that scores R+14, nothing is guaranteed.
In the Oklahoma City–based 5th district, the current congresswoman, Republican Mary Fallin, is running for governor; former state representative Kevin Calvey and James Lankford finished within two percentage points of each other in the primary’s first round and face off tomorrow for the GOP nomination. In this R+13 district, the winner will be heavily favored to win in November.
Vermont: There are five Democrats battling it out for their gubernatorial nomination; the GOP has avoided a primary and Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie will be the nominee.
Sen. Pat Leahy is up for reelection; Len Britton faces the tough task of trying to knock off the longtime incumbent.
You wrote today, “A bit of a surprise in Indiana’s 9th District, where Mike Sodrel will not be the GOP nominee against Baron Hill;”
Please do not be surprised if/when Jonathan Paton fails to win the nomination in the AZ 8th. Pundits picking winners before a primary is inappropriate, no better than when the Republican Party attempts it. Please stop interfering in a local decision yet to made.
“Interfering”? Look, as much as I would like to say that kind words from the Campaign Spot can be the difference between victory and defeat for a candidate, a lot of factors go into an election. Any candidate who wants to put the blame for a second-place finish on my blog is looking for excuses.
Would you prefer I lied to you, and told you every candidate who files has an equal shot at winning? Or should I hide the fact that a former congressman who has won a race or two before has a leg up on a first-time candidate? (Todd Young outraised Sodrel by more than 2-to-1, according to OpenSecrets, a pretty rare advantage for a first-time candidate over a guy who represented the district earlier.)
Perhaps one of the other candidates will overtake Jonathan Paton; but he currently leads in fundraising and he’s won some races already. He has $200,000 more cash-on-hand than any other Republican in the race, and he’s actually run and won races as a state senator before. This is not to say the other candidates, Jesse Kelly and Brian Miller, aren’t good guys, or that they wouldn’t make good candidates. But we just don’t know if these guys can bring out their voters, whereas Paton has run for state senate four times and won the last two.