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Konopnicki says he’ll need $2.5M to defeat U.S. Rep. Kirkpatrick

State Rep. Bill Konopnicki, a Safford Republican, is considering a run for U.S. House in a swing district that just last year elected freshman Democrat Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick.

Konopnicki decided against running for Congress in the 2008 election, as Republicans struggled to field a viable candidate in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District, which encompasses 59,000 acres and stretches from the Arizona-Utah border, down to Florence in Pinal County, taking in Flagstaff and the bulk of the state’s eastern border along the way. Mining lobbyist Sydney Hay ran instead and was soundly defeated.

Fundraising was a problem for Republicans in the district during the 2008 election. The state Republican Party had raised less money than state Democrats, and the Republican National Committee also failed to put up enough cash to entice any serious Republican contenders.

Konopnicki said he will be able to raise between $1 million and $1.4 million, which he said would fall short of the amount needed to beat the incumbent Democrat. But he said additional fundraising assistance from the state and national Republican parties could push that number higher. He said it will take about $2.5 million to run a successful campaign against Kirkpatrick.

Democrats have the registration advantage in the district, although voters have been known to send Republicans to Congress.

According to the Secretary of State’s Office, there were 159,000 registered Democrats and 134,000 Republicans as of November of last year. But there is a sizable chunk of independents, who make up about a quarter of the voting population.

But before he plunges into the race, Konopnicki said he wants to see what kind of help is available.

Konopnicki said he isn’t interested in serving in Congress unless Republicans take back the majority in the 2010 elections – something that will be difficult to predict in time to mount a serious campaign.

“I’m not interested, quite honestly, in going and being the minority party,” he said.

Konopnicki complained that the nation is spending way more money than it ought to be.

“I think that we are out of control in our spending. I think somebody has to put some checks and balances on the spending,” he said. “We can’t wait for it any longer. The size of debt we are accumulating – we will never be able to pay back.”

He said healthy opposition is needed in Washington.

“It is too early to tell whether I am going to get in. It is too early to tell how effective Rep. Kirkpatrick has been or isn’t. But I think that will develop relatively quickly in the next few months,” he said.

In October 2007, Konopnicki formed an exploratory committee to determine whether he had enough support to run a viable campaign for the congressional seat held by Republican Rick Renzi, who was indicted for his role in a federal land-swap deal that involved former business associates.

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