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Current, former lawmakers banking on experience in Senate races

District 2

With Window Rock Democrat Sen. Albert Hale facing term limits, the Senate seat in District 2 is up for grabs.

Four people are running, all are Democrats, which means the primary winner will become the new senator.

They are Sylvia Laughter, Jack Jackson Jr., Gloria Ann Hale-Showalter and Kee Allen Begay Jr.

Begay and Jackson are running as Clean Elections candidates; Laughter and Hale-Showalter, a relative of Albert Hale’s, are running as traditional candidates.

Hale said there’s no clear front-runner at this point.

But some Democrats are wary of Laughter, who had served in the House.

Laughter, a former Democratic legislator, switched her party affiliation to independent while in office. She is now registered again as a Democrat.

“I remember when she was a Democrat, she never ever voted with the Democratic caucus,” said Sen. Linda Lopez, a Tucson Democrat who had served with Laughter in the House.

But Laughter said her voting record would show that she voted with Democrats a majority of the time, and the legislation she successfully pushed benefited her district. Her decision to run as a Democrat is a strategic decision, based on the counsel of advisers who felt it would be difficult for an independent to win given the dominant two-party system, she said.

“When you’re trying to pass legislation you have to be willing to work with both sides of the aisle and that’s one thing that I’m known for,” Laughter said.

District 5

The most contested primary race will likely be in a cool region in this hot state — in northeastern Arizona, where a veteran House member is taking on an incumbent state senator for her seat.

Sen. Sylvia Allen, a Republican from Snowflake and Rep. Bill Konopnicki, a Republican from Safford, will duke it out this August.

Of the primary races statewide, the philosophical contrast is probably more prominent in District 5. Konopnicki is regarded as a centrist; Allen is more to the right.

“Mr. Konopnicki is not a true conservative. His voting record shows that for the last eight years,” Allen said, adding the Konopnicki played a key role in passing Gov. Janet Napolitano’s 2004 budget, which dramatically increased state spending.

But Konopnicki said Allen had complained in June 2009 that the budget before her was terrible for her district yet she still voted for it. He, on the other hand, called it bad for the district and voted against it.

“I have an impeccable voting record for the citizens of the district,” he said.

Konopnicki also said he’s more qualified given his background as a businessman, as school board member for many years and chairman of several committees. He has also voted for $2.2 billion in tax cuts over the years, he said.

“Do people really want somebody who says the earth is 6,000 years old?” he said, referring to a remark Allen had previously made.

District 7

The Republican primary race in District 7 is four-way contest, but it may boil down to a duel between Rep. Nancy Barto of Phoenix and Rep. Ray Barnes, also of Phoenix.

The two are taking advantage of the vacancy in the Senate seat after Jim Waring resigned to run for Congress. Besides the two lawmakers, Brad Buch and Robert Green are also running.

“I am the only tried and true conservative,” Barnes said as he accused Barto of being soft on immigration. He said she walked off the House floor last year during a vote on a bill that is similar to S1070.

Barto, who voted for this year’s S1070, said the way that last year’s immigration legislation came to the floor was “very offensive” to many Republicans. “That’s why a lot of us chose not to vote on it,” she said, adding it was, for example, brought up in the last minute.

Last year’s bill also didn’t have many of the protections that made this year’s S1070 a good bill, she said, such as putting in “when practicable” in mandating the police to check on someone’s immigration status.

Barto, who introduced several socially conservative bills this year, has also proven to be the better fund-raiser. She raised $16,000 in her latest financial report while Barnes only received about $2,000.

District 11

It’s a four-way Republican contest among Rep. Adam Driggs of Phoenix, Rich Davis, Andrew Smigielski and Anna Maria Brennan. A fifth Republican candidate, Allen Harlan, dropped out after failing to gather enough signatures to qualify on the ballot.

Of the four, Davis, CEO of a company that specializes in national security and international conflict research, is out-raising everyone. His latest financial report showed he received $50,600, which included a $20,000 loan to his committee.

Driggs, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, raised nearly $38,000. All indications point that it would be an expensive race.

Smigielski, a civil engineer, has yet to post his report while Brennan is running as a Clean Elections candidate. Smigielski said he’s comfortable with the flow of money to his campaign. He said he hopes to represent the regular folks, “the mainstream,” in his district.

Driggs is hoping to capitalize on his incumbency in the House. “I have a track record, which they could look at, and I think that I’m in tune with the district,” he said.

In the last several years there hasn’t been a clear plan about where the state is heading, Davis said. “Based on what I’ve heard from people in my district, they want leadership in the state of Arizona,” he said.

It remains to be seen whether Brennan would qualify as a Clean Elections candidate. If she does, she would receive matching funds, and that money could alter the shape of the race.

“She could take her money and make it all about herself. She could take her money and just start whacking stuff at one of the other candidates,” said Constantin Querard, a consultant working with Davis.

District 30

Another race to watch is being contested by a new senator and a former House member.

Former Rep. Marian McClure seeks to knock down Sen. Frank Antenori in the primary race for the Senate post once occupied by Jonathan Paton.

McClure, who served eight years in the House, will be highlighting her political experience over that of her opponent.

“You need people who know the ins and outs and the only way you get that is multiple years of service,” McClure said.

Another advantage she has over Antenori is that people know her, McClure said, adding she could also remind voters that she started the fight against payday lending.

But Antenori, who served in the U.S. Special Forces, said he has demonstrated that he could make the tough decisions in tough times while McClure hasn’t.

Antenori said McClure also voted for the 2004 budget, which he said is the largest spending increase in state history and started the appetite for spending that led to the financial mess the state is in.

Antenori said he promised to fight illegal immigration and followed through. He also fought for state rights.

“It’s time for new life, new blood and a fighter in the Senate,” he said. “The old-school Republican Party is capitulating to the left.”

Name ID abounds in several crowded House Primaries

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