The prevailing view is that Sen. Paula Aboud, an outspoken legislator from north-central Tucson, will keep her Senate seat this November.
Aboud, after all, is a popular Democrat who is running for re-election in a Democratic stronghold.
But Aboud is in a four-way general election race. One of her opponents, Ted Downing, is a former Democratic lawmaker who is now running as an independent and is espousing a populist proposal to turn the Legislature into a unicameral and nonpartisan system.
Actually, the two fought in a hotly contested Democratic primary in 2006, and Aboud emerged as the winner.
The other candidates are Greg Krino, a Republican, and Dave Ewoldt, who like Downing, is running as an independent.
Rep. David Bradley, who represents the district but is running for the Corporation Commission this year, said if he were to make a bet he would put his money on Aboud.
But the number of candidates, their backgrounds, and today’s political climate decrease the race’s predictability, Bradley said.
“If I were a betting man, I would bet Paula would prevail. It may be a little closer than would normally be the case because of the environment that we are in,” he said.
Bradley is referring to a political environment where Republicans are riding the wave of public anger that is primarily directed at Washington, D.C.
Downing is hopeful his name ID, particularly among Democrats, and his message of nonpartisanship would get him enough support to put him over the top.
Krino, meanwhile, hopes to take advantage of the crowded field and the possibility of Aboud and Downing splitting votes to squeak through to a victory.
In addition, he is counting on his message of fiscal conservatism and free-market philosophy to resonate among voters.
“It is going to go come down to those independents, and I think those independents are going to lean toward a fiscally conservative candidate,” Krino said.
Independents make up 28 percent of the voters in the district. Republicans comprise 27 percent.
But with 44 percent, Democrats hold a commanding majority of the electorate.
The prevailing view is that given the district’s profile, it would be an uphill battle for anyone other than a Democrat to win, and it’s especially tough for a candidate who is not on an established party ticket.
“It is a two-party system,” said Constantin Querard, a Republican political consultant. “If you are running on the Libertarian, Green, or independent ticket, you don’t really have any chance of winning.”
Like Downing, Aboud is counting on name ID, incumbency and the bond she has built with voters through the years to get her re-elected. She possesses, of course, the added advantage of having the backing of the dominant party in the area.
Aboud described her district as “progressive” and “thoughtful.”
“(And) as we have seen in the past, they like their representation,” she told the Arizona Capitol Times.
Aboud, a high school teacher, has been re-elected twice after she was appointed to replace now-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in early 2006. After defeating Downing in the 2006 primary, she won by a landslide in that year’s general election. She cruised to victory unopposed two years later.
But Downing maintains that the terrain is different this year.
Aboud has never run in a contested general election race, he said.
“This duck is not paddling around in the pond anymore. Now she is out here in the open ocean,” Downing said, adding he is used to the open ocean.
The race may eventually boil down to a duel between Aboud and Downing.
And clearly, the two don’t have love lost for each other.
Downing said Aboud is “about as far left as you can go,” pretty much accusing the incumbent of being an extreme liberal.
“Her tax policy, basically, (is) government could do no wrong and she has voted that way over and over again,” he said.
Downing said he, on the other hand, supports the Second Amendment, is pro-property rights and is for a “judicious, accountable use of money.” He added he has proven he could work with colleagues from across the political aisle to pass legislation.
But Aboud said Downing was more liberal than she was and is now trying to remake himself into something he is not.
“Just because you changed your party doesn’t mean you changed your values,” Aboud said, adding, “He is a liberal Democrat in disguise.”
Democrat Rep. Steve Farley, who is seeking re-election, supports Aboud and said Downing has no chance of winning.
“If there’s any impact he will have on the race it is to take votes away from Paula and enable potentially the Republican to sneak in,” he said, quickly adding, “But I think that the Republican is so far out-of-sync with the district that I’m not sure (he) will get enough votes to be able to make that happen.”
Downing dismissed the notion as “Democratic spin.”
The numbers don’t work, for one, Downing said. He pointed out that there are more independents than Republicans in the district.