Vernon Parker kicked off his campaign for Arizona’s 9th Congressional District with the aura of a frontrunner.
In a race for a competitive but Democratic-leaning district, Parker is the only big name in the GOP primary so far. Heavyweights who were expected to get into the race such as Hugh Hallman, Steve Moak, Gary Pierce and Don Stapley have all opted out.
At his official campaign rollout Wednesday at Arizona State University’s Old Main Building, the newly reelected Paradise Valley town councilman said he’s the only candidate who can win in a district that brought out some big names from the other side of the aisle for a rare chance at Democratic pickup in the Valley.
“The Democrats right now, they are huddling and they are trying to figure out how they can capture CD9. And make no mistake about it, this (would) be a huge pickup for them. But make no mistake about it, they will not prevail. They will not prevail because they did not count on all of us,” Parker said.
Parker said he can appeal to independents in CD9 who want a fiscally responsible federal government, more jobs, a secure border and an end to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Parker chose Wednesday for his campaign rollout because it was the anniversary of the health care law known by Republicans as “Obamacare.”
And while Parker said Congress’s top priority must be attracting more jobs to the United States, which he said can be done by lowering the country’s high corporate income tax rate, he said repealing Obamacare is a close second.
“If we don’t do something about Obamacare, it will destroy future generations because they will be paying for something that has failed across the world,” Parker said.
Parker, who lost the 2010 Republican primary in the old 3rd Congressional District, actually lives outside of CD9. But he said he would move into the district, and noted that many of the other candidates don’t live in CD9 either.
Parker said he’s taking his GOP opponents seriously, but campaign consultant Brian Murray said he’s undeniably the favorite for the Republican nomination. Murray noted that none of the other GOP candidates have held organized media events to start their campaigns.
“I think he’s clearly the frontrunner. I think as the campaign moves along he’s going to continue to move forward. He’s going to raise more money than anybody else,” Murray said. “Obviously he’s getting a later start than any of the other candidates, but I think he’s pretty aggressive on the fundraising and as things ramp up, so will the fundraising effort.”
A poll conducted by Parker’s consultants last month showed him in second place, just two points behind Stapley. But Stapley, a longtime Maricopa County supervisor, dropped out of the race, which Murray said puts Parker at the top of the Republican field.
Hallman, the outgoing Tempe mayor who is serving as Parker’s campaign co-chairman, said Parker is an ideal fit for the district because of the heavy influence of independent voters.
“Those independents are people who are looking for somebody like Mr. Parker who can represent not just the extremes but can bring together all of those people, most of us in the middle, who want to see this country run in a much more fiscally responsible way,” Hallman said.
Physicist David Bushman, businessman Travis Grantham, former Air Force pilot Wendy Rogers and former Chandler City Councilman Martin Sepulveda are also seeking the Republican nomination in CD9. Scottsdale City Councilwoman Lisa Borowsky is considering a run as well.
Attorney and former Arizona Democratic Party Chairman Andrei Cherny, Senate Minority Leader David Schapira and former Sen. Kyrsten Sinema are seeking the Democratic nomination in CD9.
Parker released a letter to Sinema, who was part of an advocacy team for the Obama administration during the health care debate in 2009 and 2010, calling on her to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act if she’s elected.
Parker was reelected on March 13 to the Paradise Valley Town Council, and a lone protester at the event held up a sign calling him a “political opportunist.” He formed an exploratory committee for the 2010 governor’s race, but switched to CD3 after longtime Republican incumbent Congressman John Shadegg announced his retirement.
But Parker said he stayed in the town council race, despite his congressional ambitions, at the request of his colleagues on the council. Paradise Valley Mayor Scott LeMarr, Vice Mayor Mary Hamway and several town council members stood behind Parker during the event.
“I care about the town and my fellow council members, they all encouraged me and they told me, ‘Would you please keep your name on the ballot and would you please stay on the council?’ It was really urging from the mayor and the vice mayor and all of my other fellow town council members. It was their request,” Parker said.
Republicans have a slight voter registration advantage in the district, but voters lean slightly toward Democrats. Voters in the district – which is newly drawn for the 2012 cycle – supported Obama in 2008 and backed losing Democratic candidates in the 2010 gubernatorial and attorney general races.