FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The decision on who ultimately represents a heavily Republican congressional district that runs from western Arizona through Prescott and south of Phoenix could end with the primary election.
Freshman U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar and state Sen. Ron Gould are vying for the seat in the 4th Congressional District race that also features little-known Democrats who haven’t raised any money, according to the latest campaign finance reports. Gould touts himself as the leading conservative with more legislative experience. Gosar says he’s one of the most accomplished members of Congress who doesn’t rule out compromise.
While the incumbent congressman might have started off as the favorite, longtime pollster Bruce Merrill said “it’s a toss-up now.”
Gosar rode the tea party wave in 2010 to defeat Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick in the 1st Congressional District. He recently moved to the neighboring 4th district, which includes parts of current district, after the congressional lines were redrawn. Gosar has pushed for fiscal conservatism and less regulation by the federal government while in office. He hammered the Obama administration on the gun-running investigation known as Fast and Furious, saying it has been a failure, and sponsored a resolution of no confidence in the attorney general.
Gould is an outspoken Arizona legislator first elected in 2004 and has conservative views on social and fiscal issues. He walked out of the House chamber during a joint session of the Legislature in 2009 when Gov. Jan Brewer proposed a temporary sales tax increase. Gould also has irritated some GOP leaders by balking at voting with his party for negotiated budgets he considered fiscally unsound. He has sponsored measures to prevent illegal immigration, gun owners’ rights and defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
Gosar has raised four times the amount of money as Gould. But Gould’s campaign is being bolstered by the Club for Growth, which has spent more than $500,000 on mailings and television advertisements critical of Gosar. The American Dental Association has supported Gosar, who practiced dentistry in Flagstaff, with mailings and radio spots.
Rick Murphy, a radio station owner and the other Republican in the race, prefers to stay out of the fray. He is selling himself as focused on job creation, small business growth and as an opponent of the Obama administration’s health care reform and government intervention.
“I have a plan; it’s called the Constitution,” he said. “I want to do what I can to help balance the budget because I’m a businessman. I balance the budget every day of my life in multiple businesses. I understand how critical that is.”
Gould has criticized Gosar heavily for being the only member of Arizona’s House delegation to vote to raise the federal debt ceiling. Gosar has defended the vote, saying it was necessary to rein in federal spending and maintain payments for Social Security, health care and other things.
“The last time we shut down the government, we had to pay more. We gave all federal employees a paid vacation, we paid all penalties and interests. He doesn’t understand the budget nor debt,” Gosar said.
Gosar has fired back at Gould for walking out on Brewer’s speech and said it’s an indication of Gould’s my-way-or-the-highway attitude. Gould said he didn’t support the tax increase because it came with a mere promise of an income tax cut, and he believed that Brewer had abandoned conservative values.
“I don’t work for the party; I work for the voters of the district that elected me,” Gould said. “We have a big problem in Congress, and we’re not going to get there with go-along, get-along Republicans like Paul Gosar.”
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, a Republican, dropped out of the race in May, after he disclosed that he was gay amid allegations he threatened a former Mexican boyfriend with deportation.
Mikel Weisser, a junior high school social studies teacher in Kingman, and Johnnie Robinson, who has a Florence address, are seeking the Democratic nomination.
Weisser’s priorities include looking into the taxpayer-funded Wall Street bailout and mortgage fraud, and securing rights for gays and medical marijuana patients. He also wants to find a way to allow illegal immigrants to work in the U.S. legally.
“I feel that the law has been written in a way that prejudices (them) and limits our economic potential in America,” he said.
Robinson didn’t return email and phone messages seeking comment.