Arizona’s primary election Tuesday features a spirited race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate and heated contests for several U.S. House seats, with outcomes that will set the roster of candidates for the Nov. 6 general election.
The Republican race for Senate pits U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake against businessman Wil Cardon, who is waging a well-funded but underdog race against Flake, along with lesser-known hopefuls Bryan Hackbarth and Clair VanSteenwyk.
The winner will face Democrat Richard Carmona, a former U.S. surgeon general, in November for the Senate seat now held by retiring three-term Republican Jon Kyl.
Arizona hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since Dennis DeConcini won his third term in 1988, but Democrats are voicing optimism about their chances this year.
One or both major parties have primary races in all nine U.S. House districts, including the two-incumbent rivalry between freshman Republican Reps. Ben Quayle and David Schweikert in the 6th Congressional District centered on Scottsdale.
Quayle moved into the GOP-leaning district — he represents most of its territory in his current district — after the once-a-decade redistricting put him into a neighboring district considered competitive between the two parties.
A similar move prompted by redistricting has Republican Rep. Paul Gosar running in northwestern Arizona’s 4th District, where he’s in a three-way primary.
Gosar’s departure left eastern Arizona’s 1st District without an incumbent, but Democratic ex-Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick is attempting a comeback. She faces Wenona Benally Baldenegro in the 1st District primary, and four Republicans are running in their party’s primary.
Another former member of Congress attempting a comeback is ex-Rep. Matt Salmon. He and former state House Speaker Kirk Adams face off in the Republican primary in the 5th District centered on Mesa. There’s no incumbent in that district because Flake is running for Senate.
The competitive district that Quayle left is the new 9th District in the middle of the Phoenix area. With that seat considered up for grabs in the general election, both parties have multicandidate primary fields.
The other four incumbent congressmen also face primary races of varying degrees of difficulty. They include Republican Trent Franks in the Peoria-centered 8th District and three Democrats: Ed Pastor in the 7th District in the Phoenix area, Raul Grijalva in southwestern Arizona’s 3rd District and Ron Barber in the Tucson-centered 2nd District.
Barber, a former aide to ex-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was elected in June to serve out her term after she resigned to concentrate on her recovery from the head injury she suffered in the January 2011 mass shooting in Tucson.
There also are intraparty face-offs for state House and Senate in legislative districts across Arizona, including former Senate President Russell Pearce’s comeback attempt vs. businessman Bob Worsley in the Republican primary for the District 25 Senate seat in Mesa. Pearce, known for championing legislation against illegal immigration, lost a November 2011 recall election.
Most statewide offices in state government aren’t on the ballot this year, but voters in November will elect three Corporation Commission members. Three Republicans and three Democrats are running, so there’s no primary contest.