Former Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker will carry the Republican Party banner in Arizona’s 9th Congressional District after winning a narrow victory in the crowded but low-profile race.
Parker took 23 percent of the vote, narrowly edging out retired U.S. Air Force pilot Wendy Rogers, who won 21 percent, and former Chandler City Councilman Martin Sepulveda, who won 20 percent.
Businessman Travis Grantham is in fourth place with 17 percent of the vote, while Scottsdale City Councilwoman Lisa Borowsky, former intelligence officer Leah Campos Schandlbauer and retired financial services manager Jeff Thompson were all in single digits.
Parker said he believes his experience, which includes serving in President George H.W. Bush’s administration, helped push him over the top.
“I’ve served as a special assistant to the president of the United States. I’m a Georgetown University law graduate. I’ve been unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate, and that’s important because it shows that I can work on both sides of the aisle,” Parker said. “I served as the mayor of Paradise Valley, where when people asked me to raise taxes to attack the deficit, I said no. We cut our spending by 30 percent. I think those attributes really separated me from the rest of the crowd.”
Despite the competitive nature of the new district – Republicans hold a 2.5 percent registration advantage while Democrats have a 1.2 percent performance advantage – the CD9 GOP primary was largely overlooked while the high-profile Democratic primary sucked up attention from the media and political observers. But now that field is set between Parker and former Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the looks to be one of the most competitive of the election cycle.
“We have different views of America. She’s embraced Obamacare and she’s embraced the direction that the Obama administration would like to go,” Parker said of Sinema.
Parker said he was unconcerned with past Democratic successes in the precincts that ultimately became part of CD9. Democratic nominees for governor and attorney general won them in 2010, despite losing their statewide contests, while President Barack Obama won them in 2008, despite losing Arizona.
“I’ve come from nothing, and I realize where I’ve come from and I will never forget where I’ve come from. So I think that message will resonate and that we have to create an environment and policies in this country that I think will expand the opportunities for the people in CD9,” Parker said.
The national Democratic and Republican congressional campaign committees have both reserved airtime in the Valley for the general election, though neither have said which races they are specifically targeting.
None of the Republican candidates raised the kind of money seen on the Democratic side of the race. Even Parker, who raised nearly half a million dollars in his 2010 primary for the old 3rd Congressional District, pulled in just $211,000 for his CD9 run.
Congressman Ben Quayle was originally drawn into CD9, but opted instead to run in the neighboring 6th Congressional District. Quayle didn’t announce his CD9 campaign until January, and the Republicans who ultimately jumped into the race got a late start compared to their Democratic counterparts.
Most viewed Parker and Sepulveda – the only two GOP hopefuls who aired television ads – as the early frontrunners, though polling showed Grantham and Rogers running competitively as well. Borowsky and Schandlbauer never got much traction, while Rogers was a total unknown from start to finish.
Evan Wyloge contributed to this story