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What comes next? Election losers discuss their plans for the future

What comes next? Election losers  discuss their plans for the futureFor every election winner, there is at least one loser — but that doesn’t mean their political life is over.

Some move on, disillusioned with state politics. Others say they’re going to remain active within their respective parties but don’t want to put themselves in the spotlight again. Still others are already gearing up for another run for office. And while most are quick to downplay their ambitions to run again, the rule of thumb is — never say never.

Frank Antenori

After losing an uphill battle for state Senate in a Democratic district, Republican Sen. Frank Antenori of Tucson wants to take some time off and do what comes naturally to him: kill something.

“Well, I’d like to kill an elk,” he said when asked about his plans.

“I’ve been out hunting every weekend since the election and have not been successful. I’m getting a tad bit frustrated because I can’t find those damn four-legged little (creatures) out there and put a bullet in them.”

Besides hunting, Antenori wants to spend more time with his family and go back to work at Raytheon to make up for the money he’s lost while working for a legislator’s $24,000 per year salary. He has also been offered the chance to host a radio talk show about military and public safety, highlighting military heroes and accomplishments.

“It’s a little touchy-feely, but it’s right up my alley,” he said. “I probably couldn’t do a gardening show, that wouldn’t go over too well.”

Despite his low-key plans, he said he has already promised all his political nemeses that he’s not leaving politics.

“Politically, I’ve got things in the works that I don’t want to disclose because I don’t want people to know what I’m up to,” Antenori said. “I’d rather snipe from the bushes… That’s more fun, that’s back in my world. That’s the element that I thrive in.’”

Antenori said he wants to return to the Legislature, and Reps. David Gowan and David Stevens will both hit their term limits in 2016, leaving open seats in southeastern Arizona’s Legislative District 14.

Antenori is already fixing up his house to sell it so he can move into the heavily-Republican district, just a few blocks away.

Joe Ortiz

Republican Joe Ortiz lost a campaign for the Senate in LD8, a Democratic-leaning district in eastern Arizona where Republicans swept the House. Now he’s not sure if he’s going to run again. He said the process took a toll on his family, and he feels disillusioned with the political process in general after the Democrats hit him with more than $154,000 in independent expenditures and hammered at two old arrests for disorderly conduct and assault.

“I’m a little concerned moving forward about how the whole political arena has gotten so negative and so destructive overall, so I don’t know, it will take a lot of soul searching moving forward to see what we’ll do,” he said.

He said he’s going to stay involved in local politics as a precinct committeeman and in his community through his role as a member of the Casa Grande Union High School Board. But he doesn’t know if he wants to put himself out in the public arena anytime soon.

“I’ll stay very in tune with all politics, especially local politics,” he said. “We’ll make sure that we keep (Rep.) Frank Pratt, (Rep.) TJ Shope and (Sen.) Barbara McGuire’s feet to the fire, and make sure they’re fulfilling their campaign commitments.”

Emily Verdugo

Democrat Emily Verdugo lost a race for the House in LD8 and said now that the election is over, she’s going to focus on her family and local politics.

“I’m going to remain active, but I do not have plans to run (for the Legislature) again,” she said. “I have two young children and it proved very difficult to dedicate the time I needed to my campaign and my children — so I’ll have to wait until they’re older.”

She also ruled out a run for the Pinal County Board of Supervisors or another run for the Coolidge City Council.

She’s currently the state Democratic Party Hispanic Caucus chair, and said she plans to spend the next two years in preparation for the 2014 gubernatorial campaign, registering and educating Latino voters. She’s also the education coordinator for the Pinal County Democratic Party, and she’s considering a run for the Pinal County Democratic chair.

Amanda Reeve

After suffering a narrow defeat to a Democrat in Republican-leaning Legislative District 28 covering northern Phoenix and Paradise Valley, Republican Rep. Amanda Reeve said she’s not giving up on the Legislature. She said she’s always been active in politics and it would be hard for her to leave that world. In fact, she’s heading to Egypt and Tunisia as part of an exchange with the American Council of Young Political Leaders to meet with political and educational leaders there in December.

Besides that, she’s working on finishing up her master’s degree from Arizona State University in environmental management technology.

“I’ve got to finish up my master’s degree, darn it,” she said. “I just met with (the university) this morning so we could figure out how to wrap that puppy up.”

But she’s still a precinct committeeman, and she expects her name to be back on the ballot for the Legislature in the near future.

“I’ll be running for office again,” Reeve said. “There’s just so much to do on the environment front that I can’t walk away from it.”

Jonathan Paton

After losing a hard-fought campaign in the 1st Congressional District against Ann Kirkpatrick, Republican Jonathan Paton is changing paths, at least temporarily.

He spent 10 months on the road campaigning in the giant district that stretches from northern to southern Arizona, and now, Paton is focusing on his wedding in May. Besides that, he is taking time off to watch television, work out and start writing two books — one fiction and one non-fiction.

But it’s not all fun and family. He’s also working on a constitutional amendment, though he declined to talk about what exactly it is yet.

“I’m just living the life of a capitalist… Trying to figure what I’m going to do when I grow up,” he said.

Paton said he didn’t have any political office in mind for a 2014 run, but he wasn’t ruling anything out — except returning to the Legislature.

“No, I have no interest,” he said. “I mean, I enjoyed my time, don’t get me wrong, and I learned a lot, but I have no interest in that.”

Martha McSally

Though she didn’t win, U.S. Air Force Col. Martha McSally was the surprise almost-upset on election night, coming within less than one percentage point of overtaking U.S. Rep. Ron Barber in southern Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District.

McSally said she’s not ruling out another run for Congress, or a position within the party, but right now she’s trying to focus on catching up on her sleep and spending time with friends and family over the holidays.

“These are decisions I haven’t made yet,” she said. “I’m open to serving in many different ways. That includes within the community, that includes the possibility of running again, but I’m not a career politician, I’m someone who likes to fix things that are broken and make things that are wrong right and lead, and there are ways to do that not in elected office.”

She’s staying active in Teen Challenge of Arizona, a nonprofit group that works to combat substance abuse in youth and adults, and looking for gainful employment.

McSally said she’s still trying to make a difference in the community, even if she’s not in office. Given her background and education in national security issues and public policy, she thinks she shouldn’t have many problems finding a good job.

“I have my military pension, but to take this adventure, this journey, I’ve had to take some financial risks,” she said. “So I’m not focused on making money, but to continue to support all the things I do and all the charities and things, I am looking to bring in some more income, at some point.”

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