At the state Capitol, Republican Rep. Carl Seel isn’t always treated with deference by his colleagues.
Seel is the only Republican in the House who is not a freshman and does not hold a position in leadership or a committee chairmanship. He formerly was chairman of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, but had that role was stripped from him in 2013.
And although Seel has served in the Republican-controlled House for six years, with a Republican Senate and governor, he has only had one bill signed into law. Of the 146 bills he has sponsored during his time at the Capitol, only four have even made it to the governor’s desk.
Most of his bills were killed by his fellow Republicans in legislative committees, either by not scheduling them for a vote, or by voting them down.
But in a room full of his district Republican precinct committeemen, Seel had all the votes he needed.
The Republican precinct committeemen in Seel’s Legislative District 20, which covers parts of north central Phoenix and Glendale, recently hosted a “candidate caucus” where GOP activists and district residents came together to select their favorite candidates on the GOP primary ballot.
Despite showing up an hour late to the meeting and making only a short pitch about why the party loyalists should choose him, the 50 voters in the room chose Seel by a large margin.
And in the race for the district’s two House seats, they had a lot of options.
Five candidates for two seats
Although both of the district’s incumbent representatives — Seel and Republican Rep. Paul Boyer — are running for re-election, the primary is one of the most crowded in the state, with five candidates running for the two seats.
The two incumbents are not running as a team, and both have paired up with another first-time candidate to run as a slate against the other sitting lawmaker.
The official split between the two came when Seel announced he would not be seeking re-election to the district, and would instead be a candidate for the Arizona Corporation Commission this year. Seel later changed his mind, and decided to seek re-election to the House instead. By that time, Boyer had already found a new running mate.
But the division between the two of them began long before that.
Seel and Boyer did not run as a team when Boyer first sought the office in 2012. And following Boyer’s election, he was an early supporter of Gov. Jan Brewer’s Medicaid expansion plan. That his seatmate was supportive of the proposal infuriated Seel, who is a steadfast opponent of the proposal, which was ultimately adopted — although without support from Boyer, who switched his position after Seel vilified his support of the plan to the district’s GOP activists, and anyone else who would listen.
Seel and Boyer weren’t close before, but that episode drove them farther apart.
New teams take shape
For the upcoming election, Boyer has teamed up with political newcomer Anthony Kern, a conservative precinct and state committeeman who works for the El Mirage Police Department in administration.
Seel endorsed Kern to take the seat when Seel was briefly flirting with a race for Corporation Commission, a fact that Kern likes to point out.
When Seel was left without a running mate — or his political consultant Constantin Querard, who has run all of Seel’s successful campaigns for the Legislature and is now running Boyer and Kern’s campaigns — Seel decided to team up with another precinct and state committeeman in the district, Thurane Aung Khin, a Christian musician.
Bill Adams, a school board president and education booster who ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Legislature in 2010, is running without a teammate.
At the LD20 Republican meeting, the attendees took two votes to determine their favorite candidates — one before hearing the candidates speak, and another after listening to them. Seel was the favorite in both rounds.
In the first round of voting, Kern came in second to Seel, Boyer finished a close third, Aung Khin finished fourth and Adams finished last. In the second round of voting, after hearing the candidates speak, Aung Khin was bumped up to second place, while Kern and Boyer occupied the third and fourth place slots. Adams was last again.
Taking flak from loyalists
Adams is running as a moderate Republican who supports the Common Core education standards and Medicaid expansion.
In a room where literature for the John Birch Society was mixed in with campaign fliers, the GOP activists didn’t appreciate Adams’ support for the policies, which are seen by certain segments of the Republican Party as big-government takeovers of the education and health care sectors.
Adams took flak from the party loyalists at the meeting, who yelled at him, especially for his support of Common Core.
For such a crowded primary, there is very little money being raised or spent in the district so far.
Seel and Kern are running publically funded campaigns via the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission. And although early voting starts in less than three weeks, neither has qualified for their share of public funds yet.
Aung Khin has raised almost $7,000 for his campaign so far, though almost half of that was self-financed, and he has spent all but $2,000.
Adams has raised less than $6,000, though $2,000 of that was from personal loans to his political committee. He had $4,000 cash on hand as of the most recent campaign finance deadline. He has also been bolstered by almost $3,000 in spending on his behalf by an independent expenditure group backing both Republicans and Democrats, Save Our Future Now.
Boyer, meanwhile, is the only candidate with any serious money in the race. So far, he has raised more than $31,000 and spent a little more than $3,000 of that money. He has also been bolstered by almost $3,000 from the same IE group.