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Redistricting stirs up legislative primary races

Redistricting has forced some big names in Arizona legislative politics into contested races in the Aug. 28 primary election.

Most notably, the new maps have set the stage for a three-way contest involving one of the Legislature’s most powerful members — House Speaker Andy Tobin — and two other current GOP lawmakers running for two House seats from their north-central Arizona district.

Redistricting is the start-from-scratch drawing of new districts after the once-a-decade Census. In some cases, current lawmakers who have represented different districts were placed together in new districts.

That’s what happened to Sen. Lori Klein, who found her home in the Phoenix suburb of Anthem placed in a district dominated by Yavapai County.

Klein decided to run for a Legislative District 1 House seat and face Tobin and Rep. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, rather than challenge Senate President Steve Pierce. He is unopposed in his re-election bid in the same district.

Redistricting only figures indirectly in another high-profile race — former Sen. Russell Pearce’s comeback attempt in a Mesa district.

Pearce, known nationally for championing virtually every piece of recent Arizona legislation against illegal immigration, left office after losing a recall election last November.

Thanks to redistricting, the recall election winner, Republican Sen. Jerry Lewis, is running in another district, and Pearce faces businessman Bob Worsley in the primary for the GOP nomination for the District 25 Senate seat.

The winner of the Pearce-Worsley race will be the general election favorite in the Republican-leaning district.

But the primary election results from that district and several others could collectively provide a read on current sentiment of Arizona Republicans, said David Berman, a senior research fellow for the Morrison Institute at Arizona State University.

One of the Legislature’s most prominent conservatives, House Appropriations Chairman John Kavanagh, is locked in a three-way race for two House nominations from District 23 in Scottsdale and Fountain Hills.

The other two candidates in that race are fellow conservative Rep. Michelle Ugenti and Jennifer Petersen, a school board member endorsed by Sen. Michele Reagan, the district’s moderate Republican senator.

“That could be another test of where the Republican Party stands,” Berman said. “The real story line here is whether conservative Republicans are going to be more conservative or less conservative or just stay where they are,” Berman said.

Redistricting figures in another race to watch.

New district lines put Sen. Rich Crandall in District 25 with Pearce, but Crandall chose to move and instead run in neighboring District 16 in east Mesa and Apache Junction.

Crandall will face off in that district’s Senate primary against Rep. John Fillmore.

Crandall has a mostly conservative voting record but is regarded as more moderate than Fillmore, who has tea party leanings.

Tobin isn’t the only senior legislative leader to face a primary contest.

In central Phoenix, House Minority Leader Chad Campbell and Rep. Lela Alston face a four-way primary with Jean McDermott Cheuvront and Tom Nerini for the Democrats’ two nominations from District 24.

That district’s Democratic primary features another ex-lawmaker’s comeback attempt as ex-Sen. Ken Cheuvront — McDermott’s son — and current Rep. Katie Hobbs vie for the party’s Senate nomination.

Another current representative trying to win a Senate seat and facing a contested primary is Republican Rep. Nancy McLain of Bullhead City. She’s in a three-way race for the GOP nomination in District 5 in northwestern Arizona’s Mohave County.

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