Early voting in the 2014 primary begins in nine months, and candidates are already firing up their campaigns.
Many lawmakers are leaving the Legislature to run for higher office or have hit their voter-imposed term limits. Every vacancy creates a vacuum with a cadre of hopefuls lining up for the opportunity to fill the post. Some incumbents are looking vulnerable, leading serious challengers to run against them.
Already, key legislative districts are getting crowded, dynamics of the 2014 races are becoming clear, and frontrunners are emerging.
The Arizona Capitol Times takes a look at how the 2014 legislative elections are shaping up, and introduces the emerging candidates for the next legislature.
For eight years, House Speaker Andy Tobin of Paulden has represented Legislative District 1, a high-efficacy, solidly-Republican district anchored in Yavapai County. But in 2014, he will be forced out of the House of Representatives due to eight-year term limits and will instead run for Congress.
Tobin’s departure leaves an opening for new political leadership in LD1. But so far the two candidates looking to replace Tobin are not new — they’re former lawmakers, though not from that district.
Linda Gray, a 16-year veteran who was termed out of the Legislature in 2012, recently announced she was seeking the seat.
And former lawmaker Lori Klein said she, too, is eyeing another run for LD1.
Klein lost a primary election to Tobin and Rep. Karen Fann last year, when LD1 was redrawn to include her home in Anthem. Klein said she owns a cabin in the Mayer area, and is moving up to Yavapai County before the election, which she said should boost her chances of being elected.
Klein said part of the reason she lost in the 2012 primary was because the district is Yavapai-centric and northern voters don’t identify with a Maricopa County candidate.
She added that Gray moved into the district from Glendale recently, but voters in Yavapai County are very protective of the district and prefer that actual locals represent them at the Capitol.
“They really don’t like carpetbaggers,” Klein said
One of the state’s newest senators, Carlyle Begay, could face a challenge from a fellow Democrat and member of the Navajo Nation. Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels, is considering running against Begay for the LD7 Senate seat after he was passed over for an appointment to the Senate this summer in favor of Begay. The Attorney General’s Office declined to pursue a legal challenge questioning Begay’s eligibility.
Hale argued that Begay didn’t meet the basic residency requirements for office. Up until the days before his nomination and eventual appointment to the Senate, Begay had lived in Gilbert for the past seven years. But disputes over the interpretation of state statutes and election law left officials puzzled over Begay’s qualifications, and the solicitor general declined to take up a case to have Begay removed from office.
Rather than take the case to court himself, Hale has indicated an interest in challenging Begay in next August’s primary in what could be a close race. Begay will have only served in the Senate for half of a term, while Hale has a bounty of legislative experience. But by most accounts, Begay is well-qualified and well-liked in Apache County, and may be tough to unseat.
Legislative District 8 is one of the three politically split districts in the state, and one to keep an eye on in 2014. While Republicans are gunning to take the Senate seat away from Democratic Sen. Barbara McGuire of Kearny, the Democratic base isn’t exactly thrilled with some of McGuire’s votes. She voted with Republicans on a few key issues in the last legislative session. But her key vote on a bill increasing school vouchers angered Democrats the most and may end up costing her in the general election, if the Democratic base doesn’t turn out to vote.
McGuire has yet to draw any primary opponents, but already has two Republicans running against her in the general election. Harold Vangilder, an active member of the Pinal County Republican Party, touts on his Facebook page the need for conservatives to hold office when the wheels come off the Obamacare train. U.S. Army veteran and Casa Grande resident Trey Terry said more must be done to promote economic growth in Arizona, in addition to making painful decisions to balance the budget.
Terry had originally set his sights on a House seat, but when Republican Rep. Frank Pratt decided not to run for Corporation Commission, Terry switched to the Senate rather than challenge the incumbent representatives.
Irene Littleton, a Tea Party activist from Casa Grande, has also filed paperwork to run for the Senate.
Lawmakers in the staunchly conservative LD11 are playing a game of musical chairs. Sen. Al Melvin of SaddleBrooke is leaving the Senate to run an unlikely campaign for governor. Republican Rep. Steve Smith of Maricopa is aiming to replace Melvin. And Republican Rep. Adam Kwasman of Oro Valley is quitting the House after a single term to run for Congress in the 1st Congressional District.
All the changes leave two open seats in the House, and the primary election field is already getting crowded.
Vince Leach has picked up endorsements from all three sitting lawmakers in the district. He has been hitting the campaign trail hard, announcing his intention at the same press conference where Melvin announced his run for governor. Like Melvin, Leach hails from the conservative base of SaddleBrooke, though he is known as more pragmatic than Melvin.
Former lawmaker Terri Proud has also filed to run for the House after deciding not to seek re-election in 2012 after one term there. Proud, a Tea Party darling, recently was fired from a job at the Arizona Department of Veterans Affairs after stating that menstrual cycles might prove too challenging for women in combat.
Former Pima County Republican Party Chairman Bob Westerman is also running for one of the House seats after pursuing an admittedly “quixotic” campaign in a heavily Democratic Tucson district in 2008.
Mark Finchem, who came in last in a seven-way race for Oro Valley Town Council in 2010, is also seeking a House seat. And computer repair business owner Mark Enzor has filed an exploratory committee for the office
Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, will face a primary challenge after Republican Toby Farmer opted to run against Shooter than seek a seat in the House. In a Senate race, Farmer can run against an incumbent who spent much of the year under police investigation — Shooter faced several charges following a confrontation with a teacher early this year at a Yuma charter school. Farmer already boasts endorsements from former House Speaker Kirk Adams and conservative activist Shane Wikfors, but Shooter said he’s not concerned about his opponent.
The senator may also face a challenge from the left — Terri Lee Woodmansee is the lone Democrat registered to run in the conservative district. The former Goodyear Police Department employee garnered only 181 votes as a write-in candidate in the 2012 primary election.
Sen. Dave Farnsworth received strong support from LD16 precinct committeemen when he was nominated to the Senate this summer to replace the departing Sen. Rich Crandall.
Farnsworth, R-Mesa, was an easy choice for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors among the other nominees for office. Appointing Pinal County Republican John Fillmore would have raised questions about his residency, as the appointed lawmaker needed to reside in the Maricopa County portion of the district. Appointing Rep. Kelli Townsend would have required a second nominating process to fill her seat in the House of Representatives.
Back in the Legislature for the first time since the mid-1990s, Farnsworth faces a primary challenge from Taylor McArthur, a 24-year-old Mesa resident who works for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
After falling short of an appointment to the Senate, Townsend, R-Mesa, will try to retain her seat in the House in a crowded primary. Rather than run against Farnsworth for the LD16 Senate seat, Fillmore will try to return to the Capitol in one of the district’s two House seats. He could provide a strong challenge for Rep. Doug Coleman, R-Apache Junction, who has taken heat for his vote in favor of Medicaid expansion. Republican Adam Stevens rounds out the field in the four-way race.
Scott Prior, who was soundly defeated by Crandall in 2012, is the only Democrat registered to run for office in the solidly conservative District.
Republican Rep. Tom Forese of Chandler is trading his post in the House for a chance to run for the Arizona Corporation Commission, leaving an open seat. And it looks like the sitting Republican lawmakers from LD17, who include Forese, Rep. J.D. Mesnard and Sen. Steve Yarbrough, have already agreed on Forese’s replacement. All three have endorsed Chandler City Councilman Jeff Weninger for the seat.
On the same day Forese announced he was leaving the House to run for Corporation Commission, Weninger filed paperwork to run for the House seat, touting the trio of endorsements. With his political background and the entire legislative delegation pulling for him, he will be a formidable candidate — if any other Republican enters the race.
Democrat Karyn Lathan has also filed paperwork to run in the district, but has little chance of overcoming the district’s strong Republican voter registration advantage.
Republican Rep. Carl Seel of Phoenix has filed an exploratory committee to run for the Corporation Commission, and his anticipated departure from the House already has three Republicans lining up to take his place.
Anthony Kern, a precinct committeeman and administrative employee of the El Mirage Police Department, has already won Seel’s stamp of approval and that of the district’s other representative, Paul Boyer. Kern has also racked up endorsements from other well-known conservatives such as former Maricopa County Republican Chairman Rob Haney and former Senate President Russell Pearce.
Thurane Aung Khin, a Christian rock musician, Tea Party conservative and precinct committeeman in the district, has filed a committee to run for the vacant seat. Justin Henry, a U.S. Army veteran with three tours of Iraq under his belt, has also filed.
Democrats had hoped to knock out Seel in the 2012 election, but their top candidate, Jackie Thrasher, who served the area in the Legislature for one term, fell about 2,500 votes short. Democrat Amy Schwabenlender has filed an exploratory committee for the office and hopes to fare better in 2014, though the district has a significant Republican advantage.
The success of Sen. Rick Murphy’s efforts to win re-election as the state senator from LD21 may depend on the results of a Child Protective Services investigation of alleged sexual contact with two of Murphy’s foster children in the past few years.
Twice, the senator avoided charges amid a police investigation of claims he had inappropriate sexual contact with boys in his home. But following the second investigation earlier this year, CPS officials removed Murphy’s adopted and foster children and decided to take a closer look at the accusations.
Murphy is due in court in December, and without a favorable outcome, the senator could be viewed as a weak incumbent. So far, Murphy is alone in the primary race, and faces general election opposition from Democrat Sandra Cloyd.
The path forward in LD23 appears clear. Sen. Michele Reagan, termed out at the end of 2014, began her push for the Secretary of State’s Office earlier this session. She is banking on the success of HB2305 — a package of election reforms signed into law this year that will be challenged on ballots next fall — to sweep her to victory.
Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, has registered to run for her soon-to-be vacant Senate seat, and is the lone candidate registered in the race thus far. The Republican budget hawk is considered a strong candidate to make the jump from the House to the Senate.
Meanwhile, Republicans are lining up to fill Kavanagh’s House seat.
Bob Littlefield, an 11-year member of the Scottsdale City Council, filed an exploratory committee for the office.
Chuck Schmidt, CEO of Arizona Interscholastic Association, is making his first run for political office. He has racked up endorsements from Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, and Congressman Matt Salmon, among others.
Effie Carlson, owner of Best Practice Management, a health care consulting company, is making her first run for public office.
Joe Romack, the first vice chair of LD23 Republicans, has also filed an exploratory committee for the office.
With House Minority Leader Chad Campbell completing his eight-year limit in the chamber, his departure will leave a void in Phoenix’s Democratic stronghold, LD24.
Ken Clark a one-term lawmaker in 2003-2004, is hoping to make his return to the House. Clark is the chosen favorite of two of the district’s current lawmakers — Campbell and Sen. Katie Hobbs, while Rep. Lela Alston is supporting another contender.
Rich Bauer, a former Phoenix firefighter who has fundraising skills from more than a decade leading fire fighters charities, is also seeking the seat and has received endorsements from Alston and Senate Minority Leader Anna Tovar, along with others.
The district will be a major battleground during the primary election, and the primary field is already getting crowded.
Adrian Fontes, a lawyer, community activist and owner of Bodega 420 on Roosevelt Row, is seeking the nomination. One-time Phoenix City Council candidate and downtown disc jockey Austin Head is also running for the open seat.
Republican Rep. Justin Pierce of Mesa is running for secretary of state, leaving an opening in the solidly Republican Mesa-based LD25.
Recalled Senate President Russell Pearce lives in the district, and has been rumored to be eyeing the office, but Pearce recently knocked down those rumors.
Republican Michelle Udall is seeking the office. As a distant relative of the late Congressman Mo Udall, and a member of the Mesa Public School Board, Udall will be a formidable candidate. She is known as a moderate Republican, and supports the state’s change to Common Core education standards.
Jerry Walker, a former member of the Maricopa County Community College Board, is also running for the seat as an arch conservative.
Democrats David Butler and Sheila Ogea have also filed paperwork to run for the office, though they will face an uphill battle in the Republican-leaning district.
Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor of Phoenix has served the solidly-Democratic district since 1999, but finds herself termed out of the Senate in 2014 after eight years in the upper chamber. Several Democrats are hoping to fill her empty post, including Rep. Catherine Miranda, D-Phoenix, who wants to make the jump from the House to the Senate.
A member of an established political family in the district, Miranda faces a challenge from Aaron Marquez, who has already drawn endorsements from the House Minority Leader Chad Campbell and Assistant Minority Leader Ruben Gallego, Miranda’s seatmate.
Victor Contreras is hoping the third time’s the charm as he readies another run for the Arizona Senate, having been defeated by Landrum Taylor in consecutive elections.
Gallego’s endorsement of Miranda’s opponent shows the deep divides between Democrats in the district. Gallego has not been shy about taking shots at his seatmate, Miranda, because she “still has a looming criminal investigation hanging over her head” relating to her nomination papers in 2012 In the House, former Democratic lawmaker Rebecca Rios is looking to return to the Legislature after serving a Pinal County district for six years in the House from 1995 to 2000 and another six in the Senate from 2005 to 2010.
Rios lost her re-election bid in 2010 as her former rural Democratic district underwent a Republican transformation due to new growth in Pinal County.
Rumors abound that Miranda was recruiting her husband, former lawmaker Ben Miranda, to run for the office, but he recently said that he was not considering a return to the Legislature.
So far, the only other Democrat to file paperwork to seek the open House seat is Edy Blackwell, who has filed paperwork to run for the Legislature in the past three elections, but never made the ballot.