1 fresh, 2 familiar Republicans gun for Sinema’s CD9 seat

Evan Wyloge//November 26, 2013

1 fresh, 2 familiar Republicans gun for Sinema’s CD9 seat

Evan Wyloge//November 26, 2013

Sinema evolves from firebrand to pragmatistThe three Republicans aiming for the chance to take on Democratic freshman Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema are beginning to craft their message and try to raise enough money to compete with the incumbent’s massive campaign war chest.

Sinema has raised more than $1 million since being elected last year. Of that, she has more than $750,000 still banked and available to spend on her fight to hold onto Arizona’s 9th Congressional District.

But the district is competitive, with registered Republican voters outnumbering Democrats by less than 10,000. Non-party affiliated “independent” voters make up the largest portion of the district’s registered voters.

Without Barack Obama on the ballot next year to help drive Democratic voters to the polls, Republicans hoping to dethrone Sinema think the registration edge can push them to victory.

Leading the money race among Republicans is Wendy Rogers. The retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel came in second place in the seven-way 2012 Republican primary in CD9.

Rogers has raised about $350,000 since she announced shortly after Sinema’s 2012 victory that she would run again. And she has about $270,000 on hand, according to recent federal campaign finance reports. Rogers has loaned her campaign $20,000.

She is quick to point out that the vast majority of her contributions have come from inside Arizona.

Rogers has knocked on 13,000 doors in the district since deciding to run again, she said, and the conversations she’s had with CD9 residents tell her they want someone more like her representing them in Congress.

“I hear angst. I hear frustration. I hear powerlessness… This is an overarching feeling and reaction that I’ve gotten across all parts of the district. They want control over their lives and they feel like they’re losing that control,” Rogers said. “They say ‘I’ve never had a candidate come to my door, and I’m tired of yelling at the TV and forwarding emails to my friends.’”

Those CD9 residents want someone they have more in common with, Rogers contends.

“I’m a mother, a grandmother, a fifth-generation military veteran. I know how to balance a budget, because I’ve run my own business,” she said. “That’s the kind of experience we need in Washington.”

In contrast, Sinema is a career politician, she said.

A new strategy

Behind Rogers, former Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker has raised about $150,000 in his endeavor to face-off against Kyrsten Sinema again in 2014.

Parker came out on top of the same 2012 Republican primary, besting Rogers by only 705 votes. He was ultimately unsuccessful in the general election, finishing 4 percentage points behind Sinema, after an expensive and grueling campaign that consisted mostly of negative advertising.

Chris Baker, Parker’s campaign consultant, said Parker will utilize a new strategy this year, particularly with fundraising. Instead of relying on a small base of high-dollar donors, Parker’s 2014 campaign will aim for a broader set of supporters who might make smaller individual contributions. That, Baker said, will give him the broad base of support he needs to make it through the primary and to victory in the general election.

Most of Parker’s contributions have been under $200 that have not been itemized, so they do identify the contributor. But of the $30,000 Parker has raised that have identification, only five contributions, totaling $1,350 or about 4.5 percent of the itemized contributions, have come from inside the state.

Of the $304,000 in contributions to Rogers’ campaign that have information about the contributors, 85 percent has come from inside Arizona.

Baker has, however, repeatedly emphasized that Parker hasn’t “officially” announced his candidacy yet. He has two 2014 congressional campaign committees registered with the Federal Elections Commission, though.

Ex-football star joins field

Rounding out the Republican field is newcomer Andrew Walter.

Walter made a name for himself as a record-breaking quarterback with the Arizona State University Sun Devils about 10 years ago. Since then, Walter went on to quarterback in the National Football League for the Oakland Raiders and the New England Patriots.

He then returned to ASU to earn a master’s in business administration. He now runs Andrew Walter Holdings, a Scottsdale-based commercial lending firm.

Walter said he thinks the Republicans of CD9 want someone young, with fresh ideas to take on Sinema next year. His professional achievements speak to his dedication, he said, and the goal-oriented character he developed on the football field will translate into an efficient and effective campaign over the next year.

Walter has raised the least amount of money of the three Republicans, totaling only $202,000, including the $50,000 he lent his campaign. Of the contributions made to his campaign that disclose information about the contributors, 90 percent have come from inside the state.

No matter who comes out of the Republican primary, the National Republican Campaign Committee has outlined the message it believes will work against Sinema.

“Sinema owns Obamacare,” NRCC policy director Rob Simms said earlier this week. “She took credit for part of the drafting of the law.”

Sinema’s frequent lauding of the Affordable Care Act over the past few years will come back to hurt her, Simms contended, now that Americans have witnessed a bungled rollout of the law.

Sinema’s campaign consultant Rodd McLeod said he and his candidate are ready for those attacks.

“Kyrsten said openly that the Affordable Care Act had a lot of benefits, but she also said there were things that could be improved about it. All this year, she’s been quite critical of the implementation,” McLeod said. “She wants to fix Obamacare. She wants to make it work for the majority of people.”

And that position, McLeod said, has consistently been reflected in public polling.

“When the voters of CD9 are given a choice between a Republican who wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, with no alternative to offer, and a Democrat who wants to fix it, we think the voters will be in the ‘fix it’ camp, not in the ‘repeal it’ camp.”