Paul Babeu is the GOP front-runner in the race to replace Ann Kirkpatrick in the sprawling first congressional district – if you believe Babeu’s consultant.
Mike Noble said his survey found the Pinal County sheriff supported by close to 38 percent of 511 likely Republican voters questioned. Closest is former secretary of state and 2014 gubernatorial hopeful Ken Bennett at slightly below 13 percent.
For the moment, Bennett, who is currently working for the Arizona Supreme Court, is precluded from getting involved in politics. But he told Capitol Media Services he has a new job lined up in the private sector and expects to make an announcement in a few days.
Businessman Gary Kiehne who lost a three-way GOP primary last year for the same seat, is polling in the 10-point range for what will be an open seat now that Kirkpatrick has decided to run for the U.S. Senate against John McCain.
But all that presumes that Andy Tobin, who actually ran against Kirkpatrick last time, won’t get in the 2016 race: Noble didn’t include him in the poll under the presumption he won’t enter the race.
Tobin, currently head of the Department of Weights and Measures, said he has made no such decision. He acknowledged, though, there are factors which weigh against another CD 1 bid.
“Paul and I are friends,” he said of the sheriff. Ditto, he said, of some of the other candidates.
That, however, doesn’t mean the former House speaker is hanging up his political spurs. Tobin said he has been asked to consider a bid for CD 4, a race that would put him in a primary against incumbent Republican Paul Gosar.
If nothing else, a CD 4 bid actually would have Tobin living in the congressional district.
Near the bottom of Noble’s polling is current House Speaker David Gowan. But Constantin Querard, who consults for Gowan, said that result – and the fact he lives in CD 2 – is unlikely to affect his decision. What will, Querard said Wednesday, is whether he can raise the money necessary for the race. To that end, Querard said Gowan is forming a “super-PAC” that allows him to raise money from all sorts of sources without declaring his candidacy.
Querard acknowledged Gowan’s residency miles from the edge of the district may be used against him.
“He’s got to basically make the case that on the issues of the day he’s got the best record, he’s the most reliable and he’s a solid conservative guy,” he said.
Noble said it’s no surprise that Gowan is in low single digits, pointing out the poll covered only those living in CD 1. Conversely, Noble said Babeu’s high poll may reflect more the fact he’s been sheriff for seven years and the that the largest share of Republicans in the 11-county district live in Pinal County.
According to Noble, the margin of error on the automated telephone survey conducted earlier this week is 4.3 percent.