Republicans poised to gain congressional seats 

Republicans poised to gain congressional seats 

Stanton, Congress
Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton, the incumbent in the 4th Congressional District, pauses before speaking at a rally for Brittney Griner on July 6 in Phoenix. Republican Kelly Cooper is going against Stanton in the November election as Republicans try to take over some of the Democrat-controlled congressional seats. (Photo by Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)

Republicans see an opportunity to snag some of the Democrat-controlled congressional seats for themselves this year.

Arizona Democrats hold a thin one-seat majority over Republicans in the congressional delegation at 5-4, but Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, a Tucson Democrat, is retiring this year and Rep. Tom O’Halleran of Sedona is in a red district, while Rep. Greg Stanton, a former Phoenix mayor, is in a semi-competitive district that leans Democrat.

The most competitive district looks to be the 6th after Kirkpatrick announced on March 12, 2021, that she would not run for re-election. That open seat is in what is now a red district.

The 6th District is in southeastern Arizona and mostly excludes Tucson, which is blue and safely tucked into Congressman Raul Grijalva’s district. In the general election in the 6th Congressional District it will come down to Juan Ciscomani, a former adviser to Gov. Doug Ducey, and former state Senator Kirsten Engel.

Ciscomani went against Republican Brandon Martin, who had been endorsed by former President Donald Trump in October of 2020, when he ran for the 2nd Congressional District. This year, he lost in the newly drawn 6th Congressional District in a landslide. Neither candidate was endorsed by Trump this year, and Ciscomani beat Martin handily 47% to 21%.

GOP consultant Chuck Coughlin anticipates that the 2nd District and the 6th District have the most potential to be flipped.

“Kirkpatrick at the top of the list, because there’s no incumbent running; it’s an open seat,” Coughlin said. “And, the district has been substantially changed and  Ciscomani is a good candidate who’s raised a lot of money. Engel tends to be, you know, I think she’s a little left of where the district is, and so, and given the cycle with a significant Republican turnout advantage. I would say that’s the most likely one. I’d say the next one is O’Halleran. Very difficult, that district is substantially changed after redistricting. It’s significantly more Republican, but you know, the flip side, the reason I hesitate is because he is an incumbent. He’s worked really hard.”

Coughlin noted that newcomer Republican Eli Crane, who came out on top of his primary for the 2nd Congressional District, had to lean pretty far to the right to win, but that could make it harder for him to defeat O’Halloran.

Republican Kelly Cooper is going against Stanton in the 4th Congressional District, which could also end up being a competitive race depending on how well Cooper’s fundraising and advertising goes over the next three months.

Coughlin said he initially thought the district would be competitive, but not anymore. “I think most people thought Tanya would win that race,” he said. “She got beat by what apparently is more conservative candidate. And I think that diminishes the chances of (a) flip in that in that district,” he said of Cooper’s more moderate primary opponent Tanya Contreras Wheeless.

Trump endorsed Rep. David Schweikert of Fountain Hills, Rep. Paul Gosar of Prescott, and newcomer Eli Crane, all of whom came out on top in their primaries.

Trump’s endorsement of Schweikert came as somewhat of a surprise as Schweikert is the only Arizona Republican member of Congress who didn’t try to assist Trump in decertifying President Joe Biden’s election win in 2020.

Schweikert is also not campaigning on Trump’s endorsement as the other candidates are. He doesn’t advertise the endorsement on his campaign website or in his Twitter biography.

Republican Josh Barnett challenged Schweikert and was endorsed by Kari Lake and Rep. Mark Finchem, who won GOP nominations for governor and secretary of state, respectively, and are also Trump endorsees.

Barnett was much more vocal about the “stolen election,” yet he flailed without Trump’s support.

Although he’s a Trump-endorsed incumbent, Schweikert is considered to be “in danger” by some consultants. He was found guilty of 11 ethics violations by the House Ethics Committee after lying on his campaign finance forms.

He also made headlines recently for a smear campaign against primary opponent Elijah Norton by publishing ads with an image of Norton with his arm around another man and the caption: “Elijah Norton isn’t being straight with you.”

The man Norton is pictured with, Leslie Hammon, is suing Schweikert for implying that he and Norton were in a gay relationship and further insinuating that it is a bad thing to have an LGBTQ+ representative.

Schweikert tried the same tactic in 2012 against his primary opponent Ben Quayle, sending out mailers with Quayle’s face and the caption, “He goes both ways.”

“This is a district that Joe Biden won,” said Democrat consultant and O’Halleran spokesperson Rodd McLeod. “It’s a district that includes lots of Democratic voters in Phoenix and Scottsdale and Schweikert has been found guilty of ethical violations and has been hammered for those ethical violations on television and digital ads for weeks and months.”

Schweikert will face Democrat Jevin Hodge in November.

Trump endorsed Gosar one day after the congressman was censured and stripped of his committee assignments by the House for posting a video in which a cartoon character of himself murders Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, and attacks Biden with a sword. Trump referred to Gosar as a “loyal supporter of our American First agenda” in his endorsement.

Gosar is being challenged by write-in Democratic candidate David Lucier, the former chair of the Maricopa County Democrats. Gosar won in a landslide in a four-way primary race with 66% of the vote and collected more than 66,000 votes. Lucier’s vote tally is not out yet, so it’s not clear whether he has officially qualified for the November ballot.

The Trump endorsement was a special boon for Crane, who faced six other Republicans in the 2nd Congressional District primary. He won with 36% of the vote and had more than 10,000 votes over each of his opponents. It’s not yet clear whether that will be enough for Crane to overtake incumbent O’Halleran.

O’Halleran has the misfortune of being redistricted into a slightly Republican leaning area, but he is well-known in his district. Crane lists his address as a PO box outside of Tucson, which is not in the district, but members of Congress are not legally required to live in the district they represent.

Rep. Ruben Gallego, 7th Congressional District, and Grijalva, 3rd District, both Democrats, have general election races against political unknowns Jeff Nelson Zink and Luis Pozzolo, but neither is expected to lose their seats, which are still in blue districts.

Rep. Debbie Lesko, a Republican, is the only candidate who didn’t have a primary race and doesn’t have a general election opponent either. She is in a safe Republican district and is also endorsed by Trump, as are four other Republican candidates.