Hard work versus money.
In a political campaign, consultants and pollsters will put their money on money.
They predict that in a primary contest between Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, and Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, her larger campaign stash will ensure she keeps the Legislative District 7 seat in the Senate.
On July 7, Cook said he is going to run against Rogers after she received flack on social media for inadvertently retweeting a video with explicit images that has since been deleted.
Cook raised about $109,000 in the last election cycles and spent about $62,000.
Rogers raised about $3.3 million in the same period and spent about $3.2 million.
“Funding is always a concern,” Cook said in a text. He said that he’ll use the strategy he’s run with in the past. “Hard Work – meanwhile always thinking and putting the voters first and what is important to them and their daily lives,” he said.
Republican consultant Chuck Coughlin thinks money will be the most important factor in their primary race.
“Mr. Cook is biting off more than he can chew,” Coughlin said in a text message. He said Republican primary voters adore Rogers, making her an Arizona version of U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., a rural business owner and mother of four and torch bearer of former President Donald Trump.
Coughlin said that with Rogers’ money, Cook is “on the wrong side of the equation.”
In 2022, former lawmaker Kelly Townsend went head-to-head with Rogers and lost. Townsend had a longer career at the legislature and a similar platform to Rogers, but she was heavily outspent and lost with about 40% of the vote to Rogers’ 60%.
Democratic lobbyist Gaelle Esposito said that Cook is a stronger candidate than Townsend with a “conservative populist” message. “I have to wonder if R groups tired of her act will spend to help him,” Esposito said in a text.
Rogers, whose administrative assistant said was unavailable for comment, has a large following on social media and the support of many other MAGA Republicans nationwide including Trump.
Although many of her social media followers and donors are voters in LD7 where she is running, she collected substantially more than every other legislative candidate in Arizona in the last election.
Republican lobbyist Barrett Marson said of Cook: “He’ll work hard. But overcoming that huge war chest may be a hill too high to climb. In reality, very few people know who their state representatives are. But if Senator Rogers spends $1 million or $2 million to educate the GOP electorate, I don’t know that Cook can overcome that.”
Cook is termed out in 2025, meaning he cannot run for his current seat in the House of Representatives again in the upcoming election.
Rogers was elected for the first time in 2020, and Cook was first elected in 2016. He currently chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Rogers chairs the Senate Elections Committee.
Consultant Tyler Montague said if anyone has a chance against Rogers, it’s Cook. But he also acknowledged the gap in their funding.
“Her superpower is her big pile of $ she gets from peddling her grift spiel to her donors,” he said in a text.
In LD7, former Reps. John Fillmore and Walt Blackman filed to run for seats in the House. So did Rep. David Marshall Sr, R-Snowflake, Cook’s seatmate.
Rogers is the only one who’s filed a statement of interest to run for the district’s state Senate seat so far, and Cook is the only person who has announced that he will challenge her.
“I think it will cost him more money than he has ever raised,” Democratic consultant Tony Cani said of Cook.
In last year’s primary, Rogers got 24,023 votes and Townsend got 16,185.
In Cook’s primary last year, he competed with two other Republicans, but voters could vote for two people. He was the highest vote getter with 21,276 votes. Fillmore got 16,742 votes and Marshall Jr. got 18,083.
As for how those numbers will carry over in 2024, Highground strategist Paul Bentz said he thinks it’s a “neutral” thing.
“It kind of comes down to what happens in Coconino County,” Bentz said. “Rogers is certainly doing the work and seems to be really representing the desires of that of that electorate.”
Cook did very well against Fillmore, who Bentz described as “much more aligned on some of these Trump issues.” Fillmore was also at the disadvantage of being placed into a very different area than he’d won in before through redistricting.
“Cook has got a very long and successful track record, but I don’t know if it’ll matter to those primary Republicans who really just want people to validate their feelings, and Rogers certainly has done that expertly over the years,” Bentz said.
Cook is successful in Pinal County and the parts of it that go into LD 7. Bentz predicts that the Pinal County part of the district will grow and move more to the center over time, but it’s not there yet. Rogers, however, is established with voters in the White Mountains area further north.
“Her donor base is almost exclusively national at this point. That will give her a significant financial advantage,” Bentz said.