The most popular word in Congressional District 7 this election cycle is "boycott."
With other congressional Democrats denouncing Rep. Raúl Grijalva's call for a boycott of the state last spring to oppose SB 1070, and an anti-incumbent national mood, it has set up a tougher political year than the four-term congressman has seen in a while.
When Republican Ruth McClung entered the race a new phrase was born: "Boycott Grijalva, not Arizona."
Grijalva has since backed away from his call, saying the boycott was intended to get policy makers to think about the consequences of the law, and that wasn't happening. He also backed off because the Justice Department "took the heart out of many of the points of contention," and the boycott was hurting people who lost their jobs as a result of it.
He won his past three elections with more than 60 percent of the votes each time, but he has admitted some things could have led to a different tone this election season.
He told supporters last month the party should have pushed harder for a public option in the federal health care overhaul, and worked for more job creation in the federal stimulus bill. Instead, it softened the bills in the name of compromise and to help Democrats facing tough elections.
"What did we gain? The opposition isn't any less intense than it would have been," he said at a campaign meeting.
The district includes western Pima County, Yuma County, and parts of Santa Cruz, Pinal, Maricopa and La Paz counties. More than 142,000 voters in the district are registered Democrats, with about 75,000 Republicans and nearly 104,000 independents.
That gives four-term incumbent Grijalva an advantage. But in a year of voter unrest, anger over federal spending and tea party momentum, McClung pulled out a five-way primary victory with 50.6 percent of the vote.
At the last campaign reporting deadline, Grijalva had raised $545,000 and had about $77,000 left. McClung raised $72,000 and had about $16,000 left.
She said she'd vote for an amendment to require the federal government to balance the budget each year. One way to do that is "zero-based budgeting" in which each department submits a list of things it wants to do, and funding is decided based on priorities.
"Certain things are good to spend money on, but not as good as something else," she said.
She also wants to move many spending decisions to local governments, which have a better idea what their communities need.
The physicist works on navigation for a Defense Department contractor, and has adopted the campaign slogan "Maybe it does take a rocket scientist."
She wants to move toward privatizing Social Security for younger generations, but first put a "lockbox" on the program to protect those receiving benefits now or in the next few years.
Grijalva has been spearheading a letter-writing effort to oppose cuts to Social Security benefits. The letter to President Obama says Social Security has not contributed to the national debt, and shouldn't be cut for budgetary reasons.
In his fifth term, Grijalva said he would like to repeal No Child Left Behind, create a public financing system for federal elections, and work on immigration reform and legislation on carbon emissions.
Though the national climate may not be the best year for Democrats, it doesn't necessarily indicate a landslide Republican shift, said Republican pollster Margaret Kenski.
"As I look at the data that you see from poll after poll after poll, it's not that they're so crazy about the Republicans, but they think the Obama agenda is not what they wanted when they thought they voted for change," Kenski said.
The fiscal issues of the day may defy party politics, she said.
"People are really not crazy about either (party) right now, but they do want smaller government and they don't like to see the debt piling up," Kenski said.
There are two options for those who feel neither major party has the answer this year: Libertarian George Keane and independent Harley Meyer.
Keane won his August primary and says his goal is "drastic cuts across the board on everything," based on constitutionally required federal spending. "You don't hear our congressman talking about it, but we have a debt of $1.4 trillion, and we need to get some of our spending levels in line," he said.
That includes cutting military spending by closing all overseas bases and funding to other countries. "We can't afford it," he said.
Meyer said the economy was the main reason he entered the race. "I know we have an economic crisis, and I know what we need to do to get out of it," he said. That plan includes increasing competition among companies here, and importing fewer goods.
"The business model that's causing the economic crisis is also causing illegal immigration, and not just on our border but around the world."
On StarNet: Find candidate profiles for local races at azstarnet.com/ elections
Raúl M. Grijalva
Occupation: Member of Congress, U.S. representative, AZ District 7
Education: Bachelor of arts in sociology, University of Arizona.
Past elected public offices: U.S. Congress, 2003-present. Pima County Board of Supervisors, 1989-2002. Tucson Unified School District Governing Board member, 1974-1986.
Civic activities: Reading is fundamental (pre-school reading programs), literacy causes and grandchildren.
Top endorsements: American Nurses Association, Arizona AFL-CIO, Sierra Club.
Top priority: Job creation, bring public and private sector action on creating jobs to turn economy around.
Web address: www.grijalvaforcongress.com
Occupation: Guidance navigation and control engineer
Education: Bachelor of arts in physics, University of Arizona; some graduate level courses in optics from the University of Arizona.
Past elected public offices: None.
Civic activities: Tutored fellow students in physics; involved in church and political activities.
Top endorsements: Border Patrol Union 2544, National Right for Life, Central Arizona Block Co.
Top priority: Work to ensure jobs and prosperity for all Americans.
Web address or phone number: www.ruth4az.com 520-579-5734
Occupation: Math teacher at a private school teaching eighth and 11th graders.
Education: Teaching licensure, masters in math education, University of Minnesota 2001; B.S., economics with math emphasis, University of Minnesota 1995; B.S., mathematics, Institute of Technology, University of Minnesota.
Past elected public offices: None.
Civic activities: Running for Congress for the economy.
Top endorsements: None.
Top priority: Economy.
Web address: http://harleymeyer.com
Occupation: Loan servicer for mortgage company.
Education: BA interdisciplinary studies in anthropology and religious studies ASU, 2008.
Past elected public offices: none
Civic activities: Volunteer and contribute to tea party events; Habitat for Humanity twice.
Top endorsements: None.
Top priority: Drastically cut our current spending levels.
Web address or phone number: http://www.facebook.com/pages/George-Keane-For-Congress/110972178949460
Contact reporter Andrea Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 807-7790.