US CONGRESS, DISTRICT 1

Partisan, outside groups plow money into 'winnable' race

District covering half of Arizona has diverse economic drivers
2012-10-14T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T17:09:11Z Partisan, outside groups plow money into 'winnable' raceTim Steller Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 14, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Outside groups are desperate for voters to elect the groups' favorite candidate in Arizona's Congressional District 1.

From Sept. 6 to Oct. 4, they spent almost $2.4 million on the campaign pitting Republican Jonathan Paton against Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick. That doesn't count the money the campaigns themselves spent - or the additional outside spending promised to come.

Both sides see the race as winnable, so partisans are giving it their best effort.

The vast new congressional district covers 55,000 square miles, almost half of Arizona, and is about the same size as Wisconsin. It covers Marana and Oro Valley, much of Pinal County, the Apache and Navajo reservations, Flagstaff, Sedona and the Grand Canyon.

In the district, Democrats account for about 39 percent of registered voters, while Republicans number about 31 percent, and independents, 30 percent. As mixed as the area's political persuasions are, even that doesn't describe the area's diversity.

American Indian voters make up about 20 percent of the electorate, and Paton's campaign estimates there are 80,000 Mormon residents of the district. Large swaths of the population live in the bedroom communities northwest of Tucson, are involved in agriculture in Pinal County, or depend on the mines of the copper basin.

Paton, 41 and a former Tucson legislator, lives in Marana. Kirkpatrick, 62, who represented the district in Congress from 2009 to 2011, lives in Flagstaff. Libertarian Kim Allen, 72 and a retiree, lives in Arizona City.

"The best way to describe it is, it's just an incredibly diverse district," said Carmen Gallus, the campaign manager for Kirkpatrick.

Although their campaigns may benefit from outside spending, Paton and Kirkpatrick agree the source of campaign money is troubling. And they agree on a measure to address the issue: All donations to any group attempting to influence an election should be disclosed publicly, a requirement that doesn't exist for some groups.

Libertarian Allen views campaign finance as his top priority. And he has a stricter prescription, one that could defy the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling: Restrict contributions to residents of the district.

"Some people say money is free speech. I say money is pure corruption when it comes to politics," he said.

For Paton and Kirkpatrick, the top priority is jobs, but the approaches are different.

"The actions of the federal government are why this district is suffering so much," Paton said.

He points to a recent Environmental Protection Agency rule that could potentially lead to the closure of the Navajo Generating Station, a coal plant near Page. That would cost the impoverished reservation hundreds of jobs, Paton said.

"Most people don't want anything from the government; they just want to be left alone," he said.

Kirkpatrick calls jobs the one unifying issue across the district.

"The goal is to create a diversified, sustainable economy that's not reliant on just one or two sectors," Kirkpatrick said.

To that end she proposes pushing biotech in Southern Arizona and wind and solar energy and manufacturing in other parts of the district. Moving to these industries, she said, will help the area move away from boom-and-bust cycles.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Activate

Follow the Arizona Daily Star

Featured businesses

View more...

Deals, offers & events

View more...