Lea Marquez Peterson’s formal entry into the Congressional District 2 race leaves an opening — on the right.
Marquez Peterson, the president and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, fits the mold of former GOP congressman Jim Kolbe or maybe of early Martha McSally before she embraced President Trump. Marquez Peterson is a business Republican, tightly tied to Gov. Doug Ducey.
But let’s remember what happened after Kolbe retired. In 2006, the more conservative GOP candidate, Randy Graf, beat the more moderate Steve Huffman in the primary. Then Graf lost handily to Democrat Gabrielle Giffords in the general election, launching her congressional career.
In 2008, a mainstream Republican, former state senator Tim Bee, lost to the new incumbent Giffords. Then in 2010, the flame-throwing conservative Jesse Kelly beat the more mainline Republican Jonathan Paton in the GOP primary. Giffords held off Kelly narrowly in a year swept by Republicans. Paton may well have won that general election had he taken the primary.
So who will play the Jesse Kelly/Randy Graf role this year? It could be Ally Miller. The Pima County supervisor from the northwest side acknowledged to my colleague Joe Ferguson this week that she is considering a run for Congress.
I had previously discounted her as a possible candidate, but as time goes on and I talk with more people, it seems increasingly likely to me that Miller will jump into the race.
Why? Well, Miller has shown political ambition, not that there’s anything wrong with that. And she is beloved among her supporters. Finally, she is a full-throated Trump supporter, unlike Marquez Peterson, who declined to support him when we talked earlier this year. If Steve Bannon fights his “war” on the GOP establishment at the House level, he’d likely support someone like Miller.
How would Miller fare in a general election? Of course, it depends on whom the Democrats pick. But my guess is Miller would have limited appeal. She has deep support, but by a narrow band of followers, and she carries a lot of political baggage from the many controversies of her time on the Board of Supervisors. Democrats would be happy to campaign against her.
CD3 Republicans run
A new candidate jumped into the race for the Republican nomination in Congressional District 3 this week. Sergio Arellano said he’ll seek the chance to take on incumbent Raúl Grijalva, who is presumed to be running for re-election.
Arellano, a member of the Continental School District governing board in Green Valley, joins two candidates who have run before: Jaime Vasquez and Edna San Miguel. Vasquez ran for the GOP nomination in 2012 but lost to Gabriela Saucedo Mercer. San Miguel ran in 2016 but dropped out before the primary after too many of her petition signatures were found to be invalid.
Arellano, 34, has become a presence in the Arizona Republican scene over recent years, holding jobs as a Latino outreach director and strategic initiatives director for the Republican National Committee and also working for the state party. He is an Army veteran who plans to use that experience along with his presence and accessibility around the district as arguments in the general election.
The other new candidate is Nick Pierson, 68, a well-known financial adviser for Northwestern Mutual. Pierson has been increasingly involved in community affairs over the years, organizing a South Tucson group called Tus Vecinos en el Barrio and working on the Fox Theatre Foundation’s board to establish a variety of events.
Republicans traditionally have a hard time against the formidable Grijalva in CD 3, but he may have a bit of rare vulnerability next year thanks to the recent revelation that he settled for $48,000 a hostile-workplace complaint.
Candidates share consultant
If you still think McSally may end up running for re-election to her House seat, consider this: McSally and Marquez Peterson hired the same campaign consulting company, Axiom Strategies, based in Kansas City, Mo., to run their races. The company is not going to work for two candidates running against each other.
I spoke with a partner at the firm, Travis Smith, who served as a consultant to McSally in earlier races. He confirmed that the two candidates have hired the firm and spoke of McSally’s announcement of a Senate run as a when, not if, prospect.
As I’ve said before in this column, McSally’s days running in CD2 are over. There’s no turning back. The only question is, considering Sen. John McCain’s poor health, which senatorial seat she ends up pursuing.
Bannon vs. Trump
The possibility that President Trump will endorse McSally for U.S. Senate probably became more likely this week. That’s because Trump’s instincts were proved right in Alabama, where he had endorsed incumbent Luther Strange for the GOP nomination while Trump’s one-time adviser, Steve Bannon, endorsed Roy Moore.
Moore, of course, ended up losing to Democrat Doug Jones, damaging Bannon’s brand in the process. Bannon has endorsed Kelli Ward for the GOP nomination for retiring U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat, but the Alabama result raises the question of how much that endorsement is really worth.
CD8 fallout for state
The sudden resignation of Rep. Trent Franks in Congressional District 8 has upended some expected races in Arizona.
State Sen. Steve Montenegro had been challenging the incumbent Republican, Michele Reagan, for her seat as secretary of state. Now he is running in a crowded field for the GOP nomination in CD 8.
That prompted people to ask former state Senate president Steve Pierce if he would challenge Reagan, Pierce told me.
Pierce, who represented the Prescott area, is thinking about it. But he said the GOP needs a better candidate than Reagan.
“You could run by just reprinting the newspaper articles where she screwed up,” he told me.
State Sen. Katie Hobbs is planning to run for secretary of state on the Democratic side.