For the Republican Party, the allure of Congressional District 3 is all but gone.

Last year Rep. Raúl Grijalva was on the National Republican Congressional Committee's list of 10 Democrats to target this election season.

And two years ago the NRCC said Grijalva was vulnerable and "clearly fighting for survival."

Now, District 3 has become Arizona's least interesting race.

Attention - and financial support - has turned to competitive Districts 1, 2 and 9, said Daniel Scarpinato, the NRCC's Arizona spokesman.

"In 2012, the 3rd Congressional District race is hopeless for Republicans, so why should they waste their money?" said political analyst Chris Herstam, of Phoenix.

The NRCC has lost interest in District 3 "because they realize Grijalva is unbeatable," he said.

Local party leaders, however, say they still have hope.

It will be harder for a Republican to win when national money is directed elsewhere, said Barney Brenner, a member of the Pima County GOP executive committee.

"But we have a very good candidate and if anybody can do it, Gabriela Saucedo Mercer can," he said.

In an email, Saucedo Mercer declined to comment on the NRCC but said fundraising is "going great" and she is feeling good about the race and preparing for upcoming debates.

Voter numbers show she'll have to fight.

In the newly redrawn District 3, there are nearly two registered Democrats for every Republican.

If all the Democrats vote for Grijalva and all the Republicans vote for Saucedo Mercer, she would still need to get at least 80 percent of independents' votes to win.

Even with the assumption that it's a hard district for a Republican to win, Grijalva seemed vulnerable in 2010 when he made comments about boycotting Arizona and didn't have much money in the bank, said Republican pollster Margaret Kenski.

This time Grijalva is more prepared, has more money, and the immigration issue isn't as hot, she said.

"After the challenging election we had prior to this one, we realized we shouldn't take anything for granted and we need to work really hard - and we have," Grijalva said.

While continuing to answer for his boycott comments, Grijalva has pointed to Saucedo Mercer's comments last year about Middle Easterners not being welcome in the U.S. as hate speech. And, he said, she may have crossed a line with the NRCC.

"They put their eggs in Ms. Mercer's basket and she's proven to be more of a liability than an asset," he said.

Saucedo Mercer has explained her comments were meant to refer only to terrorists.

Still, the comments may have ruined her chances, Herstam said.

Another way to look at it is Republicans previously saw an opportunity in the district, but now they don't think it's worth the investment, said Democratic political strategist Bob Grossfeld, of Phoenix.

While no race is a sure win, "the congressman probably doesn't need to worry about packing his bags back in D.C.," Grossfeld said.

On StarNet: Find a breakdown of Tucson-area races and candidates, plus voter resources and links to recent political coverage, at

The new Congressional District 3

• Includes downtown Tucson and the university area, west-side and south-side neighborhoods, Santa Cruz County and parts of Maricopa, Yuma and Pinal Counties.







Contact reporter Becky Pallack at or 573-4346. On Twitter @BeckyPallack.