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Political Notebook: Congressional candidates announce plans as we head toward 2020
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Political Notebook: Congressional candidates announce plans as we head toward 2020

With the city of Tucson elections behind us, candidates vying for a place on the 2020 ballots are launching their campaigns.

While the top of the ticket will be the race for president, political junkies in Southern Arizona should quickly get their fix with the sheer number of candidates vying for Congress.

At last count, nearly 20 people have thrown their hats into the ring for one of Southern Arizona’s three seats in the U.S. House of Representatives by submitting a statement of candidacy to the Federal Election Commission.

One minor footnote about the following list: Candidates don’t necessarily send out an announcement when they throw in the towel, politically speaking. So this list includes only those who have announced at some point they are running for office.

In the sprawling district that is larger than the state of Pennsylvania known as Congressional District 1, four Republicans and two Democrats are challenging Democratic incumbent Rep. Tom O’Halleran.

Small-business owner Tiffany Shedd, Safford Councilman Chris Taylor, Williams Mayor John William Moore, and lawyer Nolan Quinn Reidhead are vying for the GOP nomination next August; Democratic former state Sen. Barbara McQuire and former Flagstaff City Councilwoman Eva Putzova also plan to challenge O’Halleran for that party’s nomination.

The district goes from the northern edges of the Tucson area to the Four Corners region, covering the Navajo Nation and westward to the Grand Canyon.

In Congressional District 2, eight candidates are vying to challenge four-term Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, a Democrat, who is serving her first term in CD2.

Republicans who have announced are former lobbyist Shay Stautz, author Mike Ligon, defense contractor Brandon Martin, Pima Community College employee and former Arizona Daily Star columnist Joseph Morgan, and small-business owner Justine Wadsack.

Two Democrats, Andres Portela, Southwest Fair Housing Council media coordinator; and self-described activist Nevin Kohler are challenging Kirkpatrick for the Democratic nomination.

Iman-Utopia Layjou Bah, the author of the book “Global Utopian Kingdom,” has also announced he is running in CD2 as an independent.

In Congressional District 3, two Republicans have announced they plan to challenge Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva, who is seeking his 10th term in Congress. Daniel Wood, a veteran, and Steve Ronnebeck, a former auto mechanic who became active in politics after his son was fatally shot while working at a convenience store in 2015, say they are running. Authorities have charged an undocumented immigrant with first-degree murder in connection with Ronnebeck’s 21-year-old son’s slaying.

Election complaint against city

A fight over the fact that city ballots sent to voters disclose their party affiliation in the mailings’ clear address windows is far from over.

Pima County Republican Party Chairman David Eppihimer filed a complaint late last week with the U.S. Department of Justice over the issue and has since forwarded his complaint to Bo Dul, state election director.

Eppihimer first brought his complaints to the city of Tucson weeks earlier, suggesting that while there wasn’t any evidence of ballot tampering, disclosing party affiliation made it easier to target specific voters.

He was largely rebuffed by City Clerk Roger Randolph, who said it wasn’t an issue, and there are procedures in place to make sure ballots are appropriately handled.

While Eppihimier had threatened the city with legal action if there is any evidence of ballot tampering, his goal is to change the city’s policy so that it isn’t in place when the city holds its next election.

Candidate’s gun giveaway

Calling it a “Patriot Gun Giveaway,” Brandon Martin, who said he is planning to run in the 2nd Congressional District GOP primary, is offering one supporter a semi-automatic rifle, along with a few other items — including a book about a Special Forces unit signed by the author, former state lawmaker Frank Antenori — as part of a campaign giveaway.

“As a stalwart supporter of your right to keep and bear arms and defender of the Second Amendment, I have an all American gift for one lucky patriot,” Martin wrote on his campaign website. “With this gift we let the gun grabbers like my opponent Ann Kirkpatrick ... and national Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, Beto O’Rourke and Eric Swalwell, know where we stand, the Second Amendment shall not be infringed!”

The giveaway of the rifle is not tied to a donation — although Martin says donations are “always welcome” — and is open to anyone over the age of 21 who can pass a national background check. The package is valued at $1,300.

Guns have often been a polarizing issue in Tucson politics since the Jan. 8, 2011, mass shooting on the northwest side. Six people were killed and 13 were wounded in the shooting, including then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Martin was criticized by Kirkpatrick earlier this year after he wrote in a fundraising letter that he needed “ammunition” to remove her from office in 2020.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at or 573-4197. On Twitter: @JoeFerguson

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Joe has been with the Star for six years. He covers politics as well as the city of Tucson and other municipalities in Southern Arizona. He graduated from the UA and previously worked for the Arizona Daily Sun.

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