|Primaries could decide congressional races this year|
|Written by Christopher Fox Graham|
|Sunday, 29 January 2012 00:00|
As it now stands, Verde Valley voters may not have much of a voice in who represents them in Congress unless they vote in the Republican or Democratic primaries this year.
Redrawn congressional district lines that split the Verde Valley have made one district safe for Republicans and the other safe for Democrats. No candidates from the party in the minority are running yet.
The shift in voter numbers is substantial enough that U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, the incumbent Republican representing District 1, announced Jan. 9 that he would move from Flagstaff to Prescott’s District 4 to keep a seat.
The 2010 Census showed enough population growth in Arizona to warrant the state receiving an additional representative in Congress. The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission recently redrew the state’s congressional and legislative boundaries.
The old map’s Congressional District 1 pitted the more left-leaning Coconino, Navajo and Apache counties against the more right-leaning Yavapai County giving both major parties a fair chance at winning. The new map splits District 1, now more Democratic, from the Republican-heavy District 4.
Congressional District 1
New District 1 includes Sedona, Camp Verde, the Village of Oak Creek and all of Coconino, Navajo, Apache, Graham and Greenlee counties plus large portions of Gila, Mohave and Pinal counties.
Vying for Gosar’s old seat in District 1 are two Democrats, one of whom is Ann Kirkpatrick, the former freshman representative Gosar defeated in 2010.
Kirkpatrick announced her candidacy for the seat in late spring and had already garnered twice as much as Gosar in campaign donations by the end of the second fiscal quarter, according to a press release her office issued in July.
Before her election to Congress, Kirkpatrick worked as a Coconino County deputy county attorney, Sedona city attorney and taught law and ethics at Coconino Community College.
Kirkpatrick’s contender in the Democratic primary is Wenona Benally Baldenegro, who has been running since April. Baldenegro grew up on the Navajo Nation. She earned a law degree from Harvard University and a master’s in public policy from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
She has worked as private sector attorney and for the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona, an alliance of most of the American Indian tribes in the state. She would be the first female American Indian elected to Congress if she won the seat.
Old District 1 currently has the largest number of American Indians in any congressional district in the county. The proportion of American Indians will increase with the new alignment.
Although several Republican officials have hinted at a run in District 1, none are formally declared with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.
Congressional District 4
New District 4, referred to as the “River District” by the commission, assumes the area formerly covered by old District 2, plus parts of Congressional Districts 1, 5 and 6.
District 4 includes most of Mohave and Yuma counties, all of La Paz County and most of Yavapai County including Cottonwood, Cornville, Page Springs and Jerome.
U.S. Rep Trent Franks [R], who used to represent the vast old District 2, is now in the new District 8, a compact and solidly Republican area encompassing the west valley of Phoenix.
In new District 4, Gosar will face Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, who coincidently endorsed Gosar in his 2010 race against Kirkpatrick.
A former Chandler police officer, Babeu is major in the Army National Guard and served a tour of duty in Iraq before his election to sheriff in 2008. He won the 2011 Sheriff of the Year by the National Sheriff’s Association.
Gosar’s other Republican foe is Arizona State Sen. Ron Gould, who formally announced his bid for the new District 4 on Jan. 12. He is unable to run for re-election in the Senate due to term limits. Before becoming a state legislator in 2004, Gould was a city councilman in Lake Havasu City.
Gosar was a Flagstaff dentist for 25 years before running for Congress.
No Democrats are formally declared in District 4 with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office. The deadline to file for candidacy is Wednesday, May 30.