by Pei Li, Cronkite News Service
With a year until the next election, Democratic freshmen in three competitive Arizona congressional districts are continuing to stockpile cash for their re-election bids, according to the latest campaign finance reports.
The Federal Election Commission said Reps. Kyrsten Sinema, Ron Barber and Ann Kirkpatrick had each raised at least $280,000 between July 1 and Sept. 30. No other member of the state’s congressional delegation raised even half that amount.
The three also had more cash on hand than most of the rest of the delegation: Sinema had $781,602, Barber $767,204 and Kirkpatrick $652,652. Only Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Phoenix, had more campaign cash on hand, with $1.3 million as of Sept. 30.
Kirkpatrick’s sprawling congressional district includes all of southern Gila County. Before redistricting, she had represented all of Gila County, but lost her seat to Republican Paul Gosar, who now represents Northern Gila County in a district that stretches to Yuma.
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Prescott) represents District 4, which includes all of Northern Gila County. He has $153,000 cash in hand and no announced challengers, since redistricting gave him a safe, Republican seat.
“Having cash in hand is always a good thing,” said Barbara Norrander, a professor from the University of Arizona’s School of Government and Public Policy.
Sinema’s, Kirkpatrick’s and Barber’s districts have been targeted by the national Republican Party, and all three have been described as “seats in play” by the Rothenberg Political Report.
“The Republicans identify Kirkpatrick, Sinema and Barber as vulnerable,” said Ruth Jones, a professor at Arizona State University.
All three already have strong challengers.
Arizona state House Speaker Andy Tobin has already announced he’ll seek the Republican nomination in hopes of ousting Kirkpatrick.
Barber, in particular, was outraised in the quarter by Republican Martha McSally, who is seeking a rematch for the Tucson-based seat after narrowly losing to Barber in 2012.
Arizona Republican Party spokesman Tim Sifert said the party has confidence in the “great and competitive candidates” it is already fielding for 2014.
“Arizona is a very Republican state,” Sifert said. “The Republican party has bigger advantage in voter registration and voter turnout.”
He pointed to the multiple Republican challengers in the districts. They include relatively recent candidates like radio talk-show host Ed Martin, who is running against Barber, as well as Tobin.
Because both challengers only recently declared their campaigns, neither has fund-raising that shows up yet with the FEC.
Democrats expect Tobin to raise a lot of money, said DJ Quinlan, executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party. He “is someone a lot of people want to be friend of in Washington, D.C., and with a lot of special interest,” said Quinlan.
With so many Republican challengers, Quinlan sees an advantage for the Democrats.
“The three districts are moderate swing districts,” said Quinlan, who said challengers might go too far right in the primary to win in the general election.
And Jones said a harshly contested Republican primary could make it more difficult for the nominee to win the general election.
“It would be more costly to have a stronger primary election competition than to have a nominal one,” said Jones, who said challengers “need save enough money to go up against the Democrats.”
But Sifert said he is confident the party can unite behind its nominees after the primary and win in the general.
“The only way that I can prove that point is going to be the day after the election,” he said.