Felicia French

Felicia French

Shake-ups continue in the hotly contested race for the state House and Senate in Legislative District 6, which stretches from Flagstaff across Rim Country and into the White Mountains.

On the Senate side, Rep. Bob Thorpe has dropped his bid for the Republican nomination. This leaves incumbent Sylvia Allen contending with retired Col. Wendy Rogers for the nomination.

Democrat Felicia French — also a retired Army colonel — so far has the race for the Democratic nomination all to herself. French lost her bid for a House seat in the district by 557 votes in 2018.

On the House side, Republican Walt Blackman — a Show Low retired Army sergeant — is running for re-election for one of the two seats. Thorpe could not run again for his House seat because of term limits — which prevent a fifth, consecutive two-year term.

Snowflake Attorney Jon Saline has dropped his bid for the Republican nomination for the seat.

That cleared the way for former Rep. Brenda Barton to gather signatures to run again for her old seat. She was term-limited out of the seat in 2018. However, after two years, the law allows a former representative to run again for the same seat. By the time she would take office, the waiting period would have passed.

Blackman and Barton will face tough competition in one of the most competitive districts in the state — although Republicans have held all three seats for a decade.

This time, Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans is running for the Democratic nomination. Flagstaff remains the largest city in the district, but the Republican vote in the rural areas to the east normally overwhelms the Democratic vote in the Flagstaff area.

However, the race has an added wrinkle this time. Coconino County Supervisor Art Babbott is running as an independent. This means he will automatically make the general election ballot. A businessman, Babbott has also played a leading role in the stakeholders group backing the Four Forest Restoration Initiative to reduce the risk of mega-fires by thinning the forest.

The registration numbers in District 6 show 38 percent are Republican, 29 percent are Democrats and 33 percent are “other” — mostly independents. Normally, the independents break for the Republicans. This normally gives the Republicans a big edge in the district.

Barton, who attended a recent Tea Party meeting in Payson, said she was essentially drafted to run after Saline dropped out.

Gila County Republican Chairman Gary Morris in a release wrote, “Brenda’s eight years in the House, including serving as chairwoman of a number of committees, gives her an experience level and leadership skills that exceeds any other candidate, Democrat or independent from Legislative District 6. There will be no lost time learning curve when she takes her seat in the House.”

In the last election, Barton gathered signatures to run for the Senate seat, after Allen indicated she probably wouldn’t run again. However, supporters of Allen challenged enough of Barton’s signatures that she didn’t make the ballot for the primary.

Allen initially indicated she wouldn’t run for re-election this time either, citing a strain of the constant travel from Snowflake to Phoenix and the desire to spend more time with her family — including 19 grandchildren. That prompted Thorpe and Rogers to enter the race. However, Allen then changed her mind and ran for her fourth consecutive term. She served several terms previously, then left to become a Navajo County supervisor.

So the only big primary contest pits Allen against Rogers, a retired lieutenant colonel and business owner. Rogers ran unsuccessfully for Congress against Democrat Tom O’Halleran.

So far she has run a campaign that makes Allen sound moderate, with a heavy emphasis on scathing attacks on Democrats and calls for much tougher law enforcement on the border.

In her most recent release, Rogers wrote that ICE has arrested thousands of child predators and that Democrats favor open borders that would overwhelm the U.S. with criminals, including people who torture children, child pornographers, and people who “victimize their own children.

“Why on Earth would the Democrats want to protect these criminals and disband ICE? I have been saying for years that today’s Democrats are radicalized socialists, content to inflict harm on the American people out of servitude to their defunct leftist ideology.”

Allen recently came under criticism because of remarks she made suggesting immigrants were “flooding” the United States and that “we have a right in our country to have people come in an organized manner so we know who’s coming, so we can provide jobs for them, so we can provide education for them and health care and all the things people need. We can’t provide that if people are just flooding us and flooding us and flooding us and overwhelming us.”

However, her rhetoric on immigration has been much more moderate than the frequent broadsides in Rogers regular releases.

Contact the writer at paleshire@payson.com

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