As is the case every two years, all nine of Arizona's seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are up for grabs, and some are closer than others.
For example, if it's 8 a.m. on Election Day, and we're on the Secretary of State's website trying to find the name of the Democrat running against Congressman David Schweikert in CD-6, that might be an indication that it's not going to be a very close race.
On the other hand, if someone's pouring a bunch of money into their campaign, and drilling their advertisements into your head through your television set, that may be an indication that the candidate believes they can be in contention in a given race. There are many exceptions to that, like Republican U.S. Senate candidate Wil Cardon, who was a lot like the boxers in the late '80s who said to themselves, "Sure, I can beat Mike Tyson -- maybe even knock him out."
That said, it appears that just four of the races have any reasonable chance of going either way. If you want to dispute our interpretation of the word "reasonable," it could be even fewer than four.
Below, we'll put the races under "good," "bad," and "ugly" status, as far as the perceived competitiveness of the races.
- The Good
CD-9: Republican Vernon Parker v. Democrat Kyrsten Sinema
Here, we have one of the few congressional races that doesn't feature a sitting congressman, and is in a newly formed district. Parker, a former Paradise Valley mayor and town councilman, versus Sinema, a former state legislator. It would seem that the Tempe-area district would easily favor Sinema, but Parker, Republicans, and Super PACs have poured oodles of cash into this race. The content of the attack ads from Parker's side of the race were pretty much accurately predicted back in January by our colleague Stephen Lemons.
"...[Sinema] suffers from a terrible affliction that threatens to undermine her ambition: a predilection for lodging a Prada pump in her esophagus," Lemons wrote. "Sinema's knack for the self-inflicted wound and the political tin ear that accompanies it were front and center at a recent meeting of a local chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America."
Indeed, as Lemons pointed to examples showing that Sinema would "face a Republican opponent who'll be quick to use a fat opposition research file on her," we've actually seen that New Times piece used as the source cited in anti-Sinema ads, albeit inaccurately. Lemons was pointing to things that Sinema had previously said, and the ads -- such as the one that morphed Sinema's comment of being a "Prada socialist" into that of just being a "socialist" -- haven't quite been truthful. Of course, that's kind of how political ads go these days.
Even if Parker doesn't win -- which is the more-likely case -- he probably had the best shot of the many Republicans he faced in his primary election, mostly due to the strength and cash of his backers.
CD-1: Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick v. Republican Jonathan Paton
Although this district -- which covers a massive amount of area, including much of northern and eastern Arizona -- isn't really new, although it changed through redistricting, it's an open seat. Kirkpatrick's a former congresswoman who was defeated by current Congressman Paul Gosar in 2010. However, Gosar's gone to another district this year, and Kirkpatrick will face Paton, a former state Senator who's been unsuccessful twice thus far in his bids for Congress. Again, there's a ton of money being thrown around here, and national outfits have called this race a "toss up" -- which is enough to qualify as an exciting race, compared to some of the others.
CD-2: Democrat Ron Barber v. Republican Martha McSally
Congressman Ron Barber, who was just elected to Congress in June in a special election held to elect the successor to retiring Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, didn't face too much of a challenge from Republican Jesse Kelly, who lost by about 7 percentage points. However, McSally hasn't been as divisive or goofy as Kelly, which might help her out. Barber's clearly the favorite, since voters just picked him a couple months ago, but there's no indication that McSally's been wasting her time campaigning.
CD-3: Democrat Raul Grijalva v. Republican Gabriela Saucedo-Mercer
Yes, Congressman Grijalva is generally hated by the more extreme right-wingers. Does he have a chance of losing? Ehhhhhhhh. We hesitated putting this one in the "good" category, but since we actually recognize Saucedo-Mercer's name, it's good enough. And really, the only thing we remember about her is that she said "Middle Easterners" probably shouldn't be allowed in the United States, and noted that most of them look like Mexicans. Again, the southern-Arizona district has a new shape, and additionally, Grijalva's most recent reelection bid was the closest of any he'd ever had. In 2010, Ruth McClung took in 44 percent of the vote to Grijalva's 50 percent. Considering the competitiveness of some other races around the state, this one qualifies as close enough.
- The Bad
CD-6: Republican David Schweikert v. Democrat/Independent Matt Jette
Congressman Schweikert's reelection came a couple months ago, after defeating fellow freshman Congressman Ben Quayle in a primary battle. Jette made the ballot as a Democrat, although he's since changed his party affiliation to independent. Schweikert could have been sitting on his couch eating Fritos for the past month instead of campaigning, and he still would win this election easily.
CD-4: Republican Paul Gosar v. Democrat Johnnie Robinson
The easiest way to explain this is that Gosar is a sitting Republican congressman who didn't say anything profoundly stupid to make national news, and Robinson's new to the game in a Republican district. Yawn.
CD-5: Republican Matt Salmon v. Democrat Spencer Morgan
Morgan's name is one of those we discovered this morning on the Secretary of State's website, and Salmon -- a former Congressman -- is another guy who probably won after defeating Kirk Adams in the primary for this east Valley district. Salmon's got the support of all the big Republicans in Arizona, and he's fairly well-known around here. Morgan's just 26 years old, and while we appreciate the gonads to run against a guy like Salmon, he probably doesn't have high hopes for himself, either.
- The Ugly
Republican Trent Franks v. Democrat Gene Scharer
Congressman Trent Franks has gotten close to losing an election exactly zero times in his five victories. He won by fewer than 20 percentage points once (19.73 in 2006). Sure, the west Valley district is a little different than in previous years, but let's not kid ourselves.
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Democrat Ed Pastor v. Just about nobody
Someone is running against Congressman Pastor, and although the Republicans didn't throw a candidate at him, there is Libertarian candidate Joe Cobb. The "L-word" still scares the pants off a lot of Republicans, and Pastor's had this in the bag for quite some time.