Battle Royale: Controversial Mary Rose Wilcox Is in the Political Fight of Her Life

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The other candidates in the District 7 contest are political longshots. July's Gallego-commissioned poll showed that the best-known also-rans, Randy Camacho and Jarrett Maupin, were favored by 4 percent and 2 percent of voters, respectively.

Jerry Duff, Camacho's campaign manager, isn't buying the results, though. "The real story is the change that's occurred over the past two months in this race," he argues. "The same firm polled likely voters in May and again in July in Arizona's 7th . . . According to their results, we know the following for sure: Gallego lost 6 percent of his support, Wilcox lost 8 percent of her support. Camacho gained 4 percent, and undecided voters increased by 8 percent. Imagine where this trend will take us . . .when the primary election happens?"

One hurdle for the lesser-known congressional candidates has been fundraising. None has raised any significant political donations.

Camacho, who ran for Congress in 2004, has taken in about $1,300 and lent his campaign about $3,000. Maupin's received about $9,000.

As for Libertarian Joe Cobb and immigration attorney Joe Peñalosa, the former had donated about $1,000 to his campaign, and the latter (through June) had raised about $10,000 and fronted his campaign about $4,200, according to campaign-finance records.

Peñalosa is the grandson of immigrant grandparents, and he worked his way through UCLA by preparing and serving food, washing dishes, and cleaning floors. He also worked as a landscaper alongside undocumented immigrants.

He says his experiences, and those of his grandparents and undocumented co-workers, moved him to dedicate his life to improving the lives of those in the immigrant community. After graduating UCLA, he attended Arizona State University College of Law. It was during law school that he started working with an attorney on immigration cases. He's volunteered his legal services to Mi Familia Vota (My Family Votes) and provided free representation to the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition and to the United Farm Workers. He often shares his political and legal views on immigration-related issues on Spanish-language television and radio.

He's been to Washington advocating for immigration reform and chides Capitol Hill Democrats for not making good on promises for immigration reform.

"They had their chance in 2009," he said during a debate at South Mountain Community College. "President Obama: Democrat. The Senate was controlled by 57 Democratic senators. The House had 256 Democratic congress-persons. And it still didn't get done because it wasn't a priority to them."

He roused the audience.

Maupin also has shaken up audiences when he speaks about the desperate need for immigration reform.

His candidacy, however, is dogged by a felony conviction that prevents him from casting a ballot in the August 26 election.

Maupin reached a plea deal with the Department of Justice after he admitted that he falsely informed the FBI in September 2008 that former Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon was engaged in criminal activity. Maupin repudiated the false report as part of his plea agreement.

All the candidates in the race believe they can fully replace Ed Pastor, revered by some for using his powerful position on the House Appropriations Committee to funnel federal dollars to Arizona and criticized by others for maintaining a behind-the-scenes profile on lightning-rod issues, principally immigration reform.

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Monica Alonzo
Contact: Monica Alonzo