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A Squeaker in AZ 08

Arizona's Eighth Congressional District - which includes Tucson, Bisbee and the southwest portion of the state - is open this year, thanks to the retirement of long-time moderate Republican Representative Jim Kolbe. It is one of the Democrats' top targets. The Republican side features what appears to be a down-to-the-wire contest between conservative, former representative Randy Graf (who challenged, and nearly defeated, Kolbe in the 2004 Republican primary) and current state representative Steve Huffman, who is perceived as the more moderate of the two major candidates. The NRCC, concerned that Graf cannot defeat the leading Democratic contender, former state senator Gabrielle Giffords, recently spent some cash on advertising for Graf. This type of pre-primary endorsement activity - incidentally - has been a phenomenon that has happened all across the country - and it has annoyed state/local party leaders greatly.

As of this writing, Graf is leading Huffman by 1.5% with about 53% of precincts reporting. Importantly - there as yet have been no reports from Cochise County, which is the most conservative in the district and whose precincts make up about 18% of all AZ 08 precincts. Most of the reports have so far been from Pima County, home of Tuscon. Not only is Cochise County more conservative - but it was also party of Graf's old district. Ditto for the 5 precincts in AZ 08 in Santa Cruz County - also not yet in. Graf used to represent these as well. Huffman's district is entirely contained in Pima County. This is bad news for Huffman and the NRCC. Graf will probably carry a majority in Cochise - and if, by the time all votes from Pima are in, Huffman is still behind, Graf will probably win.

(JOHN ADDS: With 99.7% of the precincts reporting Graf indeed looks to have won by some 3,500 votes, 43% - 37%. This is an open seat the Dems are likely to win.)