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RealClearPolitics Politics Nation Blog

 

Blog Home Page --> House -- Arizona -- 01

Renzi Staying, For Now

Arizona Republican Rick Renzi, indicted last week on thirty-five counts including embezzlement, extortion and money laundering, will remain in Congress, the Arizona Republic reports, causing what are certainly more headaches for House GOP leadership.

"Congressman Renzi did nothing wrong. We will fight these charges until he is vindicated and his family's name is restored," Renzi's lawyers said in a statement, the Republic writes. The move comes after Minority Leader John Boehner issued a statement that stopped just short of calling for the indicted member's exit. "I strongly urge Representative Renzi to seriously consider whether he can continue to effectively represent his constituents under these circumstances," Boehner said Friday in a statement.

Arizona and national Democrats have called on Renzi to resign quickly, wasting no time in dusting off the "culture of corruption" slogan that served their party so well in 2006. And Boehner has a point: After the investigation into Renzi became public, after FBI agents raided his wife's business last year, Renzi stepped down from the three committees on which he served.

Should Renzi step down, it might help national Republicans begin to rebuild their image. But it definitely won't help the party keep Renzi's seat. Geographically huge and encompassing a number of media markets, Republicans have yet to settle on a candidate, though 2002 candidate Sydney Hay, who lost to Renzi in a primary, and Corporation Commissioner Kris Mayes are the early front-runners.

On the Democratic side, former State Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick is the heavy favorite, both in Arizona and among Washington Democrats who are watching the race closely. With much more money than either of the Republicans, and given that she's been campaigning since last summer, Kirkpatrick would be a favorite to steal the seat in a special election, should Renzi resign.

Both national campaign committees would be forced to spend heavily on the district, and whoever wins a potential special election will gain a valuable story line: If Democrats win, it would be the first special election the opposite party has won this year, in six tries, and it would further the notion that national Republicans remain in bad shape. If Republicans win, despite Renzi's endorsement, they would be able to claim that the party has effectively moved on from 2006, as NRCC chair Tom Cole has claimed.

But either scenario is moot for now: With Renzi still in office, Republicans will keep subtly pushing him out the door while Democrats will continue to try and score points using the "culture of corruption" line, which has served them well in the past.

Renzi Indicted In Land Deal

Outgoing Republican Congressman Rick Renzi has been indicted on federal charges, CNN and the Associated Press report this morning. Renzi, who has been under investigation for more than a year, will face 35 federal charges.

The incumbent, who announced early last year that he would not seek a fourth term in Congress, has faced ethical questions since the FBI raided his wife's business last year. After the raid, Renzi stepped down from his House committees under pressure from leadership.

The 26-page indictment implicates Renzi in a shady land deal, along with two former business partners, which allowed one of the men to trade land for plots owned by the federal government. That deal earned the ex-partner $4.5 million, the AP said.

The Arizona Republic reached Renzi in Virginia yesterday, where he declined to comment. Authorities will hold a 9:30 press conference in Phoenix -- that's 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time -- to outline the indictments.

Renzi's First Congressional District, which we mentioned earlier this week, is the largest, area-wise, in the state. It stretches from the Four Corners region to communities south of Phoenix and includes several Native American reservations.

Democrats are optimistic about State Representative Ann Kirkpatrick's chances in the marginally Republican district. Kirkpatrick has raised more than $400,000 since entering the race last summer and kept almost $300,000 in the bank through December.

Anti-tax activist Sydney Hay is the only major Republican in the race so far, but GOP officials are hopeful they can attract State Representative Bill Konopnicki to the race. Konopnicki declined to run earlier this year, but after several other prominent Republicans took a pass as well, he is said to be reconsidering his decision.

UPDATE: Another strong candidate for the GOP nomination is Arizona Corporation Commissioner Kris Mayes, who announced Tueday the formation of her campaign exploratory committee. Mayes has been mentioned as a possible candidate since Renzi announced his retirement in August.

Mayes has served on the Corporation Commission since 2003, during which time she helped instituted a renewable energy standard for energy utilities. Before that she worked as a politics reporter with the Arizona Republic, and interned for former Arizona Rep. Bob Stump while in college.

Mayes appears to already have a large support network, including the backing of former GOP Rep. Matt Salmon.