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RealClearPolitics Politics Nation Blog

 

Blog Home Page --> House -- Arizona -- 05

Mitchell Leads Dem Poll

After defeating Republican Rep. J.D. Hayworth by about 8,000 votes in 2006, Democratic freshman Harry Mitchell could face a challenging re-election bid this year against any one of a number of potential Republican rivals. But a new poll out shows the former Mayor of Tempe could be in better position to keep his seat than Republicans would like, even with home state Senator John McCain heading the GOP ticket.

The poll, conducted by Bennett, Petts & Normington, a Democratic polling firm, surveyed 400 likely voters between 3/9-11 for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Conducted for the American Hospital Association, the survey tested Mitchell, former Maricopa County Treasurer David Schweikert and former State Rep. Laura Knaperek, two of the four Republicans with a real chance to take on Mitchell in November.

General Election Matchup
Mitchell 50
Schweikert 24

Mitchell 49
Knaperek 26

While the district has a history of voting Republican, and gave President Bush two majorities when he ran in 2000 and 2004, voters in the Tempe- and Scottsdale-based district are generally wealthier and better educated than comparable districts in the state, and voters there seem to care more about fiscal issues than social issues. With his foundation as mayor of the district's second-largest city, Mitchell was able to cast himself as a moderate in contrast with the conservative firebrand Hayworth.

The poll did not test former Scottsdale City Councilwoman Susan Bitter Smith, who now heads a cable communications association and serves on the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, or Jim Ogsbury, who until he moved back to Arizona to run for the seat was a lobbyist for prominent Arizona institutions and companies in Washington. Bitter Smith is still in the exploratory phase of her campaign.

The race promises to be costly for Mitchell no matter which Republican emerges victorious from the late primary. While Knaperek and Bitter Smith have not raised much money, Schweikert has $514,000 in the bank after a $250,000 personal loan. Ogsbury, who also gave himself $250,000, has $353,000 left over after the First Quarter. Mitchell has worked hard to build his war chest and had $1.12 million left over at the end of March.

Republicans think they will benefit most from McCain's coattails in the Fifth District, which is just east of downtown Phoenix. But those coattails will need to be long, the poll shows, as Mitchell remains popular and in good position to capture a second term.

AZ 05 Field Smaller

Arizona Corporation Commissioner Jeff Hatch-Miller has dropped his bid for the GOP nomination to take on freshman Democrat Harry Mitchell, the Arizona Republic reported earlier this week. The exit leaves four candidates in the race and one still considering a bid to win the Tempe- and Scottsdale-based Fifth District.

Though he entered the race early, Hatch-Miller was seen as one of the weaker candidates in an unusually strong GOP field. Former Maricopa County Treasurer David Schweikert, former State Rep. Laura Knaperek, State Rep. Mark Anderson and former lobbyist Jim Ogsbury are still in the race, while former Scottsdale City Councilmember Susan Bitter Smith is still contemplating her chances.

Any of the five potential Republicans would give Mitchell, who beat incumbent Republican J.D. Hayworth in 2006, a good race, but the state and national GOP may have to work to reduce the number of competitors in order to avoid a bloodbath.

Schweikert, who has raised the most money, received the endorsement of the conservative Club for Growth, known for its hard-hitting tactics in Republican primaries. Still, he told Politics Nation in an interview last week, he is willing to publicly call on the Club to hold negative attacks against his opponents. Knaperek, originally seen as a strong competitor, has lagged in fundraising, while Anderson is seen as potentially too conservative.

Ogsbury brings a significant personal fortune to the race, though his history as a lobbyist in Washington may cause problems. Bitter Smith has some in the state GOP excited, but she has yet to make a formal decision, though she was in Washington last week to meet with potential funders.

Mitchell, the former Mayor of Tempe who has a 30-something foot tall modern art statue in his honor outside the city's municipal building, will present no easy target to House Republicans. He's cast a moderate swath around the House, voting most recently against the Democratic budget and keeping his pro-Pelosi voting score low. National Journal rated him recently as the most conservative member of the state's Democratic House delegation.

The district, though, is likely to vote heavily for John McCain in the fall. President Bush won by nine points and eleven points in 2004 and 2000, and while the district is changing, the home state Senator being at the top of the ticket could drive significant GOP turnout.

Mitchell raised over $1 million in 2007 after spending nearly $2 million on the race as a challenger in 2006. He retained $868,000 in the bank. Schweikert had over $410,000 after a $250,000 loan, and Ogsbury had $350,000 after giving himself a loan identical to Schweikert's. The race could prove one of the most expensive in the country, and is likely to be heavily contested.

If Mitchell survives this year, he could own the seat as long as he likes -- at 68 years old, he was the oldest member of the freshman class. But with a solid GOP field and candidates raising good money, surviving this year may be a difficult prospect.