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September 08, 2008

Post-Primary, Dems Wade Into Arizona

Three days after Arizonans chose nominees in two key swing districts, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is on the air with new advertisements slamming Republican candidates.

Democrats see the First District, which stretches from the Four Corners in the north to the southern suburbs of Phoenix, as one of their best pickup opportunities of the year. State Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick has a big financial and organizational lead over mining association executive Sydney Hay.

Republican hopes didn't improve when Hay won just 40% of the primary vote ahead of former State Department official Sandra Livingstone, who took 36%. Kirkpatrick won a contested primary with 47% of the vote.

Incumbent Rep. Rick Renzi is retiring after being indicted on 35 federal counts, and the DCCC is making the best of the open seat. The party plunked down more than $125,000 on an early ad buy against Hay, their first expenditure in the race even though Kirkpatrick was long ago added to the party's Red to Blue program.

But Arizona is going to vote heavily for John McCain, and that means Democrats have to play defense, too. Freshman Rep. Harry Mitchell, whose district borders Phoenix to the east, will face former Maricopa County Treasurer David Schweikert in November, and the DCCC is spending almost $155,000 early to protect their incumbent.

Schweikert benefited from the Club for Growth's endorsement in the primary; he received $337,000 in contributions bundled by the conservative anti-tax group, which also spent more than $200,000 on independent expenditures slamming rival Susan Bitter Smith. Still, in a field with five serious candidates, Schweikert won by just a 30%-28% margin over Bitter Smith.

National Republicans have expressed concern that Schweikert could have a tough time reuniting the GOP base, especially after the primary turned strikingly negative in the final weeks.

Update: DCCC's "Mismanagement Pagent," blasting Schweikert:

DCCC's "Corporate Lobbyist," taking on Hay: