Arizona Public Radio | Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Earth Notes

Candidates Vie for CD-1 Seat

By Laurel Morales

Flagstaff, AZ – Five democrats and at least one republican have expressed interest in running for the CD-1 seat.

SHANKER: I think most of them would do a better job than Renzi as far as the democrats are concerned. Is it opportunistic? I don't know.

That's attorney Howard Shenker who declared his candidacy at the end of last month.

SHANKER: Whether he was indicted, whether he steps down, whether he runs I'm in this.

Law enforcement officials have been investigating a land deal that benefited Renzi's friend who was also a campaign donor. More recently the FBI raided his family's insurance business.

Though rumors about Renzi stepping down have been circulating in Arizona and Washington, Representative Renzi has denied plans to resign from office. His aides didn't return calls for comment but he said in a recent statement that he has been the subject of leaked stories, conjecture and false attacks about a land exchange. And none of them bear any resemblance to the truth.

The Arizona Republican Party stands behind him. Brett Mecum is the party's spokesman.

MECUM: There have been no charges levied against him. He hasn't been charged with anything yet. Therefore until Congressman Renzi decides whether he wants to: 1 Seek reelection or 2 Fill out the rest of his term and not seek reelection or 3 Step down for personal reasons, the republican party is going to stand behind him until that determination is made.

Renzi has temporarily stepped down from the House Intelligence Committee and he took a leave of absence from the House Financial Services and Natural Resources committees. He also withdrew from a House Republican fundraising campaign, which raises money for incumbents in vulnerable seats. Still Mecum believes it's too early to be thinking about the next election.

MECUM: I just think it's kind of premature to be looking at candidates while we have a sitting republican congressman out there. I think it's abhorrent the other side the democrats have chosen to try to fund raise off of this unfortunate situation.

If it were up to Ellen Simon, Renzi wouldn't even be in office. The Sedona attorney won the democratic nomination in the district last year. She believes his investigation is overdue.

SIMON: A lot of people feel we were wrongfully deprived of our seat because the justice department sat on their investigation of Renzi. If the justice department and Gonzalez had not interfered with our race and had done their job, we would have a democrat in congress right now.

Simon's referring to an investigation launched by Arizona's former U-S attorney Paul Charlton. He was one of eight U-S attorneys forced to resign last December.

Simon's entering the race much earlier this time than she did in the last election.

SIMON: I was out here fighting Renzi last year. I stepped up to the plate. It was perhaps a David versus Goliath situation but those are the fights I've been fighting my whole life. So I was out here fighting Renzi and his corruption and speaking out against the war. I will continue to fight that fight. If others have an interest of jumping in right now when the giant is wounded, then that's fine that's America.

Winslow mayor and recently declared CD-1 candidate Alan Affeldt points out that Democrats do lead the district in voter registration but some cross party lines.

AFFELDT: I think the reason we have consistently lost we haven't been able to get anything other than democratic core voters. And that's not enough because there's a tremendous percentage of voters in this district who are independent. They're not republican. They're not democrat. They could go either way. If the Democratic Party puts up a candidate that can only get core voters we're going to continue to lose.

Affeldt believes as a business owner and small town mayor he will appeal to a wider base. Affeldt, Ellen Simon and Howard Shanker have all officially declared with the Federal Election Commission that they will run whenever that might be. State Representative Ann Kirkpatrick and former journalist Mary Kim Titla have also expressed interest in running. A Republican candidate has surfaced as well. Former state Senate President Ken Bennett of Prescott says he is considering running when the seat becomes available. Northern Arizona University political pollster Fred Solop says the district will receive a lot of national attention.

SOLOP: At this point Rick Renzi at a minimum is signaling that he won't be running again for this seat so that would suggest it's an open seat. It's one of the few open seats in the nation. We've been a competitive district in the past but now there's a narrow democratic margin in the house and the democrats are going to look to hold onto their margin. Republicans are going to eye this district and say we can't lose this. A lot of money will come into the district and it will be quite exciting.

For Arizona Public Radio I'm Laurel Morales in Flagstaff.