AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl vs. Jim Pederson

“When I served on the House Armed Services Committee, we would have briefings on the large armies of such foreign countries as China and would be told quantity has its own quality. Now, in a different way, I know what that means.”

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) was only half-kidding. His Democratic opponent, multi-millionaire shopping-mall developer and former Democratic State Chairman Jim Pederson, has so far spent $8.6 million—the bulk of it from his own $126-million-plus personal fortune. Although Pederson has no record in elective office and has so far been vague as to what he stands for, his anti-Kyl media ads have taken their toll. The latest Arizona State University poll shows the 64-year-old senator leading first-time candidate Pederson by only 49% to 38% statewide, the closest the dueling duo have been in any survey this year.

What is Pederson’s main case against Kyl? “It’s real simple. He says I’ve been in office too long and we need somebody new,” says Kyl, who served in the House from 1986-94 and has been in the Senate ever since. “And he says I’m too close to George W. Bush. Well, if the President happens to agree with me on a number of issues I feel strongly about, so be it.”

Actually, Kyl (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 97%) has broken with the Republican President on several key occasions: opposing the recent energy, prescription-drug, and transportation bills (“Too much pork,” he says.), and voting against the “comprehensive” immigration measure that includes a guest-worker program. In so doing, Arizona’s Republican junior senator put himself at odds with both the GOP President and Ohio state’s Republican senior senator, John McCain.

One area in which Kyl stands firmly with the President and McCain is Iraq. In his words, “We should keep as many forces there as we need to and keep them combined as long as we have to.” The Arizonan believes that Iraq should follow the example of Alaska and permit its people to have an investment in its oil, “to give them a stake in government and their country.”

And Pederson? On the rare occasions when the Democratic candidate addressed issues, he said the marriage amendment is “a waste of time” (East Valley Tribune, June 6, 2006), that the Simpson-Mazzoli amnesty for illegal immigration in 1986 was “the last effective measure that passed Congress” (Ted Simons radio program, KTAR-620 AM, April 6, 2006), and that the pork-barrel spending so opposed by Kyl is “[a]ll the things we need” (Arizona Daily Star, Sept. 18, 2006). On Iraq, he simply said, “I see no light at the end of the tunnel” (Arizona Daily Star, Sept. 18, 2006).

But given the wealth that is fueling Pederson, he could win. Noting that as of the last campaign finance reporting period, the Democrat was outspending Sen. Kyl 2 to 1, former State GOP Chairman and Kyl finance chairman Bob Fannin concluded: “While Pederson can write personal checks, our campaign relies on our friends and supporters, which is why we need help to return Jon Kyl to the Senate.”