With primary votes today, Arizona Republicans have some intense fights for nomination to the open U.S. Senate seat and several House seats on their hands.
Rep. Jeff Flake (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 96.73 percent) remains the favorite for nomination to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Jon Kyl. But like Ron Paul, Flake has a libertarian streak that irks some in his party. His support of free trade without restrictions, including trading with Cuba and other dictatorships, is a case in point. Some on the right have turned to his leading opponent, wealthy businessman Wil Cardon, and the businessman-contender has picked up the backing of several legislators and of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
But the party establishment — and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin — and most Phoenix-area business leaders want Flake and as such, he is the favorite Tuesday. The Democratic candidate is former George W. Bush administration Surgeon General Richard Carmona, who switched from independent to Democrat to make the race.
Even more incendiary is the race for the redistricted 6th District, which is a heated clash between freshman GOP Reps. Ben Quayle (lifetime ACU rating:100 percent) an David Schweikert (lifetime ACU rating: 96 percent). Quayle moved to run in the district, which includes more than 60 percent of his former district. But Schweikert appears to be running the better campaign and has more backing among grass-roots conservatives, despite the fundraising advantage of the former vice presidentâ??s son.
Another incumbent who is facing intense criticism and a tough primary fight after a move is freshman Rep. Paul Gosar, who left his former district to run in the new (and safely Republican) 4th District. A 2010 favorite of the tea party, Gosar upset many of them when he voted to extend the debt ceiling last year. State Sen. Ron Gould of Mojave County is considered more conservative than Gosar and is courting the tea partiers.
There is also residual resentment from a number of GOP activists toward Gosar for leaving his former 3rd District, which is mostly the way it was when he won it two years ago. There is no strong Republican candidate for the seat and it is likely to be captured by liberal Democrat and former Rep. Anne Kirkpatrick, who Gosar unseated in 2010.
Rounding out the Republican battles royal is the race for Rep. Flakeâ??s seat. The congressmanâ??s predecessor and close friend, former Rep. (1994-2002) and State Party Chairman Matt Salmon, is locked in a tight race with state House Speaker Kirk Adams. In recent weeks,. Adams has hit hard at the better-known Salmon for working for a lobbying firm that tried to secure passage of Obamacare.
The proverbial â??silver liningâ? for the Grand Canyon State GOP is that once the primary is over, Republicans will join hands and the contested seats are very likely to go their way in November.