Challenges in race to replace Giffords

Political consultant Margaret Kenski says Southern Arizona voters will cross party lines if they find another party's candidate appealing

Challenges in race to replace Giffords

CREATED Jan 23, 2012

Reporter: Craig Smith

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Gabrielle Giffords resignation from Congress kicks off a tight timeline for anyone who wants to fill out her term, or win an election to a full term of their own.

Once Congresswoman's Giffords resignation is official Governor Brewer is obliged to call a primary election for both parties to nominate candidates, then set a general election.  
It'll probably be May before voters choose a replacement. That person will serve just a few months before it's time to run for re-election.

Anyone who wants to fill Giffords term, then win a full term of their own will have to win two different Congressional districts. 
In the special election they'll have to win current District 8, which leans Republican. In the November general election they'd have to win the new District 2, just created through redistricting. 
That district is an almost perfect fifty-fifty split between registered Democrats and Republicans.
U of A Communication Professor Kevin Coe appealing to different voters in elections just a few months apart could be tricky.

"Which means you're going to have to tailor your message potentially quite differently, or perhaps somewhat differently in the first campaign or second campaign.  That creates some issues because people pay attention to what you were saying in the first campaign.  If it doesn't square with what you're saying in the second campaign that might upset come potential voters."

Margaret Kenski does consultant work for Republican candidates.  She thinks the different districts will be a minor problem at worst and says voters here tend to look past party labels.

"There's a lot of independent thinking in Southern Arizona and you see a lot of cross over votes; meaning that Republicans will vote for a Democrat they like and vice versa."

Among prospective candidates, for the Republicans, State Senator Frank Antenori and Dave Sitton had exploratory committees even before Giffords said she'd resign. 

For the Democrats, State Senator Paula Aboud and State Rep Matt Heinz have been mentioned but there's no confirmation from them
Both Kenski and Coe think candidates could have a tough time raising money for two primaries and two general elections.
Kenski thinks as personal donations dry up, political organizations will swing extra weight.

KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked Kenski: "So the large political action committees that are connected to corporations, unions, political organizations may have extra influence in this case?" 

Kenski: As the money runs out from other sources.  Yeah.  It's gonna be hard. This is not the greatest economic year.  We all know that; although we seem to be having some recovery, it's hard for people to reach into their pockets and give out that 250, that 100 dollars here and there and when you're asked to do it four times, it's kind of rough."
Once Giffords officially resigns, the Congressional District she did represent will have no official representative until the special election is done, but Giffords Congressional office will still operate under the authority of Congress.  District director Ron Barber says they'll learn more from the Clerk of the House just what they'll be able to do for constituents through the transition.