Three Republican candidates—House Speaker Andy Tobin, state Rep. Adam Kwasman and rancher/businessman Gary Kiehne—are vying for the chance to take on Democratic Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick in Arizona’s Congressional District 1, a sprawling district that includes most of rural Eastern Arizona and stretches from Oro Valley, Marana, SaddleBrooke to Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon and Northern Arizona Native American reservations.
Tobin has landed the most endorsements in the race, including nods of support from Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain, former senator Jon Kyl, 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and many of the local mayors, sheriffs and other public officials in CD1. Tobin has plenty of political experience, but his Republican opponents are portraying him as a business-as-usual moderate who doesn’t even live in the district he wants to represent.
Tobin is working to portray himself as the most serious candidate in the race—a task made easier in recent weeks after Kwasman made national news and Comedy Central’s Colbert Report after mistaking a bus full of YMCA campers for undocumented unaccompanied minors. Tobin has also been critical of some of Kiehne’s comments on the campaign trail.
Tobin has collected $562,000 for the campaign, but he’s already spent more than $341,000 of that and ended the most recent fundraising quarter with less than $221,000 in the bank.
Kwasman is an unapologetic conservative who believes that undocumented immigrants, including those brought to the United States as children by their parents, should all be deported. He opposed Gov. Jan Brewer’s push to expand Medicaid for low-income Arizonans because the Affordable Care Act “Obamacare is crashing down around us at the federal level.” He calls himself “100 percent pro-life.”
Kwasman has political support in the southern part of the district, which he has represented in the Legislature for the last two years and worked to organize in 2010 while managing Republican Jesse Kelly’s first unsuccessful run for Congress against Gabrielle Giffords. But he has raised just $205,000 for his campaign and had only $88,000 on hand as of June 30.
Political newcomer Gary Kiehne is a rancher/oilman/developer/hotel operator who has enough money to finance his own campaign. (Kiehne had loaned himself $300,000 of the $627,000 he had raised as of June 30.) Kiehne has sought to portray himself as the outsider and his two opponents as career politicians, but his own lack of political experience has sometimes proven a liability as he made headlines for various gaffes, including his comment that Democrats are responsible for 99 percent of mass shootings. Kiehne later apologized, but Tobin still called for him to exit the race, saying it was just one example of the “bizarre comments” that would make Kiehne unelectable in a matchup against Kirkpatrick.
The winner of the Aug. 26 primary will face Kirkpatrick, an attorney and former state lawmaker who was born and raised in Northern Arizona. She won her first congressional race in 2008, was knocked out of office in the GOP wave of 2010, and then returned to office in a redrawn congressional district in 2012.
Kirkpatrick has raised more than $1.9 million for her reelection campaign and had nearly $1.3 million on hand as of June 30.