The four GOP candidates running April 17 in Arizona Congressional District 8, and later in the new CD2, are solid people. Hopefully, Republicans elsewhere are fielding others as impressive.
State Senator Frank Antenori bills himself as “Sugar free Frank,” and is usually unavoidable for comment. A 20-year Army Special Forces combat veteran, he is unquestionably a dedicated conservative. His major claim is a state legislative record proving his ability to get things done that he will carry to Washington.
One member of a small legislative caucus carries much more impact than one among the 435 members of the U.S. House. Antenori may overrate his ability to influence them. He has also chosen involvement in too many peripheral issues outside the conservative consensus. He’s a strong proponent of the Rosemont Mine, and a legislative advocate for those running Marana, which is now in CD8, but moves with much of the Northwest side to CD1 for the main event.
Jesse Kelly is another known commodity. An Iraq War Marine combat veteran, Kelly won the 2010 primary and closed to within three points against Gabby Giffords. Like Antenori, his conservatism is rock solid. He courageously ran against Giffords in the GOP dark days when no one wanted the gig. His biggest handicaps are in CD2. He must move there to vote for himself, but he can’t take his Northwest base with him. And, like Antenori, he’s pro Rosemont. In 2010 that cost him in the Southeast with many Republicans for whom the mine is a deal breaker.
Retired USAF Colonel and A-10 pilot Martha McSally is also a mid-East combat veteran. She’s a hard-charger. Her natural aggressiveness leaves a strong first impression, which diminishes with repeat performances as it becomes increasingly obvious that she spent too much time in policy briefings and not enough checking the news. Her gaffes include failure to know who Paul Ryan and Carl Hayden were or what SB1070 was along with some remarks on Israel that hardly came from AIPAC. While her instincts are solid, (favorite movie BRAVE HEART) and her courage unquestioned, her transition to civilian life is not quite complete.
Which leaves Dave Sitton. (Full disclosure – I’m part of his campaign.) Those knowing Dave grasp his deep-felt conservatism expressed over many years from Republican events to his own radio show. Sitton contrasts his three opponents by being a longtime local resident. That not only gives him institutional memory, but ideologies need note that many voters react beyond specific issues. Sitton’s 38 years as a local businessman, sportscaster and community leader will accrue the extra points needed in the November CD2 general. He also addresses Rosemont by supporting the current process both sides claim they’re comfortable with. If Rosemont meets the criteria, they can open a mine while if not they can’t. That can give him some of what Kelly lost and Antenori would down by the Santa Ritas and in Green Valley.
Anyone of them would make a fine representative. Question is who has the best shot at defeating Democrat Ron Barber in both districts both times. Democrats have become prisoners of their own mythology. Barber is a pale version of Giffords, a journey woman pol often feigning partisan moderation before she voted with Nancy Pelosi more than 90 percent of the time. Democrats have so milked the events of Jan. 8 that they’re stuck with a weak candidate whose major qualification beyond being a professional social engineer is the bad luck he shared with his employer. The stealth Gerrymander Democrats pulled with the supposedly independent reapportionment commission may go for naught in CD2 if Republicans pick their strongest candidate
I never support candidates based solely on their “electability”. First comes their fitness for public office and core values. In the case of Dave Sitton, strong electability is a bonus.