With Arizona's primaries now complete, a key Congressional race has emerged in the state’s newly created District 9. Prior to the primary, this swing district had been rated "Lean Democratic" by the Cook Political Report, but the District's Cook Partisan Voting Index is "Even," indicating its voters have voted in line with the national average over the last two presidential election cycles. Significantly, the district has more registered Independents than either Republicans or Democrats.
Now, with both parties having selected their candidates, Democrats no longer have the edge and this race should be re-characterized as a Tossup.
The GOP candidate is rising star Vernon Parker, a charismatic conservative with experience as a successful mayor, and as an official in both Bush 41 and 43 Administrations. His campaign has focused on creating jobs and restoring our nation's economic growth. He is pro-life, supports the second amendment, opposes amnesty, vows repeal of Obamacare, and supports a strong national defense. Parker grew up in poverty and was raised by his grandmother. You can learn more about Parker and his views from his campaign website.
The Democrats have nominated one of their own rising stars, Kyrsten Sinema. She is following the Janet Napolitano model that helped Napolitano win two terms as Arizona Governor: be radically liberal on social issues to secure a national fundraising base and following, but speak in moderate tones at home while toeing the national Democrat line on policy. Sinema would be a reliable vote for Obama and Pelosi, for Obamacare and amnesty, but speaks instead about her independence and expresses generic, anti-Washington sentiment. She is strongly backed by public sector unions, by abortion-on-demand enthusiasts like Emily's List, and is already a hero to the national Democrat gay rights groups whose wealthy members will generously finance her race this fall.
Parker has occasionally taken some flak on the Right for not being conservative enough. While some of that is simply primary politics, it's fair to say that compared to, for example, RedState favorites like Florida Congressional candidate Ron DeSantis or Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Parker does present a more muted approach. But in this district, it's a winning approach. In August 2010, I wrote a RedState piece explaining why I was not supporting the frontrunner Ben Quayle in his race, which he ultimately won. One concern, I wrote, was redistricting:
. . . Arizona has an unusual system for reapportionment that puts it . . . in the hands of a bipartisan mix of appointed commissioners who will redraw the congressional district lines in 2011. This means that the District Three winner in 2010 could face a much more competitive district in 2012. . . a potential swing district . . . .
Cut ahead, and lo and behold, the Democrat-captured Commission did just that, Congressman Quayle moved out of his house to run against Rep. Schweikert rather than try to hold this new AZ09, and now Rep. Quayle is leaving Congress and Parker may be headed there. Our movement is big enough for all of these emerging conservative stars, as their different styles help us win from Florida to Virginia to districts across Arizona.
Looking at the Parker vs. Sinema race structurally, Parker will benefit from Obama's unpopularity in Arizona, where his failed economic policies and federal government bullying of the state are widely condemned. In addition, I expect the anti-Mormon (LDS) bigotry being pushed by Democrats and the Democrat Media Complex will backfire in Arizona (and Nevada) this year, giving Romney a comfortable win there and helping GOP candidates across the board. Sinema has structural advantages as well. The lines of the new AZ09 were drawn by a firm hand-selected by the Democrat-controlled Arizona Redistricting Commission and that had done work for Obama's 2008 campaign. The District was specifically designed to be winnable by a Democrat. What's more, Sinema can count on national money from the Cultural Left and cash-rich government employee unions who see her as a future leader of their movement and a key vote in the effort to return the Speaker's gavel to Nancy Pelosi. Parker's ability to raise significant funds is less certain.
Some unpleasant attacks await Parker. He is about to face the particularly vicious smears that Democrats and their assistants in the media reserve for conservatives of color. (Parker is Black.) The ugliness on the Left makes we worry for his wife and kids. But his grandmother must have raised him well, because Parker always seems to keep smiling, like the president he sometimes invokes (and evokes), Ronald Reagan.
Either Vernon Parker or Kyrsten Sinema will emerge from this election a national player. Republicans and conservatives across the country should study their records, decide whose rise they want to see, and then get behind the obvious choice, Vernon Parker.
The writer has been following Arizona politics for 20 years. He can be reached via Twitter.