The results of a recount in the nation’s last undecided congressional race from the midterm elections are set to be revealed Wednesday by an Arizona judge in a move that will determine the size of the GOP majority in Washington. Republican challenger Martha McSally leads Democratic Rep. Ron Barber in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District by 161 votes, and the court hearing in Phoenix should settle the race after a recount and several court battles. A victory by McSally would give House Republicans their largest majority in 83 years, holding 247 seats to Democrats’ 188. Barber took office in 2012 after winning a special election to replace his former boss, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who stepped down after a 2011 shooting that wounded both her and Barber. Barber then won a full term in November 2012 after a narrow victory over McSally.
Southern Arizonans will find out Wednesday who will represent them in Congressional District 2. A mandatory recount was triggered because the tally separating incumbent Democrat Ron Barber from Martha McSally, his Republican challenger, in the November general election was less than 200 votes. After completing an electronic recount of all the ballots cast for each candidate last week, a hand count of a sample of ballots from five percent of the precincts — the last step in the two-week recount process — was completed Monday morning.
Yes, this is the campaign season that just won’t end. On Saturday, voters in Louisiana will gather, a month after most states voted, for a runoff for a U.S. Senate seat and some House races. But even then, it’s not over. Election officials in Arizona this week cranked up the machinery for a recount of one particularly close House seat that has Republican challenger Martha McSally 161 votes ahead of Democratic incumbent Ron Barber. The recount in the 2nd Congressional District race was required because the margin was fewer than 200 votes out of nearly 120,000 cast. Barber won the seat in the aftermath of tragedy. He was an aide to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in January 2011 when she was shot in the head in an assassination attempt. Barber was one of 12 people injured by gunfire that day. After his recovery and Giffords’ resignation, Barber won the seat in a June 2012 special election. In the 2012 general election, when he narrowly defeated McSally, Barber benefited from a heavily Democratic electorate; this year, he was fighting a Republican surge.
Editorials: Age of candidacy laws should be abolished: Why 18 year olds should be able to run for public office. | Osita Nwanevu/Slate
In January, state Sen. Linda Lopez of Arizona retired after 13 years in the legislature. Before announcing her retirement, Lopez looked for a candidate to endorse to fill her vacancy. She soon settled on Daniel Hernandez, Jr., a friend and a board member of Tuscon’s Sunnyside Unified School District. He agreed and began gathering support to run for office. A win seemed likely. There was just one problem. Hernandez was 24. Arizona law requires legislators to be at least 25 years old. But Hernandez initially hoped he could run because he would turn 25 just 13 days after being sworn in. It wouldn’t have been unprecedented. Young federal and state legislators-to-be have found ways to work around age of candidacy laws for almost as long as the laws have existed. Back in 1806, antebellum statesman Henry Clay was appointed to the U.S. Senate at the age of 29 and reached the Senate’s age of eligibility, 30, more than three months after being sworn in. No one seemed to mind. Hernandez wasn’t so lucky. As he found out, Arizona state law requires candidates to sign an affidavit proving that they will be eligible for the office they seek on Election Day, barring him from running altogether. The law was clear: 24-year-old Hernandez was unqualified to serve in the state Senate this year. But a 25-year-old Hernandez would have been fine.
To read the news coverage of late, you could be forgiven for thinking that we’re headed into a campaign in which super PACs will determine the winner. Ten million dollars from Sheldon Adelson here, $1 million from Bill Maher there, and it’s easy to conclude that these new organizations will have the biggest say in the identity of the next president and control of Congress. But it’s not quite so simple. In fact, the realities of campaign advertising today still put a premium on candidates themselves — and specifically, on their fundraising. As a rule of thumb, super PACs and national party committees pay significantly more for ad space (on average, about 40 to 50 percent more) than candidates do, meaning their dollar doesn’t go nearly as far on TV. And in a crowded media market, that markup can reach as high as three, four or even five times as much as the candidates when the super PACs and party committees have to pay extra to bump existing ads off the air. The Arizona special election on Tuesday is a good example of this ad reality.
President Obama and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) aren’t on the ballot in Tuesday’s special election, but the two have become central figures in the fight for control of the southern Arizona district. From the start of the race, Republicans attempted to make the contest about Obama and Democrat Ron Barber’s support for the president and his policies. But in recent weeks, as the national fight between the two parties has escalated, the race has taken on a larger significance for both.
The hasty race to fill Gabrielle Giffords’ former seat in Congress has set up a contest between her chosen Democratic successor and a mix of Republican candidates that could help to augur the outcome of other toss-up races throughout Arizona and the nation. The district that covers part of Tucson, Sierra Vista and a section of the U.S.-Mexico border is nearly split between Republicans and Democrats. Now, with a primary on Tuesday, candidates are scrambling to lock up the rest of their support, even as emotions remain raw over the 2011 shooting, which killed six and wounded 13, including Giffords. One GOP leader near Tucson choked up last month while wishing the three-term Democrat well before a debate among the four Republican candidates.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on Friday ordered a special general election to be held on June 12 to fill a congressional seat vacated by Tucson Democrat Gabrielle Giffords, who resigned to focus on recovering from a gunshot wound to the head. The Republican governor also set an April 17 primary to choose the candidates who will vie to replace Giffords in what has proved to be a highly competitive district in southern Arizona. Giffords left office on Wednesday, cutting short her third term representing Arizona’s 8th congressional district as she continues to recover from a gunshot wound that left her with faltering speech and physical impairments.