Republicans and Democrats have been battling for control of Congressional District One seat since it was first created and Rick Renzi was elected in 2002. Renzi continues to claim the seat for Republicans, even though Democratic rolls exceed the GOP voters by 28,000.
The first election pitted George Cordova against Renzi. The second election attempted to win the seat back with the popularity of the Babbit name, a strong Democratic organization and heavy fundraising.
Democrats hope the third attempt will be the charm. Five candidates are vying for the opportunity to challenge Rick Renzi.
Jack Jackson, Jr. pulled out of the battle early on, saying there was not enough cash to fund the campaign against Renzi, who is well-fueled by political action committees. Jackson still claims the second highest number of contributions in FEC filings.
The winner of the Democratic Primary will go against Renzi and Libertarian David Schlosser of Flagstaff in a three-way race in November.
Two opportunities will bring Verde Valley voters face to face with the candidates. The Democrats of the Verde Valley and Democrats of the Red Rocks will host a forum for the five hopefuls Sunday August 13, at the Quality Inn in Cottonwood. The forum runs from 2 to 4 p.m.
Pundits and Democratic organizers are placing their money (literally) on Ellen Simon. Late coming into the race, Simon brings powerful contacts and fundraising skills. She shows over $500,000 in her financial declaration ending June 30. $275,000 of that is her own money.
A six-year Sedona resident, Simon is the daughter of two Holocaust survivors. She is a lawyer who has developed a reputation as a civil rights defender of abused seniors and employment rights issues. She has been a president of the Cleveland chapter of the ACLU.
She has called for giving consumers a break on their gasoline taxes, raising the minimum wage, and focussing on public health issues and Medicare.
Simon supports a tougher stance on crime and its causes and better funding for border security and prosecuting employers who hire undocumented aliens.
Like most Democratic candidates, Simon supports a withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
Republicans, and even Democratic opponents, call Simon's husband Blaine Tanner's failure to pay child support to children in Canada a distraction for the candidate.
Mike Caccioppoli places second in a field, in terms of fundraising among active candidates. But, his $14,147 in contributions is only 3% of the Simon war chest.
Still, he is adamant that he will win the nomination. "I have been campaigning for a year and everyone knows my name. I don't see money as a big issue. No one will have as much money as Renzi. Paul Babbit had $1.5 million and still lost by 23 points. People give me $20, $50, maybe $100Š. Not $5,000 or $10,000."
A career talk show host, principally in Las Vegas, he now lives in Flagstaff.
Caccioppoli's top issue is to get out of Iraq.
"We must get out now. It has been too long already, we should never have been there in the first place. Men from Arizona are dying. I would vote today for withdrawal."
He is a supporter of Democrat John Murtha's plan to withdraw with a quick strike force in the region and to diplomatically pursue security and Iraq stability.
A populist, health care, raising the minimum wage, and developing a national clean elections program like Arizona's are also among Caccioppoli's priorities.
The immigration issue does not revolve around a single simple solution he believes. "We will always have holes in the border, no matter how many agents."
A Prescott dentist, Vic McKerlie believes health care is among the nation's top priorities. He would create a sub-agency, separate from government that would be supported four percent levy on all income. He says, "it would not be socialized medicine, it is like a national health insurance. A lot of special interests won't like it but, it would people with no insurance would be covered and it would be good for small and big business."
McKerlie believes that controlling the border is a top priority. He says it is "putting the cart before the horse to talk about immigrant needs before controlling the border, which is costing the country billion of dollars."
American need to have an energy policy and plan that includes conservation. "The administration gave percs to oil companies in the guise of an energy plan. We can put people back to work making high efficiency products. This district has a lot of natural resources that can create an energy district."
Getting out of the Iraq is another of his priorities, along with controlling the national debt.
Susan Friedman is another Prescott resident. Active in the local and state Democratic Party, Friedman was asked to run against Ken Bennett for the State Senate seat when two other Democrats dropped out of the race. The Republican held onto the seat, but Friedman claimed 40% of the balloting in a district that is only 25% Democratic.
She holds degrees in government and history (with a minor in Russian) and currently does marketing for a New York clothing retailer. She has done publicity and publishing throughout her career and continues to publish newsletters.
The national debt "is the biggest problem America faces that must be addressed immediately, " believes Friedman.
Interrelated priorities for Friedman are education and the environment. She maintains that "Renzi voted for all the big tax cuts for millionaires like him and his contributors, but we have thousands of people in CD1 who suffer the cuts to education, health care and other services."
The 10-year Prescott resident believes the government should be active in development of renewable alternative energy. Congress should also stop the cuts to services for active duty servicemen and service woman.
For Bob Donahue of Cornville, "people want jobs, not citizenship." In solving the immigration problem, Donahue would grant work permits for a fixed period, while deducting 20% from the worker's regular pay checks. That savings account would be available only when he returned to his country of origin. Donahue presented the program during a Congressional Committee hearing in Phoenix this week.
The war in Iraq should be turned over to a "multi-national force, " believes Donahue. He believes that the Iraq experience is the exact parallel that led the nation to disgrace in Vietnam. A Marine in Vietnam from 66 to 68, Donahue says the U.S. military is geared to fighting "big fights and is not well adapted to the conflict" in Bagdad. He blames it on the "indecision of the current administration."
The minimum wage issue illustrates the "disconnect between Congress and the American people. Congress members make $31,000 in wages, while the $5.15/hr minim wage remains on the books. It is a lack of sensitivity to the common man."
Environmental issues are important to Arizona, according to Donahue. He points to the rapid growth across the "green areas on the map" that represents the National Forest. He says such development has been spurred by votes like Renzi's to place a moratorium on actions like the "1895 Mining Law" that allows developers to begin buying up land and allowing exemptions from the AMA restrictions around the San Pedro River for Ft. Huachuca.