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Posted at 4:01 p.m. on May 14, 2013
The list of Republicans lining up to challenge Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, a Democrat in the marginally Republican 1st District of Arizona, is remarkably short. Among state and national Republican strategists, only one name emerges.
“All the buzz in CD 1 is centering around Adam Kwasman,” Arizona Republican political consultant Chris DeRose said. He described the field as “coalescing” around Kwasman, a 30-year-old freshman state representative.
DeRose is informally advising Kwasman but said he is not on any campaign payroll. While others worry that Kwasman is too green to challenge Kirkpatrick, he is the only name Republicans mention.
Should he run, he will be getting a far earlier start than 2012 nominee Jonathan Paton, who lost to Kirkpatrick by 4 points. Kwasman lives in Oro Valley, a Tucson suburb, according to his official biography. In 2010, he was tea party candidate Jesse Kelly’s campaign manager in his bitter race against Gabrielle Giffords for the neighboring Tucson-based district.
So why are no other names emerging? Kirkpatrick, a perennially strong fundraiser, is among several incumbent Democrats who have already raised more than $300,000 early in the election cycle, putting any challenger in catch-up mode. Yet she is one of 11 Democrats in the House who start the 2014 campaign at risk, according to Roll Call Contributing Editor Stuart Rothenberg.
Republicans pose a number of other theories on the dearth of candidates.
Some say it’s too early in the cycle for candidates to jump in. Also, the 1st isn’t a wealthy district, lacking both a donor base and candidates who can self-fund. It’s a rural, expansive district with no major city, so there isn’t much of a population center for a local or state official coming up through the ranks to build a political base.
Despite the lack of obvious names, national Republicans express optimism about the seat. Few states have such a clear tea-party-vs.-establishment divide as Arizona. Paton, a GOP political insider, had a fairly easy path to his party’s nomination in 2012. But one national operative said the shared anger over losing a seat with Republican DNA has the potential to energize both factions.
“For the first time, tea party leaders are talking about electability,” he said.