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Posted Jan 24, 2012, 5:02 pm
Jesse Kelly, the Tea Party-backed Republican who narrowly lost to U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in 2010, filed paperwork Tuesday to run to replace the retiring congresswoman in a special election.
Kelly, who nearly unseated Giffords, filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission to seek the CD8 seat that Giffords will step down from this week.
John Ellinwood, Kelly's spokesman, only would say that Kelly would be "announcing something formally soon."
A special partisan primary election will be held in April, with a special general election following in June.
Those elections will occur while candidates jockey to be picked to represent the newly drawn CD2 district, which mostly overlaps the old 8th Congressional District.
The Giffords-Kelly race came down to the wire; Giffords edged the GOP candidate by about 4,000 votes in a contest that took days to count.
Giffords' resignation has set political wheels turning. Constitutionally, members of the House of Representatives must be elected, not appointed.
Gov. Jan Brewer must call special primary and general elections once Giffords submits her resignation, said Pima County Democratic Party Chair Jeff Rogers.
A partisan primary must be held within 80 to 90 days of her resignation, with a general election to fill the seat for the remainder of her term 50 to 60 days after that. Brewer must set the dates for the elections within three days of Giffords' resignation.
The primary will fall in April, while the special general election will be held sometime in June.
Candidates will have only 30 days after the elections are set to gather about 800 nominating signatures to gain a spot on the primary ballot — the same number as for a regular elextion.
That election will take place as a normal general election cycle is underway, with primaries scheduled for August and a general election in November.
As candidates campaign for the CD8 seat, there also will be a race getting underway in the new CD2 that generally overlaps the same territory. GOP-leaning Marana, Oro Valley and Saddlebrooke, which are in CD8, are outside the new district, edging the second contest slightly in the Democratic direction.
The concurrent contests will create wrinkles in the process, Rogers said.
"I hadn't even considered that," he said Sunday. "Different people could win the different elections."
Rogers said the Democratic Party hasn't had discussions about who might run if Giffords were to resign.
"We've been pretty deferential to the congresswoman about that," he said. "It wasn't appropriate to have those sorts of talks."
"We're all of course saddened that she doesn't feel up to serving right now. It's a great loss for Southern Arizona."
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"I made a couple of calls just moments ago," he said, declining to name those who might now be pondering a congressional run.
Carolyn Cox, the chairwoman of the Pima County Republican Party, declined to speculate on the upcoming elections.
"I'm sad that she had to resign," she said Sunday afternoon.
Although Giffords narrowly held off Kelly in 2010, she was widely considered to be a shoo-in if she chose to run again.
Republican state Rep. Frank Antenori, who's laid the groundwork for a run, said last year that he would not seek a congressional seat if Giffords were in the race. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday.
Also maneuvering for a run on the GOP side is University of Arizona sports announcer Dave Sitton.
With Giffords not running, there will be jockeying on the Democratic side, as well. State Reps. Steve Farley and Matt Heinz, along with state Sen. Paula Aboud, have been rumored to be interested in seeking a vacant seat.
"I honestly believed she would be able to continue," Farley said Sunday afternoon.
Farley said he's "pretty excited about what we can do in the Legislature," predicting that the Democrats will be able to pick up seats and break the GOP stranglehold on the state Senate.
"I'd be willing to serve" in Congress, the assistant House Democratic leader said.
Other names floated have included Giffords' chief of staff, Pia Carusone, and her district director, Ron Barber, who was also shot on Jan. 8. Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, has denied rumors that he is interested in seeking his wife's seat.
Giffords' endorsement of a candidate will have a great impact on the race, Farley said, both in terms of voter enthusiasm and funding; the congresswoman is sitting on a sizeable campaign warchest.