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Updated Jan 25, 2012, 2:48 pm
Tucson Republican Jonathan Paton will run for Congress in Arizona's sprawling new First Congressional District, which runs from Oro Valley to the Utah border.
Paton had been touted by some in the GOP as a replacement for the retiring U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, or as a challenger for her fellow Democrat Raúl Grijalva. But he decided not to run in the special election to succeed Giffords, in the race to fill the new CD2 that generally overlaps Giffords' CD8 nor challenge Grijalva in the new CD1.
The former state legislator will possibly face former state Rep. Bill Konopnicki and ex-Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce in the Republican primary.
On the Democratic side, former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick is seeking the nomination in CD1, as is Wenona Benally Baldenegro.
The 40-year-old Paton announced that he was running on the Jon Justice talk radio show Wednesday morning.
An Army Reservist who served a tour in Iraq as an intelligence officer, Paton served in the Arizona Legislature from 2004 to 2010.
Paton ran for Congress in CD 8 in 2010, but lost the GOP primary to Jesse Kelly, who went on to lose to Giffords.
Kelly filed candidacy papers with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday to run in the special primary election leading to the May special election that will choose her replacement.
While in the Legislature, Paton was a key supporter of extending Tucson's Rio Nuevo downtown redevelopment district.
A critic of what he called a lack of progress by Rio Nuevo, Paton pushed to hand control of the district to a board picked by the Legislature and governor, easing out the small board that officially oversaw the taxing district for years.
When Rio Nuevo was reorganized in 2010, he was appointed to the district's board.
While in the Legislature, Paton pushed a ballot proposition favorable to the payday loan industry, for which he was a registered lobbyist prior to being elected.
In 2010 Democrats tagged Paton as having been a lobbyist for payday lenders, but he brushed off those allegations, and fired back with claims of connections between Gabrielle Giffords and the industry.
Kirkpatrick's campaign was quick to hit Paton with that charge again, releasing a statement Wednesday morning:
"Here in Congressional District One, the last thing we need is a payday-lending lobbyist or a carpetbagger representing us in Congress. Jonathan Paton is both. Ann Kirkpatrick was born and raised in this district and has spent her life here as a prosecutor, small business owner, lawmaker and mother."
Baldonegro echoed the attack on Paton with an afternoon press release:
"Jonathan Paton is another '1%' candidate that the the people of Arizona cannot afford. He made a name for himself in the State Legislature by being in the pocket of the payday loan industry, trying to kill Arizona Clean Elections, and being the original sponsor of the bill to ban Ethnic Studies in Arizona. The people of Arizona cannot afford another out-of-touch candidate, such as him, who would also, no doubt, vote to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, vote against environmental regulation, and work against comprehensive immigration reform."
In 2007, Paton led a series of hearings into Arizona's Child Protective Services after three Tucson children were murdered after their parents had been investigated by the agency.
Paton, an advocate of open government records, was twice given a "Freedom of Information Award" by the Arizona Newspapers Association.
Prior to resigning from the state Senate to run for Congress, Paton voted in favor of SB 1070.