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Antenori running to replace Giffords

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Antenori running to replace Giffords

Announces in concurrent CD8, CD2 elections

  • Frank Antenori announces his candidacy Friday to fill the CD8 seat left open when Gabrielle Giffords resigned on Wednesday.
    Will Seberger/TucsonSentinel.comFrank Antenori announces his candidacy Friday to fill the CD8 seat left open when Gabrielle Giffords resigned on Wednesday.

State Sen. Frank Antenori threw his hat into the race to succeed the retired U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, declaring he would seek the Republican congressional nomination in an upcoming special election.

"We need somebody who can go up there and  hit the ground running" because of the vacancy created by Giffords' stepping down, he said Friday morning, speaking to a crowd of about 30 at a Green Valley Republican meeting.

Antenori touted his political experience in the Legislature, where he is the Senate majority whip.

Antenori "was elected just three years ago" and already has a Republican leadership position, he said.

He blasted the Obama administration's economic record as "crazy schemes" and "crony capitalism," saying Arizona "is in the black" and that the nation should emulate the state's model.

The United States in "on the brink of financial collapse," he said, while "Arizona is heading in the right direction."

"We've got to get the adults back in charge," he said.

Antenori also criticized the federal government on border policy.

"We have got to gain operational control of our border," he said.

He railed against the Fast and Furious gun-running investigation, which allowed illegal "straw purchasers" to buy guns and deliver them to Mexican drug smugglers, in hopes of identifying cartel members.

Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry "was gunned down with guns bought with stimulus money," he said.

He repeated that assertion when questioned about it after his speech.

At least one weapon recovered at the scene of Terry's December 2010 killing near Nogales has been connected with the investigation.

Before speaking in Green Valley, Antenori confirmed his candidacy on the Jon Justice talk radio show early Friday morning.

He was also to appear in person in Sierra Vista and Oro Valley during the day. Antenori did not schedule a Tucson stop on his first day as an official candidate.

Antenori will run in both the April special primary that leads to a June special election to fill Giffords' CD8 seat, and in the regular election for the newly drawn CD2. That includes an August primary and a November election.

The conservative GOPer, who has made no secret of his Congressional ambitions, said last year he would not run if Giffords ran for reelection.

Also in the race for the GOP nomination is Jesse Kelly, who narrowly lost to Giffords in 2010. Kelly has yet to officially declare his candidacy, but has filed papers with the Federal Election Commission. University of Arizona sportscaster Dave Sitton has also expressed interest in seeking the Republican nod.

The Scranton, Pa.-born Antenori was elected to state House from District 30 in 2008. He was appointed to state Senate in March 2010, then elected to that position later that year.

He is in the final year of his term, and won't be forced to step down because of Arizona's resign-to-run law. He said he would retain his Senate seat until after the state budget makes its way through the Legislature.

Antenori is an Army Special Forces vet of Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. He was awarded a Bronze Star for an Iraq firefight in which he destroyed two armored vehicles.

A program manager for Raytheon, he moved to Tucson on retiring from the military in 2004.

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