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Republican contenders for CD1 duke it out

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Republican contenders for CD1 duke it out

Three Republicans vying to challenge U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick made their pitches to Southern Arizona voters Wednesday afternoon.

Andy Tobin, Gary Kiehne, and Adam Kwasman spoke to about 200 members of the Saddlebrooke Republican Club, north of Tucson. They are among the contenders for the GOP nomination in Arizona's First Congressional District, which one of the nation's largest, stretching from Oro Valley all the way north to the Utah border, wrapping around the Phoenix metro area.

The trio used their time in front of GOP voters to see who could express more dislike for Obamacare and the incumbent congresswoman.

Kirkpatrick, a Flagstaff Democrat, won her seat in 2008, lost in 2010, and returned to Congress in a close 2012 race. Although the GOP has said unseating Kirkpatrick is a priority, the incumbent has more campaign cash on hand than all of the Republican contenders combined.

Andy Tobin, state House speaker, is a conservative leader who's gained support from more moderate Republicans, such as car dealer Jim Click, who serves as his finance co-chair.

Tobin, a resident of Paulden, north of Prescott, favors the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, dismantling government regulation, and claims that "this president has driven us into the abyss." He was also a vocal supporter of Arizona's SB 1070.

Tobin leads the Republicans in fundraising, pulling in $235,000 in the last quarter of 2013, and has $190,000 in his campaign warchest. Kirkpatrick raised $268,000 in that quarter, with $824,000 amassed in her campaign account.

Springerville resident Gary Kiehne is a political novice. He is a rancher and businessman who owns three hotels across Eastern Arizona. Kiehne says he's a longtime NRA member, strongly opposed to the Affordable Care Act, a proponent of small government and favors restrictions on abortions.

Kiehne raised $117,000, and with a $100,000 personal loan ot his campaign, has $210,000 on hand.

State Rep. Adam Kwasman, elected last year to represent Oro Valley in the state House, has been lauded by the Tea Party group Americans for Prosperity, and endorsed by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and FreedomWorks, another right-wing organization.

Kwasman raised $103,000 in the last quarter, with $79,000 remaining.

Present but not invited to deliver a speech was Jim Brown, another CD 1 congressional hopeful. Brown, who entered the race in January, has yet to file a campaign finance report.

"For most of my life, I've lived in a political coma," Brown said. "It seems like a lot of our political leaders campaign well but when they're in office they turn their back on the people they were put there to serve."

Brown became politically involved in the wake of the market crash of 2008. "Instead of going back into business, I decided to research and write about waste, fraud, abuse and the political corruption that is tearing this country apart. My writing didn't bear much fruit other than to build my passion and contempt for what politicians and bureaucrats have done to our country. I hope to change that," Brown said.

Kwasman, who prompted roars of applause Wednesday for his vows to "repeal Obamacare once and for all," and "Obamacare can have no quarter in Arizona," downplayed any advantage Tobin might have as an established political player.

"I need to raise enough to show what I can do, I don't need to out-fundraise Tobin. We need to get my message out there and let my grass-roots army do the rest," Kwasman said in an interview before speaking to the Saddlebrooke crowd.

Kwasman makes no bones about his distaste for the Affordable Care Act, a sentiment his opponents echo. The candidates also make certain to express dislike for Kirkpatrick.

"If Kirkpatrick wins, we're finished," said Kwasman. "I'd vote for anyone in this room before I voted for Kirkpatrick," Tobin told the Pinal County GOP group.

"The first thing I would start working on, is to build a staff that understands the issues we have here in rural Arizona." Kiehne said when asked what his first order of business would be if elected. "I'd work to get rid of the Equal Access to Justice Act and the Endangered Species Act in order to bring jobs back to rural Arizona," he said.

"Balancing the budget is part of my agenda," said Tobin in response to the same question. "We need a regulatory moratorium in Arizona," the House speaker said.

Editors note: Shane Wikfors, spokesman for Americans for Prosperity, requested a clarification to this report, noting that his tax-exempt 501c4 group is prohibited from “endorsing” a candidate. While AFP has “applauded” Kwasman, called him “heroic” and a “Hero of the Taxpayer,” they say they have not endorsed him. We’ve edited the wording to clarify that they’ve lauded his political stands. Kwasman has repeatedly referenced AFP’s ratings, including in his speech Wednesday.

CD1 by the numbers: 4th quarter fundraising

Candidate Contributions Cash on hand
Kirkpatrick $268,326 $824,159
Tobin $235,120 $191,353
Kiehne $117,073 $210,673
Kwasman $102,548 $79,372
Brown no reports yet filed

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