McCain, challengers heat up Senate race
Democrats Glassman, Walden could jump in next week
As the Republican primary battle between U.S. Senator John McCain and J.D. Hayworth heats up, two Democrats may be on the verge of campaigning to be the first Democratic senator from Arizona in 15 years.
Both Tucson City Councilman Rodney Glassman and Southern Arizona entrepreneur Nan Stockholm Walden say they may announce as soon as next week that they will seek the Democratic nomination. Both primaries will be held Aug. 24.
Glassman, whose exploratory committee has been engaged in fundraising for the past several weeks, has been adding to his list of Democratic support throughout the state.
Former U.S. Sen. Dennis DeConcini and former Gov. Rose Mofford agreed last week to serve as honorary co-chairs of his campaign, and Wednesday, several Arizona labor organizations - including local chapters of the Communication Workers of America, Plumbers and Pipefitters, Operating Engineers and Teamsters unions - have thrown their support behind his expected run.
But Glassman won't announce anything until at least next week.
“I am committed to staying focused 100 percent on the City Council budget through April 6. I'll have a decision shortly afterward,” he said. “But if I do decide to be part of the race, I'll be the first elected official in 20 years to take on John McCain for U.S. Senate. I'll also be the first candidate endorsed by dozens and dozens of Democratic leaders throughout the state.”
Walden, who does not have an exploratory committee, has also not set a date for an official announcement, said advisor Matt Smith.
“She hopes to make a decision soon,” he said. “There's been an overwhelming outpouring of support across the state to try to get her to run for office, and so she wants to make a decision very quickly.”
Neither campaign has any press conferences or public statements planned.
For their part, state Democratic party officials are staying neutral.
“We let the primary play out and let the voters choose who they want to send to Washington . . . post-primary we'll be 110 percent behind whoever is going to the general election,” said Jennifer Johnson, communications director for the Arizona Democratic Party.
“We'd be thrilled with either candidate currently discussing a run for office; they're both highly qualified, smart, (and) energetic.”
Both the Arizona Dems and Glassman's campaign seem convinced that the coming election cycle brings a good chance to oust McCain.
“Quite honestly, we think this is the right time," she said. "Senator McCain is not working for Arizonans; (instead) he seems to be positioning himself as a voice for the national GOP agenda. Now is the right time for a Democrat to challenge him.”
Glassman thinks that could be him.
“Arizona deserves to have a U.S. Senator that puts Arizona first. I don't think there's anyone that wants to send another Washington insider back to D.C.
"So if I'm fortunate enough to run, I'm confident the majority of Arizonans will be excited about having someone new to represent them.”
McCain vs. Hayworth
On the Republican side, the fight between McCain, the state's senior senator, and former congressman and radio personality Hayworth has reached a fever pitch.
A March 18 Rasmussen poll showed Hayworth within 7 points of McCain among likely Republican primary voters, and on Thursday, Hayworth announced he had exceeded his $1 million fundraising goal for March.
Things have taken a decidedly darker tone between the candidates during the past several days.
After the shooting death of Arizona rancher Rob Krentz on Saturday, allegedly by an illegal alien, Hayworth said that McCain had taken “precisely the wrong approach” to immigration reform, implying that McCain was indirectly responsible for Krentz's death.
“I am heartened to hear that as of yesterday now Senator McCain has decided that, gee, there could be a military presence on the border," Hayworth said. "The tragedy is, it’s too late for the Krentz family."
McCain's camp immediately responded in a press release.
"It is despicable and offensive that Congressman Hayworth would attempt to exploit a family's tragedy to score cheap political points.
"Congressman Hayworth's comments are disgraceful and dishonest, and demonstrate a candidate so consumed by political ambition that he'll say anything to anyone — no matter how shameful or inaccurate.”
McCain and Hayworth have tried to enlist conservative support as they head toward the primary.
McCain has appeared with right-wing favorites Sarah Palin, his former running mate, and newly-elected U.S. Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass) in recent weeks. Joe "The Plumber" Wurzelbacher appeared with him at a pair of anti-tax rallies in Phoenix last weekend.
Hayworth campaigns as “the consistent conservative,” and lists among his supporters “conservative talk show host” Mark Levin, Gun Owners of America, Can-Do Conservatives and the Tax Day Tea Party.
Local conservative activists appear to be hedging their bets.
The Tucson Tea Party does not have plans to endorse anyone in the Republican primary or the general election, said Trent Humphries, TTP co-organizer.
“We made a decision about a month ago to stay out of the race. Our people are pretty smart, and the last thing we want to do is tell them how to vote or what to do.
"Both Hayworth and McCain have strong points, and both have areas they need to work on.”