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Kirkpatrick leads Rep. Gosar in CD 1 money race

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Kirkpatrick leads Rep. Gosar in CD 1 money race

Giffords reports $780,000 on hand

  • Kirkpatrick in 2010.
    Amanda Voisard/FlickrKirkpatrick in 2010.

Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick outpaced Republican Rep. Paul Gosar in fundraising through the first half of the year, according to new campaign finance reports, as the two face a potential 2012 rematch in Northern Arizona’s 1st Congressional District.

While most other congressional incumbents in the state reported comfortable fundraising leads in their most-recent filings with Federal Election Commission, Gosar reported having $138,392 in the bank as of June 30 to Kirkpatrick’s $215,723.

A third 1st District candidate, Democrat Wenona Rae Benally Baldenegro, reported having $4,603.45 on hand as of June 30.

Baldenegro could not be reached for comment Monday, but campaign officials for both Gosar and Kirkpatrick said the fundraising fight had just begun.

A spokesman for Kirkpatrick, who held the 1st District seat from 2008 to 2010, called the report “a good first step,” while an official with Gosar’s campaign noted that Kirkpatrick “outspent us two-to-one last time, and we still won.”

Campaign experts said early fundraising can be important in a campaign, but that the tens of thousands separating Kirkpatrick and Gosar at this point is not going to decide the election.

“Early money is pretty crucial in a lot of races, and can be a barometer,” for the rest of the race, said Michael Beckel, spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics. But he said there is still plenty of time for Gosar to close Kirkpatrick’s lead.

“That’s not an insurmountable gap,” Beckel said.

Further clouding predictions about the race is the redrawing of congressional district lines. Public hearings on redistricting by the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission just began this month, and a final district map is not likely for months, said Rob Richie, executive director of the Center for Voting and Democracy. That can pose a challenge for all candidates, he said.

“Incumbents have their hardest races after redistricting,” Richie said. “It is not like continuing a past campaign.”

The first redistricting commission hearing in the 1st District is scheduled July 27 in Casa Grande.

But Max Fose, a general consultant to Gosar’s campaign, said redistricting is not a concern for the first-term House member. “It’s something that everyone across the nation is watching,” Fose said.

“Kirkpatrick has been fixed on fundraising and winning her seat back. And she’s not even a nominee yet,” Fose said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that voters will vote for Gosar over Kirkpatrick.”

Not surprisingly, Kirkpatrick’s campaign aides feel differently. They said the FEC filing shows Gosar is vulnerable.

“Obviously we have a lot of the campaign left to go, but this is a pretty clear indication of where this campaign is headed,” said Derek Frome, spokesman for Kirkpatrick’s campaign.

Kirkpatrick was a Democratic freshman when she was unseated by then-challenger Gosar in 2010, which proved to be the worst year for incumbent re-elections since 1970. The Center for Responsive Politics said only 85 percent of House members were re-elected last year.

Meanwhile, other Arizona incumbents have a predictably comfortable fundraising head-start on any potential competition.

In half of the state’s eight congressional districts, there are no challengers yet, or the challengers did not report raising any money. In the 6th District, Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Mesa, is not seeking re-election, and in the remaining two districts, the incumbents were at least $49,000 ahead of the challengers.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Tucson, who was shot in the head in a January attack and has been recovering ever since, reported having more than $780,000 on hand after the first half of this year. Jessica Schultz, political director for Giffords’ campaign, said that since the shooting, Giffords’ family and friends have been making sure she has the resources to return to work.

“She is focused 100 percent on her recovery,” Schultz said.

Beckel said that even after analyzing all the different details of fundraising — like how fast candidates are spending the money they are raising — it is the final weeks of an election are the most crucial. Until then, he said, “There is a lot of legwork that has to go into the campaign for name recognition.”

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