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Lawmakers forced to choose between primary and GOP convention

WASHINGTON – Primary season has already done what hurricane season is only threatening to do: Driven some party members away from next week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

At least three Arizona lawmakers will stay home through Tuesday to focus on the primary election: Republican Reps. Paul Gosar of Flagstaff, Ben Quayle of Phoenix and David Schweikert of Scottsdale, all plan to remain in Arizona.

Aides said Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Mesa, had not decided if he would attend the convention and Rep. Trent Franks, R-Glendale, could not be reached for comment.

But Tim Sifert, a spokesman for the Arizona GOP, said the congressmen were “just doing their jobs.”

“The congressional delegation, once elected, represent their districts,” Sifert said. “Their job is to take care of their district.”

Those lawmakers who stay home will miss the roll call of the states, when each state casts its votes for the party’s nominee. The event has been moved up to Monday night, although the formal nomination acceptance by expected nominee Mitt Romney is still scheduled for Thursday, the last day of the convention.

The roll call is being held earlier than previous years, in part because of concern that Tropical Storm Isaac could disrupt the convention.

The GOP convention will be held Monday through Thursday and more than 4,000 delegates and alternate delegates will be in attendance.

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It was unclear if any of the lawmakers who were staying home for Election Day planned to attend later days of the convention, after the primary is over.

Sifert, however, said the state would still be well represented at the convention. He said Arizona is sending a group of delegates to the nominating convention who are “specifically dedicated to representing the GOP party in Tampa.”

That frees up lawmakers who might otherwise be going to Tampa, giving them the opportunity to focus on Tuesday’s primary election.

Many of the Republican congressmen are facing contested primary races, the most high-profile of which is the showdown between Quayle and Schweikert, both freshmen.

After redistricting redrew congressional lines this year, Quayle moved into Schweikert‘s district, sparking what has become a fierce primary campaign.

Gosar, meanwhile, faces a re-election challenge from state Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, along with Rick Murphy, also of Lake Havasu City.

Flake, meanwhile, is locked in a bitter contest against fellow Republican Wil Cardon for the right to run for the seat of Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., who is retiring after this term.

Sifert felt it was important for the congressmen to remain in the state Tuesday.

“When they stay in their district, they’re doing the most important work they could be doing,” he said.

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Stephanie Snyder/Cronkite News Service

Rep. Ben Quayle, R-Phoenix, is challenging fellow Republican Rep. David Schweikert of Scottsdale for re-election.