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Race to Replace Rep. Pastor

Airdate: March 6, 2014
Long-time Arizona Congressman Ed Pastor announced his retirement last week, and the race to replace him is heating up. Pollster Mike O’Neil will discuss the situation.

  • Mike O’Neil - Pollster
Category: Government

Keywords: congress, congressman, arizona, retirement, replace,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Representative Kyrsten Sinema said today she will not attempt to succeed congressman Ed Pastor, who announced his retirement last week. Pollster Mike O'Neil is here to talk about what it means and what could it have meant had Sinema made the move. Were you surprised at her decision?

Mike O’Neil: No. I'm surprised it took her three days to make it. I wouldn't be surprised one might have a -minute conversation in passing, but for this to have lingered for three days, I heard a lot of anger out there among her supporters, among people who have given money to her that she would even consider this for more than a brief instant.

Ted Simons: Were you surprised that she considered it in the first place?

Mike O’Neil: Well, it's obvious what the calculation was. If I can move to CD I can have a safe seat forever. All I have to do is get past the primary. Well, first of all there's a lot of big ifs there. First and foremost, that has been clearly identified as a Hispanic seat, and so you would infuriate the spike community by attempting to dislodge -- There would be a chance to win the first time, the arithmetic would go simple -- Her on the one hand and a large number of Hispanics the seat and she eeks by with % in the primary and gets nominated. But keep -- I suspect she thought I could have a primary opponent even if I won the first year.

Ted Simons: You mentioned primarily Latino district. Not just because of % Latino registration in the district for the democrats, but the fact is that that was in a sense carved out voting rights act, that is supposed to be receiptive of a particular community.

Mike O’Neil: It was absolutely carved out for that explicit purpose as required by voting rights act. Do not dilute minority voting strength, so Ed Pastor got far more democrats and far more Hispanics than he ever needed to keep that seat because there's a legal requirement that THOU shall never dilute the minority voting strength.

Ted Simons: Let's say between Wilcox, Giguere doe and Gallego, the top three so far, right now would she have -- You mentioned they would maybe have diluted a vote if a couple of those had dropped out, would she still have been a primary winner?

Mike O’Neil: I don't think she could win a head-to-head race against a Hispanic. But against a multiplicity of Hispanic opponents, split the vote, then it becomes possible. And I'm sure that was the calculation.

Ted Simons: So what does this do now for her campaign in CD? Her opponent obviously will be saying, look she's already looking across the border. So to speak.

Mike O’Neil: I think it will be a momentary ripple. And I don't think they'll make it stick. There's no long -- Other than the one memo that was published that they were having a meeting to discuss their options, there's no paper trail on this. I think it's like brewer signing -- Vetoing SB-. It seemed to take too long to come to the conclusion, but she ultimately came to the right answer.

Ted Simons: OK. Let's go now with Mary rose will Cox and Ruben Gallego, three people in that district, one of the candidates announces he's Gay, who's the front run they're?

Mike O’Neil: I really don't know. I think this has to play out. Let's look and see who raises money. Mary rose Wilcox had this formidable machine, but is it decades since it's been in operation? years ago I would say this would be hers for the asking. I think that's an open -- That seat has been owned by Ed Pastor for so long, I don't think it's possible to say there's a front-runner, nor do I think it's possible to say that the realm of potential contenders is -- I don't think that list is closed yet.

Ted Simons: I was going to ask that. Could someone that we're not even talking about right now come swooping in out of the blue and all of a sudden change the dynamics big-time?

Mike O’Neil: Absolutely. This is early. Three people jumped in, each trying to preempt the field, nobody is going to do that. Somebody who could raise some money, who has some identification -- I wouldn't even speculate as to the names, but I'm sure there's a lot of people looking in the mirror right now saying I could be the next congressman from that --

Ted Simons: I don't want to go too far, because the Avenue is now shut down and closed, but let's say Sinema had jumped over to CD, what in the world would have happened in CD? Would some of those folks in seven jumped to nine?

Mike O’Neil: No. I think you'd have a lot much happy Republicans who would say, this is a toss-up district, we no longer have to face incumbent, we can take that district.

Ted Simons: Would you see more names, and would Vernon Parker decide --

Mike O’Neil: I think on the Republican side you could have seen a big increase in names. I think what you have in that district right now is Kyrsten Sinema has raised a substantial war chest, she has comported herself well, short of this one little callans with CD, she's comported herself well to become established in that district, and I think most people myself included, would at this point rate her a clear favorite in what otherwise would be a task district.

Ted Simons: Last question, you alluded to this earlier, what was the reaction, you said anger, state and national democrats.

Mike O’Neil: Absolutely.

Ted Simons: Real anger?

Mike O’Neil: Absolutely. I could have seen a scenario where she runs in CD, she gets the nomination because the Hispanic vote is split, and then loses the seat to an Hispanic independent or Republican, and the democrats lost CD because they no longer have a candidate, net Republican increase two seats out of two districts. I think that would have been a FUROR and her career would have been over.

Ted Simons: Most would have thought that as well, was she seriously considering doing this?

Mike O’Neil: It took -- All we know -- Nobody -- No reporter anywhere got anywhere near her for the last three days. All I know is it took three days, so I have to assume that she had to have heard the FUROR, but I have to assume it was serious, otherwise why not come out after minutes?

Ted Simons: All right. Good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

Mike O’Neil: Thank you.