Former lawmakers vie for party bid in 1st District

While in Congress, Kirkpatrick backed a plan to thin forests to create logging jobs and a copper mine in the old mining town of Superior; Paton has served in the state Legislature and sponsored a bill to require new accountability for the state’s child-protection program

By Felicia Fonseca

The Associated Press

FLAGSTAFF — The primary race to represent the largest swath of Arizona in Congress largely is being fought like it’s the general election, with the Democratic and Republican front-runners banking on their name recognition and past legislative experience to secure the 1st District seat.

Kirkpatrick and Paton

The district extends from the northern outskirts of Tucson on the south to the Arizona-Utah line on the north, including Flagstaff, much of eastern Arizona and a number of American Indian reservations. Though Democrats have a slight majority in voter registration, the seat has been won more often by Republicans.

Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick, a former prosecutor and state legislator, lost it in 2010 to political newcomer Republican Paul Gosar, who is seeking re-election in a neighboring district. She’s far outpaced her primary opponent, Wenona Benally Baldenegro, in fundraising and already has taken aim at Republican Jonathan Paton for the general election.

Paton, a former state legislator who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2010, targeted Kirkpatrick early in the race and says nothing indicates he won’t be the party’s nominee. He faces Gaither Martin and Patrick Gatti, both of whom are making their first attempt at Congress.

The race is among one of the most closely watched in the country, with a pledge from national Democrat and Republican groups to support their nominees financially and with television spots after the Aug. 28 primary. Those nominations are almost guaranteed to Kirkpatrick and Paton, said Fred Solop, a Northern Arizona University political science professor.



2 state House hopefuls file complaints vs. foes/The Arizona Republic

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August 2012