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Former Republican Running as Democrat to Replace Kirkpatrick

Kirkpatrick is vacating her House seat to run for the Senate. (File Photo by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Kirkpatrick is vacating her House seat to run for the Senate. (File Photo by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In Arizona’s 1st District, Democrats may turn to a former Republican as they try to hold on to outgoing Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick’s seat.  

Former state Sen. Tom O’Halleran, 69, on Tuesday said he would seek the party’s nomination, becoming the first Democratic candidate to enter the race. Kirkpatrick is vacating her seat to run for the Senate.  

“I have a record of taking on tough challenges and delivering — even when it meant standing up to party leadership,” Halleran said in a statement. “This election is about Arizonans who want a job that pays enough to provide for their family, the dignity of a secure retirement, and the confidence that they are leaving future generations with even greater opportunities.”  

Some Democrats in Arizona believe O’Halleran could draw an opponent in a Democratic primary. State Sen. Barbara McGuire said she was considering her own campaign in June, but her exploratory committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.  

O’Halleran’s campaign is being led by DJ Quinlan, a longtime state operative who left his position as the Arizona Democratic Party’s executive director in February. A national Democratic operative said Quinlan’s support could serve as a signal to a potentially wary party establishment that the former Republican is safe to support.  

On the Republican side, Gary Kiehne, a Republican rancher and businessman who narrowly lost his first campaign for his party’s 1st District nomination in 2012, announced his candidacy earlier this year. Former state Senate President Ken Bennett, a Republican, announced his own candidacy for the seat last month, while two others — state Sen. Steve Pierce and former U.S. Army intelligence officer Jonathan Paton — are considering their own campaigns.  

Former Arizona Speaker Andy Tobin, who beat Kiehne that year, said last month he will not run this time around.  

As an open seat, the district is not viewed as safe for either party. In 2012, the same year Kirkpatrick won 49 percent of the vote in her re-election campaign, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney won with 50 percent of the vote.  

The Rothenberg-Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call rates the race a Tossup .

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