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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Kyl’s departure will inspire political drama

Last Thursday, Arizona politics got a little more interesting with the news that the state’s junior senator, Jon Kyl, will not be seeking re-election. Kyl, who also serves as the Senate minority whip, enjoys a 47 percent approval rating (above average compared to other politicians) and was not considered to have a strong challenge in 2012. With his departure, Arizona will now have its first open Senate seat since 1994 and a never-ending supply of political drama to look forward to.

While Arizona has the reputation of being a reliable red state, the fact is that Arizona voters are relatively moderate. With the creation of an open seat, it’s very possible that the next senator from Arizona will be a Democrat. For example, Democrats and Independents make up 63 percent of all registered voters in Arizona, and the last time this seat was up for grabs, 2006, Kyl just barely won re-election. At the moment, Kyl may be a popular figure, but that doesn’t mean the voters feel the same way about the Republican Party in general.  

However, the odds are still in the Republicans’ favor. It cannot be forgotten that just a few months ago, Arizona voters re-elected Gov. Jan Brewer and added to the Legislature’s Republican majority. It’s also important to mention that this will take place during a presidential election, and much of the Republican base will be motivated to vote.  

Of course, it’s too early to talk about specifics. Who knows what the public will think about the Republican Party a year from now? The only thing that is certain is that this Senate race will draw significant national attention and will turn into a fast-hitting episode of political hardball.

So, who is likely to run? Rep. Jeff Flake has already announced his bid for Senate. A congressman representing the east side of the Phoenix metropolitan area, Flake has served Arizona since 2001 and is a favorite among the conservative wing of the Republican Party. There’s a very good chance that he could win.  

Some people are bringing up the possibility of Rep. Trent Franks putting his hat in the ring. Franks is about as conservative as one can get, representing the west side of Phoenix, as well as rural areas of Northwest Arizona, but he isn’t as well known as Flake. If Franks were to challenge Flake, there’s no question that the two would have a nasty primary battle fighting for the hearts of the party’s base.  

It isn’t so certain with the Democrats. Some possible candidates are Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, and representatives Gabrielle Giffords and Raul Grijalva. After spending the last few years in Washington, D.C., it’s very unlikely that Napolitano would be able to win, and there’s no way that a partisan candidate like Grijalva could win statewide office. Gordon doesn’t have the name recognition outside of Phoenix, but his moderate stances on the issues could very likely sway Arizona’s independent voters.  

The most interesting possible candidate is Giffords. She had been rumored to be considering a run as far back as 2009, and if she were to run, she would most likely win. However, it’s unlikely that she’ll be able recover fast enough to make such a run. In fact, there would have to be a miracle for that to happen.

The next year and a half will truly be interesting. Open seats usually mean bitter primaries and more national attention. What could have been a relatively quiet re-election bid for Kyl is turning into the Arizona version of a political circus. While it’s entirely too early to tell what will happen in the 2012 elections, for Arizonans, this election will prove to be a drama-filled episode of modern political theater.

— Andrew Shepherd is a political science senior. He can be reached at

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