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U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi [R-Ariz.] may be out of the headlines for now, but behind the scenes, the two political parties are still shuffling and polling to see who will replace him.
By Mike Cosentino
Larson Newspapers

U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi [R-Ariz.] may be out of the headlines for now, but behind the scenes, the two political parties are still shuffling and polling to see who will replace him.

The Democrats, according to Fernando Cuevas of the Democratic Coordinated Campaign Committee in Washington, D.C., are liking Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick [D-District 2].

Kirkpatrick represents District 2, which includes Flagstaff and the Hualapai, Havasupai, Hopi, Navajo and San Juan Southern Piute nations.

She is ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, which deals with taxation and revenue issues. In addition, she serves on the Education K-12 Committee and Natural Resources Committee.

Cuevas also has been in contact with Howard Shanker, an environmental lawyer from Flagstaff, who has spoken in Sedona several times and is already campaigning in the district.

George Cordova is also being mentioned. Cordova was the candidate who lost to Renzi in the 2000 election in a race decided by 6,000 votes.

Steve Owen, current Arizona Department of Environmental Quality director, is still being considered, as is U.S. Rep. Bob Mitchell [D-Ariz.], former mayor of Casa Grande and brother to former Tempe Mayor Harry Mitchell.

Cuevas also mentioned Allen Affelt, the current mayor of Winslow, and Mary Titla, former television news anchor from the San Carlos Reservation area in southern Arizona.

On the Republican side, there is Prescott businessman Ken Bennett, former Arizona Senate President, Arizona Rep. Bill Konopnicki [R-District 5], from Safford, and Arizona Rep. Tom O’Halleran [R-Sedona].

“When the time comes, I will give it very, very serious consideration,” Bennett said.

O’Halleran said he “will give it serious consideration” regardless of when the seat opens up.

O’Halleran, a Sedona representative, has been mentioned from the beginning of Renzi’s troubles.

Jim Ledbetter, a “blue dog” Democrat, was considered to have the Democratic inside track until his decision not to run in May.

Ellen Simon announced last week that she, too, was not in contention any longer.

Renzi is currently under federal investigation for land swap irregularities and other charges.

He currently is not serving on any committees due to the investigations.

Simon drops out to form campaign reform group

After withdrawing from the race for congressional District 1 House of Representatives seat currently held by Republican Renzi, Simon intends to form a campaign reform organization to be based in Sedona.

“The majority of one’s time when running for Congress is spent raising money rather than talking about issues and qualifications,” Simon said.

“Upon a great deal of thought and reflection, I do not feel morally comfortable in asking for money for television commercials to combat the next lies that might be portrayed,” she said.

She said she is “disenchanted with the political process.”

So much so that she is starting a bipartisan, nonprofit, campaign reform organization to be based in Sedona, she said.

“Most people would agree that the system needs change,” she said.

She has been in contact with Mike Collins, whom she identified as a chief Republican strategist, and is seeking others from the “other side” to serve on a board of her reform organization.

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