Today I went to the Democratic meeting in Tucson. One of the speakers described the gains that Democrats made this year in Arizona (in addition to maintaining the Governorship and the Attorney General's office, the booty for the year includes a pickup of two U.S. house seats, a state Senate seat and six seats in the State House of Representatives.) After going through this list, one other item was added, "Jim Pederson has positioned himself well for a future race."
Of course, Pederson lost to incumbent Senator Jon Kyl in a competitive Senate race. Pederson started the race 22 points down and cut the lead in half before losing by nine.
So on the way home, I started thinking about that comment. And the answer quickly became obvious. There are no more Senate seats up here until 2010, when John McCain (who may well be weakened by a failed Presidential run) is up, but that is the same year that Governor Napolitano is term-limited out, and if she wants the Senate nomination, I am pretty sure that no one in the Democratic party would support anyone else for it. Ditto with A.G. Terry Goddard, in regard to running for Governor in four years.
But, four years seems a bit long anyway. Pederson is a can-do type of guy, who is likely to dust himself off after his defeat and get right back into the game. He has the attitude of the type of athlete who may not win every match, but wins championships because he gets up after being knocked down and keeps going after it hard.
OK. So think two years. It's an off year for state offices, except for the legislature. But after rebuilding the Democratic party as the party Chair and then running for the Senate, I don't see Pederson settling for the legislature. He has already had more to do with what people see when they visit and live in Arizona than most of the politicians in the legislature have, and he's aiming for an office in Washington.
So at this point the answer became as obvious as the headlights on the other side of the road. Pederson is from Casa Grande, which because of how the district lines are drawn, is in CD 1. The same district I live in (though I live hours from Casa Grande). Pederson, if he runs in 2008, will run against Rick Renzi.
And that's great news, too if he does. Renzi, even if he survives all the scandals and investigations now under way, has gotten himself elected primarily because of two factors: 1. he has raised a lot of money and buried his opponents under an avalanche of negative ads, and 2. he has been blessed with opponents who have not been aggressive enough on hitting back.
In 2002, Renzi's opponent was George Cordova, in 2004 it was Paul Babbitt and this year it was Ellen Simon.
His races against Cordova and Simon were virtually carbon copies of each other. Renzi outright lied about both of them-- claiming that Cordova had embezzled money from a business he was a partner in and wired it his uncle in Mexico. This was a fabrication (obviously, since Renzi was accusing Cordova of some very serious crimes but Cordova not only didn't get prosecuted for any crimes, but later sued Renzi for slander-- a case that was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum of money.) So this year, Renzi did the same to Simon, claiming she had been 'President of the ACLU' in order to tie her to a Massachusetts case involving the man-boy love association. I went to a meeting where Simon pledged she would 'not be swift-boated.' Well, she was. Further, I know from personal knowlege her campaign was given the suggestion to buy large newspaper ads (relatively cheap compared to TV advertising) in order to dispute this crap, and it was never disputed until after the election (when I received an email from Ellen Simon explaining all of this-- after the election, mind you. A bit late, wasn't it? And I already knew of the false charges, having blogged on them several weeks earlier. I'm not one of the people she had to set the record straight with.) Besides all of this, neither Cordova nor Simon could really go after Renzi on his Virginia residency because there were some carpet-bagger issues with them as well. And though by some standards they were well-financed, in the end Renzi's millions of dollars in unanswered negative ads sank both of them.
Jim Pederson, in contrast, does whatever it takes to rebut the smear charges and does so rapidly (as we saw in this campaign.) He won't have to sue or send out a letter of explanation after the election. And, Jim is from Casa Grande (mentioned above) so he is a legitimate resident of CD 1. And he's got the money to match whatever crooked money Renzi rakes in from his eastern connections (this is part of what the ongoing investigation of Renzi is centered on.)
Paul Babbitt was a different kind of race for Renzi. Babbitt was from the district, having been a former Mayor of Flagstaff and later a Coconino County commissioner. He also raised an amount of money comparable to what Renzi raised. However, Babbitt, while a strong candidate on paper, and very earnest personally (personally, I like Paul), was not a very good campaigner. Paul is a thoughtful man and he would sometimes spend half an hour talking to a single voter. That is great if you are running for school board in a town of a couple of hundred people, but if you are running for Congress in a district of 800,000 people, it's not an efficient way to campaign. Babbitt didn't campaign very much on the reservations (which are traditionally the strongest part of the district for Democrats-- and it was again in 2004-- Renzi carried the Navajo reservation 51-49%, which shows how badly things went for Babbitt). Part of it was that while Babbitt raised a lot of money he didn't spend it very well. At the end of the campaign there were cases and cases of unopened Babbitt literature. Babbitt didn't spend much on TV ads compared to Renzi. And Renzi's ads mostly focused on two things-- Babbitt's record and his family. Babbitt of course had a long record as mayor of Flagstaff and as a commissioner. So Renzi's people picked through all those years of service and found what they could use to attack Babbitt (i.e. voting for a tax, voting to spend money on a new prison, which they distorted to make it sound unnecessarily wasteful.) Now I don't think there is anything wrong with attacking a record (it's there, after all) but a response to distortions is also to be expected, and Babbitt again, maybe because he'd spent so much on literature, just didn't seem to have much to come back with against the ads. And Babbitt had to convince a lot of ranchers and others who use the land that he was not his brother (former interior secretary Bruce, who is still not liked by a lot of cattlemen.)
But Pederson, clearly is not afraid to advertise on TV, and having never served in office he has no specific voting record. He does have a business record, which Kyl attacked this year, but by now that is old news and not many people care about what happened 20 years ago. Further, Renzi does have a record. And it's not a good one. Nobody has really called him on all his votes against people in the district, and expect that Pederson would have both the will and the ability to call him out on them.
This may be idle speculation, but if indeed Jim Pederson makes a run at Rick Renzi, don't be surprised.