The state’s most intriguing race could be in the 1st Congressional District, which spans northeastern Arizona. There, Republican Wendy Rogers has quietly pulled within striking range of U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran, a Democrat seeking a second term.
If Rogers scores an upset, it would be a Republican pickup in a Democratic district on a night many political analysts expect the GOP to surrender its House majority. That outcome would also thwart Democratic hopes of swinging the state’s nine-member delegation from a 5-4 Republican advantage to a one-seat Democratic edge.
President Donald Trump won the district by about 1 percentage point in 2016 and Rogers’ stealth campaign has played up her support for him.
O’Halleran, a member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, has amassed one of the more Trump-friendly voting records among Democrats in the House of Representatives and is a former Republican state lawmaker.
Trump even called O’Halleran the kind of Democrat he could work with during an October visit to Luke Air Force Base. Meanwhile, Rogers, a retired Air Force pilot, didn’t score stage time with Trump at a Mesa political rally with the president that same day.
O’Halleran has stressed the importance of improving his district’s job prospects, partly by bringing more broadband internet connectivity to the area.
Democrats have won the 1st District four of the past five elections, but O’Halleran’s well-financed campaign, even with help from national Democrats, has struggled to put away Rogers, who might make her best showing in her fourth bid for Congress.
O’Halleran and his supporters have hit Rogers over her 2012 comments suggesting she viewed Social Security as unconstitutional and other statements she made that seemed to advocate privatizing the program.
Rogers outraised O’Halleran down the stretch, but she could not match the money he had raised before she won the GOP primary and she has received little support from outside Republican groups. That left Rogers with a relatively low-budget campaign with an apparent low-visibility strategy.
Rogers backed out of an October televised debate with O’Halleran, while trying to brand him with the nickname “Invisible Tom,” in an effort to suggest he paid little attention to the district.
Rogers finished third in the 1st District’s Republican primary in 2016. In 2014, she ran in Arizona’s Phoenix-based 9th District, losing the general election by 13 percentage points to U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema.
In 2012, she finished a close second in the 9th District Republican primary. Before that, she lost a competitive state Senate race in 2010.
The 1st District includes parts of 11 of Arizona counties and runs from the Utah border south to the outskirts of Tucson. About a quarter of its residents are Native American. Democrats have a 5-percentage point registration advantage in the district.
The seat is perennially one of the more competitive districts in the nation, but it covers vast swaths of rural Arizona and includes only a handful of voters in Maricopa County. Its voters tend to be older. It is the kind of place where Trump built his successful campaign and where Democrats were surprised they fell flat with voters in 2016.
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