Candidates Must Go The Distance To Win Arizona's Behemoth First Congressional District

August 26, 2016
Courtesy of
Arizona's First Congressional District spans across 11 counties and is bigger than many states including Illinois.

Arizona’s First Congressional District is one of the largest districts in the country. It spans from Lake Powell down to just north of Tucson wrapping around Phoenix.

The district includes a voice from just about population group you can think of— retirees, college students, miners, veterans and more Native Americans than any other district in the state.

Northern Arizona University politics and international affairs professor Fred Solop said the candidates in this behemoth district have their work cut out for them.

“You can’t choose one population to focus on,” Solop said. “It really is a diverse district. And it was established by the Redistricting Commission as a competitive district so the balance between Democrat and Republican is very close. There’s a slight edge to Democrats in the district but Republicans have held the seat as well.”

Both Democratic candidates facing off in the primary are new to the party. Tom O'Halleran has raised the most money out of all the candidates, including Democratic challenger Miguel Olivas. O'Halleran has been a fixture at the state legislature, first serving as a Republican before running as an Independent in 2014 and eventually changing affiliations to Democrat.

Five Republicans will be on the ballot. Solop says the standouts are former Secretary of State Ken Bennett and tough-on-immigration Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.

Former Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick left the seat to challenge John McCain in the U.S. Senate race. An open Congressional seat here is rare.

“That means it’s become a focus of the national Democrats and the national Republicans,” Solop said. “They really want to win this seat so a lot of money is going to be coming into this district once we’re past the primary phase.”

So, Solop says, don't be surprise leading up to the general election to see the district flooded with national party-funded TV and radio ads.