Friday, August 24, 2007

Arizona 1: Renzi's Out, But Who Benefits?

By Stuart Rothenberg

Normally, when an incumbent member of Congress decides against seeking reelection, it damages the chances of his or her party to hold the House seat. That isn't the case with Republican Rick Renzi's announcement that he will retire rather than seek another term in Arizona's 1st District.

Renzi's announcement, first reported by Roll Call, isn’t exactly a shocker. An FBI raid of his family business raised questions about the Republican's viability in next year’s elections, and GOP operatives expressed doubts weeks ago that the Congressman would run for a fourth term.

Renzi won reelection by just seven points last year over Democrat Ellen Simon, who was not regarded as a top tier challenger.

This time, Democrats have rallied around the candidacy of state Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, a former city attorney for Sedona. It’s unclear, however, if the open seat will encourage other Democrats to look at the race.

Arizona's 1st C.D. was drawn to be a competitive district, and Republicans are likely to come up with a very credible general election nominee. Renzi was severely damaged goods, and as long as an ethics cloud hung over his head, his reelection prospects were not good. His retirement confirms that Democrats have an excellent opportunity to win the district, while at the same time gives Republicans a chance to find a stronger candidate who can retain it.

This race is now a toss-up.

This item first appeared on Political Wire on August 23, 2007.