Looking Towards July 30th: the Democratic Primary in Congressional District 1

As the July 30th primary election date nears, we wanted to highlight some of the more contentious primaries that will impact you and perhaps the entire region. Last week we checked out the Republican primary for the Maricopa County Recorder’s race, which is getting quite saucy (read our story here). Now we take a look at perhaps an even saucier race, the Democratic primary for Arizona’s 1st Congressional district, which encompasses much of the northeast Valley, where six candidates are fighting for the chance to take on (probably) David Schweikert in the general election.

First, we should note that things got very ugly early, with negative ads placed railing some of the candidates for not being enough to the left on various views, and what seemed to be placed in favor of certain candidates has the scent of an outside Republican group attempting to make all of the leading candidates look bad; if that seems like a lot to digest, read our coverage here.

While none of the six candidates in this primary are fringe candidates, it seems as though it is largely a race between four: Marlene Woods (former reporter and widow of deceased Arizona icon Grant Woods), investment banker Conor O’Callaghan, state representative Amish Shah, and former Dem party chair and entrepreneur Andrei Cherny. On the outside looking in, at least from a financial and “buzz” perspective, are Kurt Kroemer and Andrew “Not Related to Tom” Horne. Horne has lent his campaign $750,000, but lending your campaign money is easy, spending your own money is a different matter.

Ideologically, little seems to differentiate the main candidates; they all are quick to mention that the right to an abortion should be preserved, and in a distinct sign of the times, all except for Kroemer believe that illegal immigration is indeed a crisis at the border. Democratic credentials are being used as a bludgeon by O’Callaghan, who is quick to point out that Woods used to be a Republican.

There is a distinct difference in backgrounds however. O’Callaghan is a former Wall Street guy, an unusual background for a Democratic candidate. Shah has made a name for himself as a doctor and moderate-left lawmaker. Cherny started the business Aspiration, a successful values-based banking company, and Woods a former journalist. All have some degree of baggage, with O’Callaghan being a co-defendent in a white-collar court case, Cherny’s firm being investigated for inflation of the value of carbon credits, Woods having stood behind Jan Brewer during an election night party, and Shah as a former Republican.

Takes on who will win vary widely. O’Callaghan is the money leader and has been advertising in earnest with street signs everywhere, so many see him as the front-runner. A cynical take on politics (often the correct one) will point out that Marlene Woods is the only woman in the race (and is endorsed by influential women’s group Emily’s List), so that gives her a natural advantage in a voting bloc that leans female. Cherny has a very impressive pedigree but may be crowded out without a particular lane (except perhaps catering to Jewish voters with his compelling family story, but will that bloc be enough?).

One thing that is often not acknowledged however is that the most important method of outreach from a candidate is knocking on doors and talking to voters directly: Amish Shah’s specialty. He became well-known for knocking on tens of thousands of doors in his legislative races, and reportedly is doing the same for this race. Our call? It is likely to be close, but the candidate that few people are talking about, Amish Shah, will surprise everyone with an extremely competitive showing, if not an outright win.