PHOENIX -- He's a big name in East Valley politics and on Thursday former Congressman Harry Mitchell endorsed David Schapira for the Democratic nomination in Arizona's 9th Congressional District.
"I believe it is important that we elect someone who understands and values our community -- and work hard to represent it," Mitchell said in a statement. "This is why I've decided to cast my primary vote for Tempe's State Senator David Schapira."
Schapira is battling two well-financed candidates for the party's nomination in former state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Andrei Cherny. In his statement, Mitchell called the three candidates the, "brightest members of the Democratic Party in Arizona."
But the former two-term congressman said he waded into the primary because, "the nature of our politics has become increasingly polarizing and divisive." The campaign has turned negative as it gets closer to election day. Both Cherny and Sinema have raised a lot of money have started running television ads.
Schapira, on the other hand, hasn't raised as much and has focused his efforts on a grassroots strategy. The Mitchell endorsement, according to some political strategists, could pay off for the top ranking Democrat in the state Senate.
"The Harry Mitchell endorsement in that district that includes all of Tempe is a potential game changer for Schapira," said Democratic consultant Robbie Sherwood, who worked for Mitchell while he was in Congress.
It's hard to overstate the influence Mitchell has over the area and in particular the City of Tempe. Mitchell served as mayor of that city from 1978 to 1994, a time of explosive growth for the college town.
From there Mitchell served in the state Legislature until he was elected to Congress in 2006. Republican David Schweikert handily defeated Mitchell in 2010 in a year that saw big wins for the GOP throughout the country.
Despite the loss, the Mitchell name still carries a lot of weight. Earlier this year, Mitchell's son, Mark Mitchell, became mayor after winning a bruising campaign against a well known businessman.