Close congressional races a repeat in Arizona

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- In many ways, this year's congressional races in Arizona feel like deja vu. The state is again host to some of the nation's most closely watched contests.

One race features a rematch between the same two candidates from the 2012 election. Another race has Democrat Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick fighting to keep her job in a vast swing district, a replay of the 2010 and 2012 election cycles.

All of Arizona's nine congressional seats are being voted on in Tuesday's election, but the races attracting most of the attention are the 1st and 2nd Congressional District contests.

Democratic Rep. Ron Barber and Republican Martha McSally are battling again for the Tucson-area 2nd District, while Kirkpatrick is squaring off against former Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin, a Republican, in the other race.

Voters have been bombarded with ads as the candidates and outside groups are spending millions to influence the outcome.

In one, McSally mocks Barber's attacks on her, using an actor to facetiously accuse her of disliking puppies. The ad closes in on McSally holding a puppy. "Watch it," she tells the actor.

An ad that featured a crying mother whose daughter had been killed by her stalker accused McSally of supporting gun rights for misdemeanor-convicted stalkers.

It was sponsored by Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun control group founded by former Rep. Gabby Giffords and husband Mark Kelly. McSally denounced the ad and said she'd been a victim of stalking herself.

Americans for Responsible Solutions then pulled it, saying McSally had reversed her initial position. The group later aired another ad featuring Giffords praising Barber.

Giffords and the issue of gun control have been prominent in the race for the district in which six were killed and 13 were injured in the January 2011 mass shooting at a constituent event.

Giffords and Barber, then an aide for the congresswoman, were wounded in the attack.

"I'm hearing (voters) are looking forward to seeing an advertisement from a car dealership soon because they're just so sick of the political ads," said Barbara Lubin, the spokeswoman for the Arizona Democratic Party.

"It remains to be seen how much extra additional spending adds to either the turnout of the overall voters or really changes the results," Arizona Republican Party spokesman Tim Sifert said.

In the 1st Congressional District, Kirkpatrick is fighting a tough battle with the well-known Tobin to keep her seat.

Kirkpatrick won the seat against Republican Jonathan Paton by only a few thousand votes last time around. That was after she'd lost it in 2010 to another conservative Republican.

But Tobin was late to the game after a hard-fought, three-way battle in the Republican primary.

In Maricopa County, Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is facing challenger Wendy Rogers, a Republican who lost in the GOP primary in 2012 in the district.

Sinema has raised much more money than Rogers, a retired Air Force officer who has refused to publicly debate the incumbent. Democrats are confident Sinema will win, but Republicans are hoping anti-Democratic sentiment on Tuesday will give them a chance to pick up a seat.

Arizona has six other congressional districts that are holding elections Tuesday:

3rd District: Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva is facing off with Republican Gabriela Saucedo Mercer. Grijalva has held that seat for six terms and is likely to win a seventh.

4th District: Republican Rep. Paul Gosar will also likely keep his seat, which encompasses rural areas west and northwest of Phoenix. His opponent is Democrat Mikel Weisser.

5th District: The district spans from Gilbert to Chandler to parts of Mesa. Republican Matt Salmon won the seat in 2012 and is facing Democrat James Woods this year.

6th District: Republican David Schweikert holds the seat that includes parts of Maricopa County and the southeastern Phoenix suburbs. Schweikert is running again, this time against Democrat John W. Williamson.

7th District: Ruben Gallego, a Democrat, is the heavy favorite for the seat vacated by the retirement of longtime Rep. Ed Pastor. Gallego is a Harvard-educated, Iraq War veteran from a single-parent home who was the first in his family to graduate from college. He won the August primary, easily putting him on track to win Tuesday in the heavily Democratic district.

8th District: Rep. Trent Franks, a Republican, represents this district northwest of Phoenix. He is challenged by Stephen Dolgos, a Democrat.

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