August 24th, 2010
08:36 AM ET
4 years ago

CNN 100: Arizona native battles anti-incumbent mood in AZ 05

 The CNN 100 takes a look at the top 100 House races, from now until Election Day.
The CNN 100 takes a look at the top 100 House races, from now until Election Day.

Editor's Note: In the final 100 days before Election Day, CNN has been profiling one race at random each day from among the nation's top 100 House races, which we've dubbed "The CNN 100." Read the full list here. Today's featured district is:

Arizona 5th: Rep. Harry Mitchell (D) is seeking a third term
Primary: August 24, 2010
Location: Central Arizona, including Tempe and Scottsdale
Days until Election Day: 70

(CNN) - As the headlines out of Arizona have focused on Sen. John McCain's re-election and J.D. Hayworth's bid to unseat him, a battle has been brewing for the House seat Hayworth once held.

Democratic Rep. Harry Mitchell is running for a third term in Arizona's 5th district. In 2006, Mitchell defeated Hayworth, a six-term congressman who swept into the House during the GOP landslide of 1994.

A half-dozen Republicans are vying for a chance to unseat Mitchell, including experienced politicians and newbies.

The challengers include Susan Bitter Smith, a city councilwoman; Lee Gentry, a businessman, attorney and accountant; Chris Salvino, a surgeon; David Schweikert, former Maricopa County Treasurer and a former state lawmaker; Mark Spinks, a realtor; and businessman Jim Ward. They'll face off in a primary on August 24.

Bitter Smith, Gentry and Schweikert were also on the ballot in 2008. Schweikert won the primary, but lost to Mitchell in the general election, 44-54 percent.

Libertarian activist Nick Coons and Green Party candidate Ryan Blackman are also in the race.

Mitchell's roots run deep in the 5th district. Prior to going to Capitol Hill, Mitchell served in the state Senate, was mayor of Tempe and taught at Tempe High School for nearly 30 years. (It's also hard to miss the 35-foot statue of him in downtown Tempe.)

"There's not many degrees of separation from Harry Mitchell and his family," said Rodolfo Espino, who teaches political science at Arizona State University.

Mitchell is known for engaging with his constituents – so much so that his aides have had to pull him away from conversations at times, Espino said.

Despite his familiar face, the native Arizonan is considered at risk in his swing district, though the degree of his vulnerability depends on who wins the Republican primary.

"Even though Mitchell has a lot of name recognition fairly, good favorable ratings – the anti-incumbent mood is something he has to battle against," Espino said.

Outsiders would place the 5th District in the far-flung Phoenix metro area, although the district includes only a small part of Phoenix itself.  The major population centers in the district are Tempe, where Arizona State University is located, and Scottsdale, home to high-class shopping.  Both are fast-growing and fairly affluent, typical of the booming suburban and exurban areas that dot the Sunbelt.

The diversity of the district makes the race especially unpredictable. The Democratic leanings of the college students and their professors in Tempe are usually counterbalanced by the GOP tilt among well-to-do retirees and white-collar workers in the rest of the district.  The western parts of Chandler and Mesa are also in the fifth.

There are more registered Republicans than Democrats in the 5th district, but even with his home-field advantage, John McCain could only muster 51 percent of the vote in the 2008 election. George W. Bush won the district with 54 percent in 2004.


Filed under: Arizona • CNN 100
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Gary

    If I could have every single member of Congress voted out and the opposite party candidate in I think the country would be better off. McCain, Kerry, Reid, Pelosi all of them need to retire. All of them are corrupt and do politics as usual. I think with a Democratic President we need a Republican controlled congress and vise versa. The last 2 years have been disaster!

    August 24, 2010 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  2. Chessnutz of Liverpool NY

    I do not care about what party you belong to! "We the People” got screwed again this time we need to make all of them pay with their jobs.

    Guess what Congress "You Are Fired!"

    This fall vote "No to incumbents"

    Fire All incumbents!

    August 24, 2010 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  3. Seattle Sue

    It would not be good to re-elect this senile old man that can't remember what he stood for just a few months ago,John McCain has flip-flopped so often no one knows what he stands for. But on the other hand it would probably be worst to vote a lying radical,racist in, J.D. Hayward.

    August 24, 2010 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  4. Save America, impeach the treasonous republicans

    The anti incumbent mood has run its course. The Fox republican party has alienated moderate republicans, Latinos, Blacks, unions, teachers, policemen, firemen, nurses, fishermen, muslims, and those who support our constitution. Fox has not run a single positive story about president Obama since he became Democratic party nominee two years ago, and now, people are seeing that foreign billionaire Murdoch and his Saudi partner are playing both sides to incite racial hatred.

    August 24, 2010 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  5. Rick McDaniel

    McCain is one of the few people in Congress, that is a decent person. On that basis, I think he deserves to return if he so chooses.....but why he wants to, is beyond me.

    August 24, 2010 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  6. independent minds want to know

    No more Ds in AZ.

    August 24, 2010 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  7. Angus McDugan

    McCain may be a republican but he is no conservative.

    August 24, 2010 10:53 am at 10:53 am |