Home>Congress>GOP Breathes Easier as No Consensus Challenger Emerges in CD1

GOP Breathes Easier as No Consensus Challenger Emerges in CD1

After coming close in 2022, Dems fail to coalesce around a single Schweikert killer

By Ari Bradshaw, November 13, 2023 3:22 pm

In addition to heading the progressive bank Aspiration, Andrei Cherny also earned a Fellowship for New Americans from the Paul and Daisy Soros Foundation. He is now among the frontrunners for the Democratic nomination in AZ1.

I was born, raised, and live in Arizona’s First Congressional District— Paradise Valley Hospital, elementary school in Scottsdale, and most of my upbringing in North Phoenix. Over this time, I’ve developed close relationships in the area from all across the political spectrum. Currently, I’m a Republican candidate for the Arizona State House in LD2, a competitive district that overlaps with CD1.

Over most of the past decade, incumbent Representative David Schweikert hasn’t faced much of a challenge for re-election. After redistricting in 2021, Democrats united behind a plan to “take him out” in 2022. This plan—which involved unifying behind a single, youthful, picture-perfect candidate (Jevin Hodge) while pushing away all other major competitors (bar, of course, Adam Metzendorf)—nearly worked. Schweikert held on by just over 2,000 votes.

Having drawn money away from other competitive districts to fight for Hodge (over $2.5 million was spent on the Hodge campaign), Democrats in Arizona have chosen not to unify behind a single candidate early in the race for 2024. Hodge himself has chosen not to run this cycle.

Currently, there are six Democrats who are running active campaigns in CD1. The first to declare was Dr. Andrew Horne, a Scottsdale native and orthodontist who is running on a neoliberal campaign which leans moderate on economic issues but, like many of his peers, veers radically to the left on the 2nd Amendment.

After Dr. Horne, initial frontrunner Dr. Amish Shah entered the race. Dr. Shah has a reputation of moderation in the Arizona State House and often would leave the floor throughout the 2023 session if he didn’t want to be on the record for a controversial position on a bill. He’s been a longtime fighter for animal rights and center-left wing healthcare reform, taking a more professional (as opposed to theatrical) approach to politics.

Third to enter the primary was Kurt Kroemer, who has been the CEO of the American Red Cross in Arizona and New Mexico and the Deputy Chief of Staff to the CEO of the American Red Cross nationwide. Entering the race as the most left-wing candidate of the bunch (advocating for federal social legislation, the Green New Deal, a federal takeover of elections, a ban on most guns, and banning the Right to Work), he has gained initial support from the most progressive wing of the Democratic party.

A week after Kurt Kroemer, current frontrunner Andrei Cherny entered the race. Andrei is a transplant who hasn’t been in Arizona as long as any of the other candidates. A lawyer and the founder of progressive fintech Aspiration, Cherny is the former chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party. He received the endorsement of former President Bill Clinton, for whom he used to write speeches, and is campaigning on a campaign that leans towards climate activism, an activist court, and corporate welfare programs.

The fifth competitive candidate to enter the race was Marlene Galan-Woods, the widow of famous Arizona politician Grant Woods. Marlene has been relatively mute on her policy positions (her website contains no issues or policy position page whatsoever) and has been endorsed by former governor Janet Napolitano alongside Congressman Raul Grijalva, a former member of MECha (the radical organization that seeks to facilitate Mexico’s reconquest of the US).

The most recent entrant is Conor O’Callaghan, the former Executive Director of the Maricopa County Democratic Party. Campaigning on a platform of passing climate-related federal legislation, supporting Ukraine, helping small businesses, lowering healthcare costs, passing national social legislation, and restoring civility to Congress – he has taken the most moderate approach to his presentation of the bunch.

If we’re going by just their endorsements, issues, and presentation over the course of the campaign, we could loosely use this political compass to identify where each contender falls:

Currently, Conor O’Callaghan leads in fundraising despite being the most recent to enter the race. O’Callaghan has raised over $1,100,000 – over $100,000 more than his nearest competitor, Andrei Cherny. Cherny is currently the only other candidate to have raised over $1,000,000. Dr. Andrew Horne has raised over $900,000, Dr. Amish Shah has over $700,000, Marlene Woods has over $500,000, and Kurt Kroemer struggles in last with just over $250,000.

In terms of self-funding, Dr. Horne has self-funded an astonishing $749,537 as of the latest financial reports (over 82% of his total fundraising sum). O’Callaghan contributed over $515,000 to his campaign (45%), Kroemer has self-funded $140,000 of his total sum (56%), Dr. Shah has loaned himself $3,300 (negligible), and both Woods and Cherny have self-funded $0.

Schweikert leads them all at $1,354,745 in fundraising with $0 in self-funding.

There are millions of dollars already involved in the CD1 race. Will some of the Democratic candidates bow out? With over $700,000 of personal funds on the line and only $100,000 in expenses so far, it’s hard to imagine Horne staying in the race unless polling shows a clear path to victory. Additionally, unless progressive organizations start to rally hard behind Kroemer, his campaign appears to be dead in the water. In a district that leans Republican by multiple points, it’s hard to imagine any of the current contenders standing a chance against the longtime incumbent who recently passed one of the greatest bipartisan bills of this Congressional session – the bill to expand affordable pumped storage hydropower in Arizona. Without someone like Hodge to unify around – a winnable district for the Democrats has transformed into a likely scramble to welcome Schweikert to another next term in office.

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