The Arizona Globe has poured so much coverage into the fascinating and unexpected dynamics of CD8, where Debbie Lesko’s surprise resignation has set off a frenzy of activity, especially on the Republican side. But our attention got a little too concentrated there, so we recently took a good look at CD1, and now we turn our lens on CD4, and one candidate who looks particularly well positioned to challenge the incumbent Democrat Greg Stanton.
Entirely inside Maricopa County, the Fourth Congressional District contains all of Tempe and parts of Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale and Chandler. It was represented for a decade by hard-right Paul Gosar, but after 2020 redistricting knocked Gosar into the newly created 9th, Greg Stanton flipped the 4th in Nov 2022, beating Kelly Cooper 56.1 to 43.9.
Cooper is slated to run again for the nomination but after a 12+ point beatdown, some Republicans are seeking a new look. Dr. Zuhdi Jasser might just be that fresh face voters are looking for. According to one local political strategist who asked not to be named, Dr. Jasser is “strongly positioned in this primary race based on three factors: 1) He has long had a public profile as an expert on Middle East affairs and Islam. 2) He is a long-time, currently practicing internal medicine physician, 3) He holds strongly conservative positions and can deliver them with a tone and rationale that fits District 4.”
Jasser entered the race before the Oct 7 attack by Hamas returned this long-troubled region to the front pages. But as a regular guest on conservative outlets like Fox News, Newsmax and Blaze Media, who are always looking for an authentic Muslim voice to oppose terror, Dr. Jasser is already well-known by some of the most committed GOP primary voters. Editorials like “The Islamist Threat Inside Our Military,” which he wrote for the Wall Street Journal in 2011 have cemented in the public mind his identity as a Middle East expert willing to criticize extremists. And because he’s also appeared on CNN, MSNBC, CBS and other left-leaning networks, he’d presumably have some credibility and name ID should he make it to the general election in November.
His biography is equally compelling. As a devout Muslim who is willing to both criticize the extremist elements of his own faith and praise his country — “America in fact provides the best atmosphere for Muslims to practice our faith” — Jasser presents a model for a pluralistic American future. He sharply criticized plans to build a mosque a block from Ground Zero and rebuked fellow Muslim Americans for keeping quiet about the Fort Hood shooting and attempted car bombing in Times Square. A Syrian who was raised in Appleton, Wisconsin — the quintessential mid-American home to Harry Houdini and Sen. Joe McCarthy, not to mention Willem Dafoe— Jasser got his medical degree on a Navy scholarship and paid Uncle Sam back by serving 11 years, including chief resident at Bethesda Naval Hospital.
He retired as lieutenant commander and headed to Arizona, where he’s practicing medicine and raising a gorgeous family, including an oldest son who looks like he could help solve ASU’s O-line problems. Jasser’s candidate website reads like a thoughtful human being with real convictions actually wrote it. These sites are literally fill-in-the-blank templates but Jasser, a former newspaper columnist, appears to respect voters enough to have spent the time to flesh it out with introspection and even proper spelling and grammar, which is meaningful to judgey, small-minded journalists (guilty!).
For the Republicans hoping to head to Washington, flipping a seat in a presidential year is never easy. The Cook Partisan Voting Index for the District is D+2 — an overcomeable edge under the right circumstances. But the respected publication has still dubbed the seat “Safe Democrat” accounting for the automatic advantage that incumbency conveys as well as the fundraising strength Stanton brings to the table. His Leadership PAC, Getting Results by Engaging the Grassroots PAC (get it? It spells GREG!) has raised just under a million bucks so far this cycle and is sitting on $634,612, according to OpenSecrets.org.
Still, a deeper dive into 2022 reveals the district is clearly sensitive to candidate quality.
In the gov. race in 2022, Katie Hobbs got 56.3%, slightly overperforming Stanton in the District. But Kari Mayes underperformed, notching an even 56% to Abe Hamadeh’s 44% And more encouragingly for the Republican hopefuls, Arizona Treasurer Kimberly Yee won the district, tabulating a solid 50.7% to Democrat Martín Quezada’s 49.3%.
The 4th CD is a rare district where Independent voters are a plurality. And between the two major parties, those voters who call themselves Republicans have a slight registration advantage in the district.
And there are other signs of hope. In 2018, Governor Doug Ducey won the CD by more than 6 points. If the issue matrix continues to favor those that traditionally favor Republicans — the economy, border security, public safety, education, parents’ rights — a Republican will stand a puncher’s chance.
Joanna De La Cruz, a strategist from The Resolute Group who is working for Dr. Jasser’s campaign, told the Globe, “This is no longer the heavily Democratic district Greg Stanton was first elected to. District 4 is heavily independent, and Republicans have a registration advantage over Democrats. The community is concerned about economic growth, border security, public safety, education, and parents’ rights. Greg Stanton is weak or silent on every single one of these issues. He’s out of touch. Stanton repeatedly puts politics over people and left our community behind to become a rubber stamp for the Biden Administration.”
Indeed, Stanton has voted with President Biden nearly 100% of the time, including on the “Inflation Reduction Act” — a massive spending package that many feel actually worsened inflation. He also supported codifying and expanding DACA and the HR6 dream act, which some have blamed for incentivizing illegal immigration and turning one of Arizona’s most vexing problems into a nationwide catastrophe. Stanton has also declined to call out extremism in his own party—he voted against the censure of Rep. Rashida Tlaib, declining to join the 22 Democrats (and 212 Republicans) who voted for censure over the Congresswoman’s incendiary rhetoric, including her use of the phrase “from the river to the sea,” which many view as a genocidal call to eliminate Israel.
In a strongly worded press release issued Nov. 16, Jasser took Stanton to task for failing to condemn Tlaib as her controversial visit to Arizona neared.
“Congresswoman Tlaib has repeatedly used a phrase that is the rallying cry for the destruction of the state of Israel. This, along with other lies about Israel and her continual trafficking in antisemitism, is why she was censured by the House of Representatives, including by 22 Democrats. Her actions have even been condemned by President Biden’s administration. But Greg Stanton, as usual, and as quietly as possible, put party politics over people and voted to do the wrong thing by voting against her censure.” Jasser continued, “If I were in Congress, I not only would have voted to censure Rashida Tlaib, but I would also have sponsored a resolution to expel her. You don’t get the high honor of representing America and Americans while echoing calls for genocide and supporting antisemitism.”
Arizona primary voters will go to the polls August 6, 2024. The winner of the GOP nomination will then have less than three months to make the case for unseating the incumbent, one of the hardest things to do in American politics. It’s too soon to know how legit Dr. Jasser’s chances are of pulling off that rare feat, but one thing’s already clear — he’s a fascinating new character on the state’s political stage.
- Consultant Class Makes Bank on Ranked Choice Proposal - February 19, 2024
- Mitchell Draws a Republican Challenger - February 7, 2024
- Trump Endorsed Hamadeh; Why Is Masters Acting Like He’s Won 45’s Support? - January 30, 2024