District 8 Democrats in Scottsdale hope to gain political ground by de-emphasizing their party affiliation in an area that Republicans control by more than a 2-1 margin.
But they acknowledge it will be an uphill challenge to oust popular Republicans Sen. Carolyn Allen and Rep. Michele Reagan and take control of the other House seat vacated by Colette Rosati.
In the Nov. 7 general election, Allen is facing Democrat Dan Oseran, while the House race for two seats includes Reagan and Republican John Kavanagh against Democrats Stephanie Rimmer and Bill Sandberg.
In the district that includes most of Scottsdale, Fountain Hills and Rio Verde, there are 52,959 registered Republicans, 23,384 Democrats, 533 Libertarians and 28,050 who belong to none of the three parties, a bulk of whom are believed to be independents, according to the latest voter registration totals.
While Allen, Reagan and Kavanagh play up being Republicans, self-described moderate Democrats Oseran and Rimmer make their affiliation harder to find.
“We look for candidates with moderate positions to run because that’s the way we are going to win,” said Margaret Hogan, chairwoman of the District 8 Democrats.
Allen is the overwhelming favorite to be returned to the Senate for a third term. She has the endorsement of many prominent individuals and organizations, name recognition, a moderate voting record and belongs to the party with the voter registration advantage.
Allen, who has done no campaigning since her only son died last week, said her mind has not been on next month’s election.
But she told the Tribune the issues she would focus on if re-elected are emergency room tort reform to better protect physicians from lawsuits, trying to solve the air-quality problem, and making health care accessible to more residents by possibly giving incentives to businesses.
Oseran, a graduate of University of Arizona law school and former Maricopa County prosecutor, is a manager at Calence, a high-tech consulting firm.
He described himself as a fiscal conservative, but more liberal on social issues. Oseran said he supports a strong public education system including full-day kindergarten, supports abortion rights and opposes a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages and government domesticpartner benefits. Oseran also supports a program to forgive college loans for students who attend a state university and then enter the public sector, a path he followed.
“It’s important to demonstrate that the Legislature in general hasn’t been effective,” said Oseran, who plans no attack ads against Allen.
Rimmer has made waves with her Republican opponents by making statements such as being one of two moderates in the race — an attempt to link herself to Reagan — and being the only small-business owner.
Rimmer, a public relations consultant, said she did not purposely exclude her party affiliation on campaign signs, literature and her Web site because she’s a Democrat seeking a seat in a Republican-dominated district.
“It’s because I’m not an extremely partisan person and the first thing I say isn’t my political party, it’s what I think,” said Rimmer, the only candidate to support raising the minimum wage and oppose school vouchers.
Reagan, seeking her third term, said Rimmer appears to be going after Republican women by aligning herself with the other woman in the race, which Reagan said puts her in an uncomfortable position because there are differences between them. Reagan also added that her husband is a small-business owner and she is a former business owner.
Kavanagh, a community college professor and retired detective, criticized Rimmer for her attempt to portray him as too far right for the district.
A fiscal and social conservative, Kavanagh said he’s far from an extremist and he defeated three other Republicans — including two Republican moderates — in the primary election last month.
“I guess Stephanie Rimmer has to accept the fact that there’s no such thing as a ‘Republicrat,’” Kavanagh said. “She has to openly campaign as the Democrat that she is and not try and position herself as one of the Republican candidates.”
Kavanagh said illegal immigration is the most important campaign issue. He has the endorsement of Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, and has a photo of himself with Pearce on his Web site. Kavanagh said he does not support the mass deportation of illegal immigrants that Pearce has suggested, but he stands by the endorsement. He also cites cutting taxes and freezing property tax valuations as top priorities.
Reagan, who called Kavanagh her running mate, said her biggest motivator at the Legislature is to limit regulation to help small businesses.
“That’s what gets me up in the morning,” she said.
Sandberg, a retired carpenter and current employee of The Home Depot and AJ’s Fine Foods, said he is running because of his experience of caring for his late mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Sandberg said a group of strangers who cared for his mother while he went to work inspired him to give back to the community as a public servant. He also supports a statewide health insurance plan for all residents.
Sandberg, who describes himself as socially conservative, said he hopes to receive crossover votes from Republicans concerned about health care and aging parents.