Republican State Rep. Mark Anderson of Mesa has formed an exploratory committee to weigh a challenge against Democrat U.S. Rep. Harry Mitchell of Tempe in 2008.
Anderson became the second Republican to step forward in a Congressional race that is sure to attract national interest and campaign funding from both parties. Scottsdale lobbyist Jim Ogsbury announced his intent to run on Aug. 17.
Anderson told the Tribune on Tuesday he plans to make a final decision on whether to run in January. By delaying a formal announcement, he will be able to retain his state House seat through the 2008 session without triggering the state’s resign-to-run law.
He’s serving his seventh term in the state Legislature, for which he’s chairman of the House K-12 Education Committee.
The GOP primary is shaping up to be crowded race. Three or four other state-level office-holders are considering joining the GOP field against Mitchell, who is in his first term in federal office.
The district is attracting ample interest partly because the GOP holds a 15-percentage point advantage in voter registration, according to a July 1 report by the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.
The district largely is comprised of Tempe, Scottsdale, Ahwatukee Foothills and Fountain Hills. It also takes in a slice of west Mesa, where Anderson, a real estate agent, has lived since 1986.
Anderson, 52, said he would bring a spirit of cooperation to Congress.
“The partisanship has gotten so bad, a lot of people are turned off by it,” he said. “I found in my years in the Legislature that if you work with people and you create kind of a synergy by saying, ‘Let’s put aside partisanship and find solutions,’ you can actually accomplish things.”
In fact, Anderson said he had a good relationship with Mitchell when they both served in the state Legislature.
On the Iraq war, Anderson said the United States should seek a safe way to phase out U.S. troops, realizing that a U.S.-style democracy may never take hold in Iraq.
On the national deficit, he said policy makers must address the difficult issues of Social Security, Medicare and special-project earmarks to bring the budget under control.
The challengers will have a difficult task unseating Mitchell, a popular figure who stays in touch with constituents, said Bob Grossfeld, president of The Media Guys, a political consulting firm based in Scottsdale.
“It will wind up being this heated Republican battle to win the right to be trounced by Mitchell,” he said.