The mad scramble among prominent state and Phoenix officials who want to replace the retiring Rep. John Shadegg in the 3rd Congressional District has highlighted one crazy month in Arizona politics.
In many ways, 2010 could be a far more exciting - and maddening - election year for the Grand Canyon State than 2008. Expect a frenzy of campaign ads, political speeches and eye-catching stunts as a huge of collection of candidates make their bid for voter support.
The status of the late Barry Goldwater's home state sending more Democrats than Republicans to the U.S. House will be seriously challenged, as incumbent Reps. Harry Mitchell, Gabrielle Giffords and Ann Kirkpatrick will have to face a national backlash so strong that it swept a Republican into Ted Kennedy's former Senate seat in Massachusetts. Meanwhile, Shadegg's decision to leave the House after 16 years has attracted a whole host of contenders to jump into that race, or at least to consider it.
There also will be a full slate of statewide offices on the ballot, headed by the governor, with healthy primary competition in both major parties for most of them. Of course, many of those candidates already hold another office as well, creating additional opportunities for the politically ambitious.
All of this jockeying combined means there will be incredible turnover among state politicians, especially in the Legislature. Only one of seven state senators representing the East Valley or Scottsdale is seeking to come back in 2011. Their replacements won't necessarily lack experience, of course, as House representatives are leading contenders to move up to the Senate in several East Valley districts.
But so many new faces naturally will lead to different agendas and priorities for state officials, even if the relative strength of the political parties doesn't change. And there's going to be more opportunities for surprise candidates to make successful runs.
Meanwhile, as one of her final acts as a lawmaker, Sen. Carolyn Allen, R-Scottsdale, is pushing for a ballot measure that would allow state voters to reconsider the current system of term limits that has helped to create this intensity. Allen, who was one of the leading advocates for term limits in 1992, says she has learned from experience that she was wrong. The value of new blood and fresh ideas is outweighed by a shift in power away from lawmakers and into the hands of unelected staff and well-paid lobbyists.
We always have opposed term limits as an improper infringement of the voters' right to elect who they want to serve. Other lawmakers should heed Allen's wisdom and send her ballot measure to the November general election.