Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s super-political action committee is wading into the state’s U.S. Senate race and three competitive House races in an unusual move to help Republicans and shape her state’s congressional delegation.
“Jan PAC,” the committee formed last year by the governor known for signing the state’s tough immigration law in 2010, has spent almost $190,000 on brochures known as mailers supporting two Republicans and opposing two Democrats, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Three were sent this week.
The campaign spending -- which follows months in which the committee’s main activity was buying copies of Brewer’s book, “Scorpions for Breakfast” -- is unusual for sitting governors, who generally stay out of federal races, said David Wasserman, House editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
“She’s a much more political governor than most, and she doesn’t shy away from fights in her state,” Wasserman said. “She’s a partisan.”
That may make it harder for Brewer to work with the state’s representatives in Washington, said Luis Heredia, executive director of the state Democratic Party.
“The bigger issue is the relationship that a sitting governor will have with members of the delegation,” Heredia said, noting Brewer’s frequent skirmishes with the federal government over immigration and other issues. “Her getting into politics to this degree sends the wrong message -- especially attacking what could be a member of Congress.”
Jan PAC reported yesterday spending $99,999 on a mailer to support six-term U.S. Representative Jeff Flake in his race for the open Senate seat being vacated by Republican Senator Jon Kyl. Flake is facing Democrat Richard Carmona, who served as U.S. Surgeon General under President George W. Bush. Recent polls show the race is too close to call.
The committee also spent $35,567 this week opposing a former Democratic representative, Ann Kirkpatrick, in her bid to return to the House from the redrawn 1st District in northwestern Arizona. Cook Political Report rates her race against former state Senator Jonathan Paton, a Republican, as a toss-up.
Democrats have the edge in two other districts where Brewer’s PAC sponsored mailers, according to the Cook analysis. Her committee reported spending $23,257 on Oct. 12 to fund a brochure opposing former state Senator Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat, in her bid for a new House seat added during redistricting to reflect Arizona’s population growth. Sinema, a critic of the governor in the Legislature, faces Republican Vernon Parker in the district that includes the main campus of Arizona State University in Tempe.
Brewer’s PAC also spent $29,651 this week on a mailer to support the Republican in the Tucson district formerly represented by Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who resigned earlier this year to recover from a gunshot to the head. That seat is currently held by former Giffords aide Ron Barber, a Democrat, who was also injured in the January 2011 shooting and won the post in a special election in August. Barber faces Martha McSally, a retired Air Force colonel who was the first woman fighter pilot to fly in combat.
The Senate race is the first time a seat from the state has been open since Kyl took office in 1995. The three House races are the most competitive in the state and key to deciding which party gets the majority of Arizona’s House delegation. Five of eight seats are now held by Republicans, the reverse of 2008 when voters sent five Democrats to Congress. It will have nine House seats this year.
Brewer and other Republicans opposed the new congressional maps drawn by the state’s Independent Redistricting Committee last year, saying it favored Democrats. Brewer tried to fire the head of the commission, an independent. The state’s Supreme Court overturned the move.
“She’s trying to do at the ballot box what she couldn’t do in court,” Wasserman said, referring to the attempt to wrest control of the redistricting process by firing the commission’s chairwoman.
Brewer may wade into other federal-level campaigns in Arizona and also in other states, said Paul Senseman, a former Brewer aide who serves as a volunteer spokesman for Jan PAC.
Senseman said the governor is looking for races where her money or personal campaigning can help Republican candidates around the country who share her perspective, Senseman said.
“She has voiced often her anger with any number of failures at the federal level,” Senseman said. “Her belief is that this election cycle is one of the most important we’ve seen in modern U.S. history.”
Senseman said the governor’s level of participation in elections isn’t unprecedented.
“Is it unique? Sure, this is a very uniquely popular governor,” Senseman said. Her national stature has led to requests for her to campaign with candidates across the country, he said.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Oct. 17 that he’d spend as much as $15 million to help moderate congressional candidates and back state ballot measures to legalize same-sex marriage, through a new super-political action committee called Independence USA. He is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
Jan PAC’s website says it is dedicated to securing the border with Mexico, fighting President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul, creating jobs and reducing the size of government. Donors who give $100 or more get a signed copy of Brewer’s book.
By the end of last month, the committee had collected more than $600,000 and spent $145,000, according to the election commission. Donors include the National Football League’s Arizona Cardinals, which gave $5,000 in June. Mark Dalton, the Cardinals’ vice president of media relations, didn’t respond to a telephone call and an e-mail requesting comment.
The largest donor is Willis Johnson, chairman of salvage vehicle auction company Copart Inc., a Fairfield, California-based company that auctions used and salvaged cars, who gave $100,000. Foster Friess, founder of Friess Associates Inc. of Jackson, Wyoming, who helped finance the super-PAC that supported Rick Santorum in the Republican presidential campaign, gave $25,000.
Brewer, 68, who was first elected secretary of state in 2002. She became Arizona’s top official in 2009 when she succeeded Governor Janet Napolitano, a Democrat who resigned to serve as U.S. Homeland Security Secretary. Re-elected in 2010, Brewer is barred by term limits from running for governor in 2014.