As incumbent U.S. Representative Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ-01) continues to look vulnerable, Republicans are lining up to challenge him in the GOP primary for Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District.
The Arizona Sun Times previously reported that O’Halleran is considered one of the most vulnerable Democrat incumbents in the country and at least five candidates have declared against him.
The Arizona redistricting process changed O’Halleran’s reelection prospects significantly for the worse. Prior to redistricting, he was running in a district that had a partisan rating of R+6, according to Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight. The new lines mean O’Halleran is running in a R+15 district. The race is rated “Likely Republican” by the Cook Political Report.
Republican challengers include former Navy SEAL and Iraq War Veteran Eli Crane, State Representative Walt Blackman (R-Flagstaff), software engineer Ronald Watkins, business consultant Mark Deluzio, and farmer Steven Krystofiak.
FEC records show Crane leads the Republican field in fundraising, having brought in north of $810,000, with just over $312,000 of it on hand. Blackman, who is second in the financial race, had raised $694,346.48 for the 2022 election and had $192,321.22 as of December 31, 2021. The other candidates have either not raised significant money or entered the race after the 2021 fourth-quarter reporting deadline. Updated financial reports for the 2022 first quarter will be available in the coming weeks.
According to his website, Crane “is a combat veteran, small-business owner, husband, father and native Arizonan. The week after 9/11, Eli joined the Navy. He went on five wartime deployments, three of them to Iraq with SEAL Team 3 and served our country for 13 years. Today, Eli and his wife Jen own a small business in Tucson. Together they started Bottle Breacher, a successful company featured on Shark Tank, where they landed a deal with Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary. Bottle Breacher makes 100% of their products in the USA, while employing and giving back to veterans nationwide.”
Crane’s endorsements include conservative radio host Mark Levin and Law Enforcement Today, as well as former President Donald Trump advisor and former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik.
Blackman favors the elimination of cash bail and has a history of supporting legislation that is considered “soft on crime.”In the 2019 regular session of the Arizona legislature, Blackman was the prime sponsor of HB2270, a bill to allow state prison inmates to “Earn Up to 50 Percent Off Their Sentence Through Good Behavior and Participation in Classes and Programming.” There were no co-sponsors of the bill.
In 2021, Blackman was the prime sponsor of HB2713, a bill to “Expand Earned Release Credits” for incarcerated drug offenders and nonviolent offenders. If passed, the early release of more than 16,000 inmates would have occurred. Blackman also voted with Democrats in favor of HB2673, a bill that would have allowed judges to ignore mandatory minimum sentencing rules.
Arizona State House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-Lemontree) endorsed Blackman. Bowers squashed a bill aimed at decertifying the state’s 2020 election results. Blackman shared the speaker’s position.
He also supports ranked-choice voting. Out of 47 total Republicans in the Arizona legislature in 2021, Blackman was ranked 32nd-most conservative by the American Conservative Union.
The AZ-2 Republican primary is scheduled to occur on August 2.
– – –
Aaron Gulbransen is a reporter at the Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow Aaron on GETTR, Twitter, and Parler.
Photo “Walter Blackman” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 3.0. Photo “Tom O’Halleran” by The Clerk of the U.S. House of Representives. Background Photo “U.S. Capitol Building” by Noclip.