Most of you will have heard by now that John Shadegg, the Republican incumbent Congressman for CD 3 is retiring. The news is everywhere, but, so far, I have found far more heat than light on the subject. I didn’t think that there would be a shake-up of this magnitude in Arizona’s political order resulting from McCain’s all-but-nomination, but many are suggesting that Shadegg’s move presages the likely retirement of McCain from the Senate and Shadegg’s preparation to grab that brass ring. That may be, but I’m not so sure.
I think all this speculation is fairly useless. Either Shadegg is prepping for a crack at McCain’s Senate seat, or he’s prepping for a post in a McCain administration, or he’s sick of being a pipsqueek when he’s used to being a big wheel, or he’s jumping ship in response to criticism of his fund-raising methods, or he’s ready to cash in his markers for some serious dough in the ‘private’ sector, or none of the above. Who knows? Probably John Shadegg, and don’t exactly have good sources in Shadegg’s brain. If there were actually any reasons for his retirement in his press release, I would be inclined to simply accept them. But as he doesn’t really provide any explanation, the result is all the speculation.
Personally, I couldn’t really care less for the reason – I’m just glad he’s going. His brand of Republicanism is a failed experiment which it is long past time to terminate.
As to the immediate effect of Shadegg’s resignation, there are some clear implications. Bob Lord has just been handed a gift: he will face a newbie who is likely to be in financial parity with him, at best, instead of an entrenched incumbent. Dems shouldn’t fool themselves though, it will still take a hell of a good campaign for Lord to win in that district – it’s doable, but it won’t be a cakewalk, even against a new Republican aspirant fresh off a contentious primary (if that even happens). Bob Lord’s task is now merely Herculean, instead of Sisyphean.
There is a lot of speculation as to who that Republican aspirant is likely to be. Whomever it ends up being will likely be determined by motivated local donors, not the state GOP (which is fractured and strapped), and probably not the RNCC either. The RNCC is having a terrible time with fund-raising and is focused almost exclusively on defending incumbents. Shadegg’s retirement actually makes CD 3 a lower priority for the RNCC, as it is now an open seat leaning GOP instead of a Republican hold.
Any strong GOP candidate for CD 3 will have a proven fund-raising track record and/or the ability to self-finance in addition to an established network in the district. There has been, and will continue to be a spate of aspirants running their flags up to see if major donors salute. The one who sets off the most sustained volley of cash will stay in the race and the others will quietly disavow any interest or just drop out; my guess is that there won’t be a real GOP primary in CD 3, only a money race, and it will be well over far before any September primary. Sean Noble, Shadegg’s Chief of Staff, seems well-positioned to step into his mentor’s shoes, and State Senator Jim Waring seems to be well-positioned in the district, but we’ll just have to see who attracts the Benjis.
There is even some speculation that new Democrats will be drawn into the race now that CD 3 is an open seat. I don’t think that will happen. Lord has worked hard to create some momentum for Democrats in CD 3 where none at all had existed. No one who wants to retain the respect of the Democratic base is going to try to muscle Lord out of his wack at that seat now that the incumbent is history. There may be more established names who could run, but this race is Lord’s to win or lose.
This whole situation just highlights the wisdom of always running a candidate, even in seemingly marginal or difficult races, in case the unexpected occurs. We are fortunate to have a candidate in place who is running a strong campaign. Bob isn’t nearly liberal enough for my taste (which is probably a good thing considering his district), but his heart’s in the right place on the major issues and he’ll be caucusing with a Democratic majority – that’s 90% of everything I want from a Congressman, and he’s sure to be hearing from me about the other 10% if he gets elected.
For all his avowals that he never intended to become a professional politician, Shadegg is one of the few remaining examples of the band of small-government Republicans that led the 1994 revolution. I doubt that he’s going to be retiring to tend his farm like Cincinnatus. I doubt we’ve heard the last of John Shadegg.