Despite early impressions that it would be the most competitive congressional battleground in Arizona — and a potential hot spot in the fight for control of the House — voters in Arizona's sprawling 1st Congressional District on Tuesday sent U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi back to Washington.
With nearly three-fourths of the returns in, Renzi led Democratic challenger Paul Babbitt, brother of former Interior Secretary and one-time Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt, by less than a 2-to-1 margin, with Libertarian John Crockett trailing far behind.
Renzi built a strong lead early in an expensive, nasty campaign and held it throughout. Babbitt accused Renzi of voting for corporate tax breaks and sending jobs overseas, while Renzi called Babbitt an out-of-touch environmentalist.
Renzi's lead surged to a 23-point lead by mid-October, despite Democrats holding an edge in voter registration in the district.
Renzi was elected in 2002 to serve as the first congressman from the rural Arizona district, which was created after the 2000 Census. It covers 58,000 square miles across northern, central and eastern Arizona, taking in four full counties and parts of four others, including the vast Navajo Reservation and most of the Grand Canyon.
In the 2nd District, U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, a conservative Republican elected two years ago to replace retiring longtime Rep. Bob Stump, won a second term in Arizona's 2nd Congressional District.
Franks, a Glendale businessman, easily led Democrat Randy Camacho of Goodyear with more than three-fourths of the votes in, with Libertarian Powell Gammill of Phoenix trailing far behind. William Crum, a write-in candidate from Surprise, also ran for the seat.
Franks, who sits on the House Armed Services, Budget and Small Business committees, strengthened himself by helping snare more than $27 million for land purchases around Luke Air Force Base aimed at securing its future by insulating it from residential encroachment.
The district stretches from western suburbs of Phoenix along the Colorado River and to the Hopi Indian Reservation.
In the 3rd District, Rep. John Shadegg's sixth term in Congress from Arizona's 3rd Congressional District was never in doubt.
Shadegg led his only opponent, Libertarian Mark Yannone, by nearly a 4-to-1 margin with 90 percent of the votes in from the GOP-dominated district. Democrats did not field a candidate.
In the 4th District, Democratic Rep. Ed Pastor won a seventh full term in the U.S. House from Arizona's 4th Congressional District. He led Republican Don Karg by more than 21/2-to-1 and Libertarian Gary Fallon 16-to-1 with more than 90 percent of the ballots counted.
Pastor won a special election in 1991 to finish the term of Rep. Morris K. Udall, who resigned for health reasons.
In Arizona's 5th Congressional District, another seat traditionally safe for Republicans, Rep. J.D. Hayworth cruised to a new term.
He beat Democrat Elizabeth Rogers and Libertarian Michael Kielsky.
Hayworth was first elected to the House in 1994.
The 5th District includes Scottsdale, Tempe and parts of Chandler and southeast Phoenix.