A former Democratic state senator is running against Congressman Tom O’Halleran in next year’s primary, and despite her reputation as a moderate during her years in the legislature, she’s challenging him from the left.
Barbara McGuire, who served the Arizona House of Representatives from 2007-10 and in the state Senate from 2013-16, filed paperwork on Aug. 15 to run against O’Halleran for the Democratic nomination in the 1st Congressional District.
O’Halleran, who is in his second term in the U.S. House of Representatives, is known as a centrist Democrat. He was moderate Republican during his own career in the legislature from 2001-09, ran as an independent during an unsuccessful campaign for the state Senate in 2014, and became a Democrat before running in 2016 for the U.S. House.
According to the website FiveThirtyEight, O’Halleran votes with President Donald Trump 38.8 percent of the time, more than any of the other four Democrats in Arizona’s House delegation. Nationally, only three other Democratic House members vote with Trump more than O’Halleran.
O’Halleran already has one primary challenger, former Flagstaff City Councilwoman Eva Putzova, a progressive. But McGuire told the Arizona Mirror that she, too, will be running against O’Halleran from the left, despite her own moderate record.
“I am a centrist consensus-building lifelong Democrat where, in my opinion, he is and has become far-right leaning,” McGuire said via text message.
McGuire, who lives in Kearney, declined to elaborate on what issues she believes O’Halleran has become too conservative, and said she’ll comment further when she officially launches her campaign later this week.
Rodd McLeod, a spokesman for O’Halleran’s campaign, noted that he’s held 25 town halls this year, which he said is more than the rest of Arizona’s congressional delegation combined.
“Tom knows his district, and he listens carefully to the people he works for. That’s why he’s worked hard to ban uranium mining, increase the minimum wage and pass the DREAM Act. Voters there know he’s fighting for them. He’s also defeated two far-right candidates for Congress in a district where Trump defeated Hillary Clinton,” McLeod said.
McLeod also questioned McGuire’s assertion that O’Halleran had become too conservative. He pointed out that O’Halleran voted against Trump’s 2017 tax cut bill, voted to preserve the Affordable Care Act, and voted for the House Democrats’ recent bill for universal background checks for firearms sales.
“Pretty clear record, I’d say,” McLeod said.
The sprawling 1st Congressional District covers much of rural Arizona, stretching from the state’s northern and eastern borders down to the southern part of the state, just north of Tucson. Trump and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the district, though it has never elected a Republican to Congress.
This isn’t the first time McGuire has eyed a congressional seat. In 2015, McGuire announced that she had formed an exploratory committee for the 1st Congressional District, though she didn’t end up running.