This is the seventh edition of a research project at PoliticusUSA known as Taking Back the House. You can check out the previous edition here. The purpose of this project is to analyze each Republican Congressional district in the United States and see how likely the district can go ‘Blue.’ To do this, I will take a look at the overall demographics of the district, as well as review the historical voting patterns and the record of the Congressperson representing the district. This series will run until we’ve looked at every single district in the country, which should take us right into the 2014 campaign season.
Congressional District: Arizona 4th District
U.S. Representative: Paul Gosar
Median Household Income: $40,802 (National Average: $51,017)
Unemployment Rate: 13.9% (National Rate: 7.2%)
Gender: 51.4% Female, 48.6% Male (National Percentages: 50.8% Female, 49.2% Male)
Age: 22.3% 65 and over (National Percentage: 12.8%)
Race: 86.8% White, 1.7% Black, 0.7% Asian, 2.2% American Indian (National Percentages: 72.4% White, 12.6% Black, 4.8% Asian, 0.9% American Indian)
Ethnicity: 80.6% Non-Hispanic, 19.4% Hispanic (National Percentages: 83.6% Non-Hispanic, 16.4% Hispanic)
Urban/Rural Population Split: 74.1% Urban, 25.9% Rural (National Split: 82% Urban, 18% Rural)
District Voting Patterns: Prior to redistricting for the 2012 elections, this district was a reliably Democratic one. Democrat Ed Pastor, who now represents the 7th District, had represented the district since 2003, when the last round of redistricting shifted him from the 2nd District into the 4th. During his ten years as the Representative from this district, he was routinely reelected by 40 to 50 points. Prior to Pastor representing the district, it had been largely Republican, as it had much the same demographics as today.
In 2012, Gosar moved over from the 1st District due to these shifts. In 2010, he was elected to his first term in Congress by defeating the incumbent, Democrat Ann Kilpatrick. The election was a relatively close one, as Gosar defeated Kilpatrick by 6 points. Gosar received endorsements from Tea Party faves like Sarah Palin and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Aricopa. After redistricting made the 1st District somewhat less favorable for Republicans, Gosar chose to run in the 4th District instead of face Kilpatrick again. Kilpatrick won the seat in 2012.
As for Presidential elections, the district went for Mitt Romney by a large margin 2012, 67-31. The same district lines also favored Arizona’s own John McCain in the 2008 election by 30 points. Gosar himself won election in 2012 by a very wide margin, 67-28.
Congressional Activity by Gosar: While Gosar received support from the Tea Party when he was first elected in 2010, he is not a member of the Tea Party Caucus. Even though he isn’t a member, he still decided to vote against raising the debt ceiling and reopening the federal government on October 16th. Besides being a limited-government conservative, he’s also very conservative on issues like gun rights, abortion and immigration. Basically, he’s a Tea Party guy without officially taking on the title. But he’ll obviously claim it when he’s fundraising in certain areas.
On abortion, he’s cosponsored several bills restricting or eliminating abortion access. One such bill was the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act in 2011. This was the bill that initially used the term ‘forcible rape’, which caused a bit of an embarrassment for the GOP, as this basically started the downhill slope of Republicans talking about rape in very unfortunate ways. While the bill passed the House, it was DOA as it never got brought up in the Senate for a vote and President Obama would have vetoed it anyway.
As far as immigration, Gosar has also cosponsored several anti-immigration bills, specifically the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011, which would eliminate citizenship of children naturally born in the United States to undocumented immigrants. He’s also made sure to put his name to bills upholding the 2nd Amendment. Despite cosponsoring or sponsoring bills allowing people to carry concealed weapons over state lines and on federal land, the NRA hasn’t given him a perfect score. His rating with them is 92%. Makes you wonder what you need to do to get 100%!
Per OpenCongress, Gosar votes with his party 93% of the time. The National Journal rated him as the 41st most conservative member of Congress in 2012 and 76th in 2011. Due to his anti-abortion efforts, the NRLC has given him a 100% rating. An anti-immigration group, NumbersUSA, gave him an A. He is currently on the Natural Resources Committee and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Notable Quotes by Gosar:
“As a gun owner and member of the NRA, I have done and will do everything I can to ensure that the federal government does not infringe on the right to bear arms. The right to bear arms is not only enjoyed by millions of Americans for recreation, but our Founders recognized that it was critical to include this right as the Second Amendment to our Constitution in order to allow individuals to protect themselves, their families, and properties.” – From Gosar’s campaign website.
“In the last election I was labeled a millionaire. Seriously. I ain’t wealthy. I built my own house, I wouldn’t do it again. I own my building, I have a dental practice. I live just like the rest of you folks. It’s all on paper, it’s not in cash” – Gosar at a town hall meeting in May 2011, attempting to explain how he is just like the common folk.
Odds of District Going Blue in 2014: Not very good. The district was restructured in 2012 to become a relatively safe Republican one. The population is overwhelmingly white, and it is set in the suburbs and exurbs of Phoenix. On the surface, there would appear to be some reasons why Democrats would feel they could make a run. One, there is a large Hispanic population, as nearly 20% of the district is Latino. Also, there is high unemployment in the area along with a low median income. This could suggest that the population isn’t happy with its current representation. It would also mean that a large section of district is dependent on social services of some type.
However, it isn’t really going to matter. Sure, 1 in 5 people there are Hispanic. It just means you demonize them to the other 80% to help continuously stoke fear and anger. Also, Gosar has made sure to hit at the hot button social issues like gun control and abortion. As long as he does that, he’ll keep his constituents content. Maybe the Democrats can run a socially conservative candidate who runs on a platform of jobs and improving property values in the district. Even then, I just don’t see how this district can turn Blue in the next election. Perhaps down the road, with further changing demos, but it would border on miraculous to get it to switch next year.
Justin is the Managing Editor and a Contributing Writer for Politicus Sports, PoliticusUSA’s very own sports site. You can check out the site here.