|Elections in Arizona|
The Arizona 8th congressional district election, 2006 was an election for the United States House of Representatives for the open seat of incumbent Jim Kolbe (R), who was not running for re-election. The primary was held on September 12, 2006, and the two major party winners were Republican Randy Graf, a former state Representative who challenged Kolbe for the GOP nomination in 2004, and former State Senator Gabrielle Giffords. Libertarian Dave Nolan, who was uncontested in the primary, was also in the November 7, 2006 general election. Graf was considered too conservative for the district: Kolbe withheld his endorsement, and towards the end of the election the National GOP pulled their support. By election time, most non-partisan analyses considered this race the most likely district to switch hands, which it did, as Giffords won a decisive victory, 54% to 42%.
- Randy Graf, former professional golfer and former state Representative who challenged Kolbe for their party's nomination in 2004, and has been running for the 2006 ever since.
- Gabrielle Giffords, former State Senator who resigned from the Arizona Legislature on December 1, 2005 in preparation for her Congressional campaign
- Patty Weiss, former local television news anchor
- David Nolan, small business owner, former media personality, and principal founder of the Libertarian Party, entered the race in June 2006.
- Jay Quick, a Tucson businessman, was on the general election ballot as an Independent.
Incumbent Jim Kolbe (R) announced on November 23, 2005 that he would not seek re-election in 2006 . The district, located in Southeastern Arizona and based in the suburbs of Tucson, is Republican-leaning, but competitive: President Bush won the district with 53% of the vote in 2004 (although only 50% in 2000). Kolbe had barely won the seat in 1984, but had usually skated to reelection since then. Even after coming out as gay in 1996, he remained very popular in the district, taking 61% of the vote in 2004—proving that this district is by no means a socially conservative stronghold. Although Kolbe was generally thought to be all but unbeatable in the district, it was widely believed that it would be very competitive once Kolbe retired.
Randy Graf, the primary winner, left a leadership position in the state House in 2004 to challenge Kolbe in the Republican primary. Graf won 40 percent of the vote and has campaigned almost full-time since. A supporter of the Minuteman Project, Graf campaigned on a pledge to ensure that illegal immigrants have no path to citizenship and that the border will be further secured. Graf previously sponsored a bill (which did not pass) to allow patrons carry guns into bars and restaurants.
The GOP establishment, however, considered Graf as too conservative for a district that leans Republican but gave President Bush a very modest 53 percent of its votes in 2004, and tried to rally moderates around a former Kolbe campaign manager, Steve Huffman. Unfortunately for Huffman, another moderate candidate, former state Republican Party Chairman Mike Hellon, was also running, and they split the moderate vote.
Huffman got a boost when the national GOP took the rare step of endorsing and supporting Huffman, putting $250,000 into the race. The other GOP candidates criticized the move as unfair. In the meantime, the national Democratic party jumped in and spent nearly $200,000, a large part of that for advertisements critical of Huffman in an effort to help Graf's candidacy.
But then other troubles developed. As CQPolitics described: "There were allegations that his (Huffman's) campaign treasurer, local real estate broker William Arnold, had stalked Hellon’s ex-wife, state Sen. Toni Hellon. Arnold quit as treasurer after Hellon obtained a restraining order against him, and Huffman’s campaign said it had no involvement in Arnold’s actions. But the flap shadowing Huffman expanded in the final days of campaigning when it was discovered the owner of the Web site used to post pictures of Toni Hellon also owned Huffman’s campaign site. The alternative Tucson Weekly withdrew its support of Huffman based on the emerging evidence and the campaign’s refusal to answer any question regarding the incident." 
The Democratic campaign was mild in comparison to the GOP campaign.
Gabrielle Giffords, who was former State Senator, resigned from the Arizona Legislature just eight days after Kolbe's announcement, in order to run for his seat. She quickly established herself as the front-runner, largely on the basis of her legislative record. She also gained some beneficial publicity when it was revealed that she is engaged to a space shuttle astronaut. Her only serious competition was longtime Tucson television newscaster Patty Weiss.
Primary election results
Total 64,076 votes cast
|Randy Graf||former State Representative||27,063||42.2%|
|Steve Huffman||State Representative||24,119||37.6%|
|Mike Hellon||small business owner||8,095||12.6%|
|Frank Antenori||veteran and program manager at Raytheon Missile Systems||2,724||4.3%|
|Michael T. Jenkins||auto mechanic||2,075||3.2%|
Total 61,409 votes cast 
|Gabrielle Giffords||former State Senator||33,375||54.3%|
|Patty Weiss||former top-rated news anchor||19,148||31.2%|
|Jeffrey Lynn Latas||former US Air Force fighter pilot||3,687||6.0%|
|Alex Rodriguez||veteran and Raytheon employee||2,855||4.6%|
|William Daniel Johnson||international corporate lawyer||1,768||2.9%|
|Francine Shacter||former government employee||576||0.9%|
- David F. Nolan 516 100.0%
Graf's campaign got off to a rough start in mid-September when outgoing Republican incumbent Jim Kolbe withheld his endorsement, citing "profound and fundamental differences" between their views. The Arizona Republic wrote that a "victory by Graf would in effect repudiate much of Kolbe's work on what has come to be known as 'comprehensive' immigration reform. In contrast with 'enforcement only,' Kolbe’s plan would create a guest-worker program and an opportunity for undocumented residents to become citizens eventually." 
In mid-August CQPolitics changed their rating of this race from Leans Republican to No Clear Favorite 
By late September, things were looking worse for Graf. The Cook Political Report changed their rating: from "Toss Up" to Leans Democratic., and the national party canceled about $1 million in advertising support. Two days later, in what was seen as a diminished level of national influence and interest in what had long been considered a competitive race, the national Democratic party also pulled their financial support.
On September 20, 2006 Gabrielle Giffords' campaign released an internal poll that showed her leading Republican candidate Randy Graf by 19 percentage points. The poll showed Giffords with 54% of the vote and Graf with 35%. The poll was based on responses from 500 likely general election voters and had a +/-4% margin of error.
Results from a second poll conducted during the same time period confirmed a Giffords lead while suggesting a slightly tighter race. This independent poll, conducted by 1 to 1 Direct and Marketing Intelligence, showed Giffords with a 12-point lead (Giffords , Graf , +/-4% MoE).
On October 4, Zogby released a poll showing Giffords with a 45-37 percent lead.
|Source||Date||Giffords (D)||Graf (R)||Margin of error|
|Reuters||October 4, 2006||45%||37%||+/- 4|
|Arizona Daily Star||September 16–19, 2006||48.4%||35.7%||+/- 4|
The race was not close. Giffords won easily. Giffords was declared the winner 37 minutes after the polls closed. Graf conceded defeat at 10:08 P.M. EST. Total 253,702 votes cast
|Democratic gain from Republican||Swing|
- Jon Kamman (September 13, 2006). "Giffords, Graf win in 8th Congressional District". The Arizona Republic.
- Randal Archibold (September 11, 2006). "In Cost and Vitriol, Race in Arizona Draws Notice". The New York Times.
- Marie Horrigan (September 13, 2006). "Conservative Graf Scores Win Over Moderate in Arizona's 8th". CQPolitics.com. Archived from the original on September 27, 2006.
- State of Arizona Official Canvass Archived September 20, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, 2006 Primary Election, September 12, 2006
- "Congressman Jim Kolbe Press Release". September 13, 2006.[permanent dead link]
- "'Profound differences' keep Kolbe from endorsing Graf". AP. September 13, 2006.
- Bob Benenson (August 10, 2006). "Big Batch of Rating Changes Reflects Stronger Democratic Breeze". CQPolitics.com. Archived from the original on 2006-08-13. Retrieved 2006-09-13.
- "2006 Competitive House Race Chart" (PDF). Cook Political Report. September 20, 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-10-24. Retrieved 2006-09-25.
- Jon Kamman (September 22, 2006). "GOP cancels $1 mil in Graf ad support". The Arizona Republic.
- Daniel Scarpinato (September 23, 2006). "National Demos pulling Dist. 8 ads". Arizona Daily Star. Archived from the original on 2006-10-19.
- "Giffords' Campaign Internal Poll". September 20, 2006. Archived from the original on October 4, 2006. Retrieved September 23, 2006.
- "1 to 1Direct and Marketing Intelligence Poll". September 26, 2006. Archived from the original on September 27, 2006.
- "Results in key House races: Reuters poll". Reuters. October 4, 2006. Archived from the original on October 24, 2012.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-10-12. Retrieved 2006-09-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) U.S. House, Arizona District 8 (Open)
- Giffords campaign website
- Graf campaign site
- Nolan campaign site