Legislative setbacks could be costly for freshman Democrat

Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) has suffered a string of legislative defeats, which could hamper her reelection prospects.

Kirkpatrick has introduced 30 bills since coming to Congress in January 2009, a robust number for a freshman member. While 10 of them made it through the House or were incorporated into other legislation, only three were passed and signed into law.

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Her Republican opponent is keeping score and accused her of being "irrelevant." Meanwhile, Kirkpatrick's staff say the number of bills reflects the "needs of our district."

Kirkpatrick’s frustration with her latest setback was evident when she took to the House floor last Thursday to angrily denounce the defeat of two non-controversial bills that would typically whisk through the House were the midterm election not looming.

“It’s appalling but not surprising that my esteemed colleagues on the other side of the aisle oppose a low-cost jobs project,” she said after Republicans blocked the passage of a bill to declare the Red Rock area around Sedona a National Scenic Area and another to expand the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument.

“It’s unbelievable to me that again partisan bickering in Washington, not in Sedona, is going to stop a job-creation bill,” she said. “I have always said, it is the American people that are going to turn this country around, not Washington, and this is exactly why. This is exactly why,” she said during an impassioned speech. “Shame on you.”

Kirkpatrick faces dentist Paul Gosar (R) in November and even her campaign admits she’s in a tough race. It released an internal poll that showed the Democrat leading Gosar 43 percent to 39 percent — within the survey’s margin of error. Also troubling, Kirkpatrick was viewed favorably by only 46 percent of the 500 likely general-election voters Lake Research Partners surveyed at the end of August.

Her legislative frustrations have likely done little to improve her favorability rating in the last month.

Kirkpatrick’s best hope of a major legislative accomplishment now rests in the Copper Basin Jobs Act, and the pressure is building.

"If Kirkpatrick can’t get the mining bill passed, then what’s the point of her even being there?” J.P. Twist, a spokesman for Gosar, told The Hill. “Thirty bills introduced and not one passed? [That] proves she is pretty irrelevant."

The bill facilitates a land exchange between the federal government and Resolution Copper, a subsidiary of two international mining conglomerates. Kirkpatrick’s office estimates the resulting copper mine will create close to 2,000 jobs in the district.

But the exchange conveys land the Apache Indians consider sacred and has been held up in the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, which is chaired by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.). He has long opposed the legislative effort, citing environmental concerns.

This spring Resolution Copper ran a series of ads in local newspapers telling Kirkpatrick, “We’re counting on you to help pass this bill now.” Company officials now say they don’t expect the legislation will move before the election. And if the exchange happens, it will likely come through an omnibus lands bill.

Kirkpatrick has a limited window to try to get her version of the legislation passed. But it’s unclear how many votes will be scheduled between now and the election, which is less than six weeks away.

A spokesman for Kirkpatrick said she has "deliver[ed] for the district," and questioned Gosar's effectiveness.

"Gosar has in his own words questioned his ability to get anything done if he were to make it to Congress," said Michael Frias, a spokesman for Kirkpatrick. "Given the fact that Gosar has vowed [not to make appropriations requests], how does he plan to help communities with their critical infrastructure projects?"

--Updated at 10:01 p.m.

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