Political roundup: Key House and Senate races, simplified

3) Next Tuesday, voters in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District will go to the polls in a special election to choose who will serve out the remaining five months of Rep. Gabriele Giffords’ term. Giffords resigned to spend time recovering from a January 2011 gunshot wound inflicted by a crazed gunman in Tucson.

The Democratic candidate, Ron Barber, is a former Giffords aide whom she hand-picked to succeed her. Barber was with Giffords on the day of the shooting and sustained less serious wounds himself. On the Republican side is Jesse Kelly, a military veteran who lost to Giffords in 2010.

The winner of this special election will become the incumbent in November, and is expected to hold an advantage when the seat is up for grabs again; both sides have poured in extensive funds. Republicans have a 26,000-voter registration advantage, but Democrats have a monetary edge so far.

Roll Call projected that between the Barber campaign, House Majority PAC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, $1.7 million will be spent on television ads to help Barber.

On the Republican side the sum is only slightly less — $1.5 million — expected to be spent by the Kelly campaign, the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, and Citizens United.

The memory of Giffords’ shooting hangs over the race. House Majority PAC has released an ad that showed Kelly saying nasty things about Giffords before she was shot, when he was campaigning against her in 2010. And this week NPR reported that a super PAC supporting Kelly drew criticism when it sent out an image with a fundraising solicitation that showed Kelly, a former Marine, holding an assault rifle.

That super PAC, Move America Forward Freedom PAC, told NPR: “While we applaud the former Congresswoman’s recovery, this race is not about Gabby Giffords. We want to give the people of Arizona a new voice that reflects their values.”

The race is expected to be tight.

4) It was a bad week for Utah State Sen. Carl Wimmer, a former House candidate from Utah. Wimmer lost to Mia Love in the caucuses in April, but things seemed to be looking up on Monday when he announced that he had taken a job as political director for the Nevada Republican Party.

The Deseret News quoted Nevada GOP Executive Director Jesse Law praising Wimmer’s ability to unite the state’s Republicans. The party is in a total shambles, as Ron Paul supporters and Mitt Romney supporters refuse to get along. Romney supporters have even formed a separate organization to work with the campaign.

On Tuesday, however, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Nevada GOP Chairman Michael McDonald said that no new political director had actually been hired, and that he had never even met Wimmer. McDonald said he was in the hospital that day with his 86-year-old father who was suffering a case of pneumonia. He was not willing to commit to hiring Wimmer, regardless of what Wimmer had been told.

The Deseret News speculated that this was because Wimmer was a Romney supporter, while the remaining members in the party are Paul supporters.

Around the same time the article was published, Wimmer — who apparently didn’t get the memo — tweeted, “Goodbye Utah…Love you.” Twitter’s collective astonishment was palpable. On Thursday Wimmer held a press conference during which he called the Nevada Republican party “nonfunctional” and the situation all around confusing.

The confusion “is on [the Nevada GOP] to a great degree,” said a person familiar with the situation. “But Carl didn’t help it by issuing a press release on his own without consulting with them, and I think what he did was put them in a corner.”

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