PHOENIX — It’s being called the most competitive congressional race in Arizona. It’s also the most surprising because District 6 is heavily Republican. It includes parts of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley and Fountain Hills.
Five-term Republican David Schweikert is running against Democrat Haril Tipirneni. Despite Republicans having more than a 10% registration advantage, the non-partisan website Cook Political calls the race a tossup.
Still, voters we talked with at a park in Scottsdale made it clear, they are putting party before candidate.
While one voter said Schweikert was there when needed, most said they were just voting for him because he’s Republican.
And they’re doing it this year, even with a scandal. “Turn enough stones over in Washington, that would be the story of the day for everybody,” one voter told me.
Schweikert admitted to 11 ethics violations over 7 years involving misuse of campaign funds. He was accused of using taxpayer money for personal expenses like food, babysitting and more.
Schweikert paid a $50,000 fine, faced a full house reprimand, and is blaming staffers and others for the misuse.
I repeatedly asked the Congressman if he was saying he didn’t know any of the violations were going on over those years.
He finally answered, “did not know, but I took responsibility.”
Schweikert says he's responsible for "failure to supervise". Investigators say they were "not swayed by Schweikert's attempts to portray himself as a victim of rogue staffers." Schweikert says any issues with his office have been cleared up.
ASU Political Senior Lecturer Gina Woodall says it and other issues could have an impact on voters, especially moderate Republican women. “So that might make some people think again, disaffected, moderate Republicans,” she says.
Two other big issues in this race are Medicare and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Tipirneni says she wants to strengthen the ACA and keep the parts that work. She says getting rid of the coverage, as a Supreme Court decision could soon do, would get rid of protections for people with pre-existing conditions and coverage for millions.
“With no plan to replace it, no safety net, it's like pulling the rug out and everyone falls,” Tipirneni says.
But Schweikert has repeatedly voted to repeal the ACA. “It was so poorly designed you end up with risk concentrations that skyrocket costs,” he says.
Schweikert says a Republican plan would protect against pre-existing discrimination. But without a replacement plan ready, there are questions about how it would work, how much it would cost those patients.
As for Medicare, Tipirneni wants it available to all alongside other insurance plans saying it will increase competition and drive down costs.
Schweikert says that will functionally "blow up Medicare" for seniors. He says it could allow too high a concentration of people with expensive chronic conditions into the pool.