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Taking Back the House: Just Wild About Harry?

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This week National Affairs Daily is rolling out Rolling Stone's Top 10 races to watch next Tuesday in order to gauge the magnitude of the Democratic wave. (Click here to read the introduction to the package.)

DISTRICT: Arizona's 5th (Tempe/Scottsdale)

INCUMBENT: Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R, six terms)

CHALLENGER: Former Tempe Mayor Harry Mitchell (D)

TOP ISSUES: Immigration, ethics

Mitchell is a larger-than-life figure in Tempe. "There are not many people running who've got a thirty-foot statue erected in their honor," says Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who chairs the Democrat's Red-To-Blue campaign to take back the House. "That's a nice place to start from."

As mayor for sixteen years, Mitchell oversaw a renaissance of Tempe's decaying downtown, and he can not only claim his statue — thirty-five feet, to be exact — but City Hall itself, now known as the Harry E. Mitchell Government Center.

His opponent, Hayworth, is a Republican revolutionary from the class of 1994 who doesn't shy from the spotlight. A regular commentator for Fox News, he advocates arresting and deporting all 12 million of the nation's undocumented immigrants.

Such demagoguery, while impractical, does offer a noisy distraction from Hayworth's ethical lapses. The congressman's wife has pocketed more than $100,000 as the sole employee of his fund-raising committee, and Hayworth is reportedly under investigation for his ties to Abramoff, having been the beneficiary of five fund-raisers in the disgraced lobbyist's luxury skyboxes.

Despite Hayworth's vulnerabilities, the district has been gerrymandered in a way that makes it an uphill fight. Republicans outnumber Democrats eight to five, and Mitchell is relatively unknown to voters in Mesa, Scottsdale and the Phoenix suburbs who outnumber his base in Tempe. "This district leans Republican," concedes Van Hollen. "It's not a slam dunk by any means."

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