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Inside Politics

Incumbent Renzi set to beat Babbitt

GOP projected to hold Arizona 1st Congressional District

Rick Renzi was first elected to the House from Arizona in 2002.
House: AZ 01 Updated: 5:32 p.m. ET
Renzi 59%
Babbitt 36%
100% precincts reporting
Election Results Main Page

(CNN) -- Republican Rep. Rick Renzi, barely elected with 49 percent of the vote in 2002, faced a challenger with a familiar name in Arizona's first district.

Democrat Paul Babbitt, the brother of Bruce Babbitt -- Arizona's former governor and secretary of the interior in the Clinton administration -- made his first run for Congress in the race against Renzi.

The seat was important enough to both parties that Vice President Dick Cheney presided over a Renzi luncheon in March, while backed Babbitt.

Renzi, 46, a father of 12, had built successful insurance and real estate businesses when he decided at 39 to go to law school to prepare to run for office. He received his law degree in May 2002 and was elected to the House that November.

Babbitt, 63, Coconino County supervisor since 1986, ran family businesses before serving as mayor of Flagstaff. During the campaign, he drew on deep Arizona roots in an attempt to portray Renzi as an outsider who didn't represent the needs of the district.

The family name didn't necessarily give Babbitt the bounce he'd expected. In one poll, 20 percent of voters said they were more likely to vote for the Democrat after learning of his connection to brother Bruce -- but 28 percent said they were less likely to do so.

The 1st District, redrawn after the 2000 Census to give a stronger voice to the state's rural areas and small towns, skirting the Phoenix and Tucson suburbs, covers 57,000 square miles and is wildly diverse, including Native Americans (most of the Navajo Nation is in the district), ranchers and Hispanics, all considered swing voters.

Despite its size, both parties went all out to reach as many voters as possible.

Democrats make up 44 percent of registered voters in the district, compared with 36 percent for Republicans and 18 percent registered as independents. President Bush won the district 2000 with 51 percent of the vote, and Renzi narrowly won by 6,000 votes in 2002, when Native Americans, who make up 22 percent of the electorate and who usually voted Democratic, lined up behind Renzi.

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