- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A hard-line stance on immigration carried Randy Graf to victory in the Republican primary for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, and he now goes head-to-head with Democratic nominee Gabrielle Giffords this November.

Miss Giffords received 54.1 percent of the vote, topping five other Democrats, including former local news anchor Patty Weiss, who finished second with 31.2 percent.

Mr. Graf won 43.2 percent of the vote on the Republican side, with Steve Huffman taking 37.2 percent and Mike Hellon receiving 12.2 percent.

Miss Giffords and Mr. Graf are both former state lawmakers.

The seat is open because Rep. Jim Kolbe, an 11-term Republican, is retiring.

Immigration dominated primary races among Republicans and played a role among Democrats — not surprising in a district that has more illegal-alien traffic than any other nationwide.

Mr. Graf, who touts his work with the Minuteman Project and on a state initiative that denied some benefits to illegal aliens, said he won because of his immigration credibility. He supports a border-security-first approach, as opposed to Democrats, President Bush and many Senate Republicans who want a bill that establishes a path to citizenship for illegal aliens and creates a guest-worker program.

“I look at this as a nonpartisan issue, border security, national security and stopping illegal immigration, because this massive illegal immigration coming into our state affects everybody,” Mr. Graf said.

He said four of the state’s five Republican House members have called to offer their support, though not Rep. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican who wants Congress to pass a guest-worker program and a path to citizenship for most illegal aliens.

Mr. Flake said in a statement that Mr. Graf’s win does not prove voters want border security first, because Mr. Graf won less than 50 percent of the vote.

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) caused a ruckus when it committed $122,292 to ads for Mr. Huffman, the most liberal Republican in the race, despite earlier commitments to remain neutral.

NRCC spokesman Carl Forti declined to talk about their primary strategy, but said they will support Mr. Graf.

He said they already had planned a $13,660 anti-Giffords advertisement and began running it yesterday. He also said the NRCC will give Mr. Graf the maximum $5,000 donation possible and that Mr. Graf will be at an NRCC event today where candidates can meet with operatives from political action committees.

Mr. Kolbe yesterday announced he will not endorse Mr. Graf.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said it was too early to know if Mr. Bush or his surrogates will help Mr. Graf, who, while a staunch conservative and supporter of the war on terror, was frank in opposing Mr. Bush’s immigration policy.

“We hope he wins,” Mr. Snow said. “But on the other hand, we’ll get back to you on the schedule.”

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