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Fiery Rep. Hayworth in Hot Arizona Race

Rep. J.D. Hayworth speaks as Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) looks on during a taping of NBC's <em>Meet the Press</em>.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Rep. J.D. Hayworth speaks as Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) looks on during a taping of NBC's Meet the Press.

Republican Congressman J.D. Hayworth represents a solidly Republican district in Arizona -- he won his last re-election with a comfortable 60 percent of the vote. But this year's race against Democratic challenger Harry Mitchell is proving to be surprisingly tough for the incumbent.

A year ago, it was assumed that Rep. Hayworth would cruise to re-election, which would be his seventh victory. A frequent visitor to cable news and AM radio talk shows, Hayworth is a well-known candidate who also has a sizeable war chest.

The two candidates share little in common. Mitchell, the beloved former mayor of Tempe, taught high school civics for 28 years. Hayworth, a former TV sportscaster, reveres Ronald Reagan.

Though Mitchell is expected to do well in Tempe, the vast majority of Arizona's fifth congressional lies outside the city. By party affiliation, registration in the district is 3 to 2, in favor of the Republicans. But the latest polls show Mitchell within 5 points of Hayworth.

One of the key issues in the race is immigration. Mitchell cites local polling on immigration which says Arizonans want a guest worker program. Hayworth, referencing the same poll, says Arizonans want a fence and increased security.

This November, voters will chose one path, and one candidate; the other will either head back into retirement or on to talk show prominence.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mike Pesca first reached the airwaves as a 10-year-old caller to a New York Jets-themed radio show and has since been able to parlay his interests in sports coverage as a National Desk correspondent for NPR based in New York City.