Two grade school friends will likely square off in a potentially heated race for southeastern Arizona’s Eighth Congressional District in November.
State Senate President Tim Bee, R-Tucson, will announce Saturday that he will challenge U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., for her seat, said Meg Econ, Bee’s campaign manager.
He plans to announce his candidacy Saturday at Palo Verde High Magnet School, where he is an alumnus.
Giffords will defend her seat in a district where Republicans outnumber Democrats but she has accumulated a daunting war chest, which could be as much as $2 million through the end of 2007.
No other big-name Republican has entered the race.
Michael McNulty, Giffords’ campaign chairman, said he figured Bee would run.
“We’ve seen this coming for six months,” McNulty said. “It’s not much of a surprise. Everyone thinks Tim Bee is kind of a nice guy. We’re ready for the campaign.”
Giffords and Bee attended grade school together and served together in the state Senate.
Bee’s announcement will end speculation about his candidacy.
“He’s been exploring a candidacy for several months and has received overwhelming support and encouragement,” Econ said.
The four-term senator could not announce until 2008 and hold his Senate seat because it would violate the state’s resign-to-run law. Giffords resigned from the state Senate late in 2005 to run for the seat being vacated by the retirement of 11-term Republican Jim Kolbe. Bee intends to remain in office, Econ said.
Last year, Bee helped spearhead a rare bipartisan state budget and has been credited with restoring civility to what had been a partisan Senate.
“What he’s done for the people of southern Arizona is prove he can get things done by working across the aisle,” Econ said.