POLITICS
08/24/2010 07:44 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Arizona Democrats Face Off In Tight Senate Race

While much national attention has been focused on the faceoff between John McCain and J.D. Hayworth in Arizona's Republican Senate primary, the little-noticed Democratic contest for a chance at McCain's seat has intensified in the run up to Tuesday's election.

The Democratic front-runner, Tucson city councilman Rodney Glassman, is up against attorney and labor organizer Randy Parraz, former state lawmaker Cathy Eden, and former journalist John Dougherty. Glassman was an early favorite within the Democratic establishment, and he spent some time on Capitol Hill working for Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.). He also has a sizable cash advantage, having raised $650,000 and contributed another $500,000 of his own money.

Glassman has taken significant hits from progressives, however, and hasn't been able to pull comfortably ahead of his rivals. A late-July poll by Rasmussen showed the councilman at 15 percent support, followed by Eden with 11 percent, Parraz with 10 percent and Dougherty at 7 percent. More recent internal polling released by the Parraz campaign showed Glassman ahead with 20 percent, followed closely by Parraz himself at 17 percent.

Most notably among Glassman's recent woes, he's had to fight back allegations that in 1997 he said he didn't want to sit next to openly gay councilmember Karin Ulrich. Glassman later said he was "proud" to sit next to Ulrich claiming that she had promised to support his campaign, but Ulrich confirmed the incident took place and said she is supporting all four of the Democratic candidates.

At least three top Glassman staffers have resigned since July, although campaign spokesperson Tina May said that the departures weren't "unusual" because "people come and go."

Parraz is the only Latino Democrat currently running for the U.S. Senate, and although he's said he doesn't have the backing of "establishment Latinos," he's attracted support within the community. Manuel Guzmán, who runs the site Man Eegee's Latino Político, told the Huffington Post that the Latino community in Arizona is treating Parraz as "the second coming of Barack Obama."

Frustrated with McCain's shift to the right on immigration issues, many Arizona Latinos would likely back any Democratic candidate, Guzmán said, though he said their support for Glassman would be "lukewarm." Several Parraz supporters told HuffPost they are frustrated by Glassman's refusal to take a stronger stance against SB-1070, the controversial Arizona immigration law.

Conversely, Parraz attracted national attention in mid-August for serving Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio with a civil lawsuit, claiming he was wrongfully arrested by Arpaio's deputies.

But while Parraz has touted his background as a labor organizer, he hasn't been able to bring in significant union endorsements. On the state and local levels, Glassman has the backing of the AFL-CIO, the SEIU, the Teamsters, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

An August Rasmussen poll showed that if McCain and Glassman win their respective primaries, McCain would beat Glassman 53 percent to 34 percent. In a matchup between Hayworth and Glassman, the Democrat would win 43 percent to 38 percent.

For his part, Glassman has largely refrained from taking on his Democratic opponents, instead focusing his attention on criticizing the sitting senator. "We haven't criticized our opponents," May, the Glassman spokesperson, told the Huffington Post. "We've really tried to run a non-negative [primary] campaign. But the real focus is John McCain."