PHOENIX - Mary Kim Titla, the founder of NativeYouthMagazine.com and a 20-year veteran of NBC Phoenix and Tucson television news, has announced that she is going to run for Congress. Titla will have to balance her campaign with her duties as publisher of NativeYouthMagazine.com, an online magazine that showcases Native youth in the United States and Canada.
In a press statement, Titla said, ''After much soul searching and prayer and after being encouraged by voters, I am humbled and honored to inform you I have decided to run for Congress for Arizona's First Congressional District as a Democratic candidate.''
Titla later told Indian Country Today, ''This is something that came to me and I believe in responding to a calling. I agree with voters, it's time for new leadership. I believe I am the new face of Arizona leadership.''
Titla is a member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe of Arizona and is a respected member of the media in Arizona and Indian country. In 2006, Titla was inducted into the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism's Hall of Fame at the Arizona State University.
Titla jumped into a race that political experts are calling wide open. Arizona's 1st Congressional District sprawls across the Navajo Nation and the San Carlos and White Mountain Apache reservations, and reaches down into the northern and eastern suburbs of Phoenix. The district is currently held by Rick Renzi, R-Ariz.
But Renzi is embroiled in a federal investigation related to misuse of his public office in a 2005 real estate deal. After an April FBI raid on his wife's business office, Renzi stepped down from his key House committee posts, including the Intelligence and Natural Resources committees. More recently, Renzi agreed to pay a $25,000 fine to the Federal Elections Commission and more than $320,000 in back taxes for campaign loans during his 2002 campaign.
Renzi's troubles may cost him his congressional seat. So far, Renzi has resisted calls for his resignation, but Republican party leaders are concerned that if Renzi is not cleared in the federal probe and does not resign, he will limp into the 2008 campaign and lose to the eventual Democratic nominee. If Renzi does resign, the Arizona governor would call for a special election that would result in a primary within 75 - 100 days of his resignation.
There are other Democratic candidates who are considering campaign bids for Renzi's seat, including Renzi's opponent last year, Ellen Simon, who filed papers to run again at the end of April. Other potential candidates include Arizona state Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick and former Casa Grande Mayor Bob Mitchell.
Titla's early entry into the race sets off a behind-the-scenes ''invisible primary'' race for endorsements and financial support. But Titla has one advantage that her other opponents do not - her years of television reporting have made her a regular guest in living rooms across Arizona. And the fact that she is part of the television news family makes her candidacy a safe bet to draw lots of coverage by Arizona news outlets.
Titla plans on refining her campaign message while on a ''Hear the People Tour'' across the 1st District in May. She pointed out, ''I will speak out about quality education for our children and strengthening families. Other issues I care about include the war in Iraq and coming up with a plan now to bring our troops home, cleaning up corruption in Washington and making sure your tax dollars are spent wisely.''
Titla knows she has her work cut out for her, but she also has a strong sense of purpose.
When asked why she thinks she can win, Titla responded: ''As a journalist I learned so much about the people of Arizona and their communities. I spoke to them face to face. I was there when good things happened and when tragedy struck. I was passionate about my job. I am now passionate about my journey into politics.''