State Rep. Walt Blackman, former Navy SEAL Eli Crane enter GOP race for Arizona's CD1

Ronald J. Hansen
Arizona Republic
Congressional candidate Eli Crane in a campaign ad announcing in July 2021 that he's running for the Republican nomination in Arizona's 1st Congressional District in 2022.

Former Navy SEAL Eli Crane announced Tuesday he's running for Congress in a Republican primary hoping to challenge three-term incumbent Rep. Tom O'Halleran.

In a debut ad that shows Crane adding another tattoo to an arm full of them, he blasts Washington politicians as having "no skin in the game; it's all about them and almost never about us." 

Crane, a Tucson resident, steps into a GOP primary already featuring state Rep. Walt Blackman, R-Snowflake, in Arizona's vast 1st Congressional District that Democrats have dominated over the past decade, but which could shift when the state's political map is redrawn later this year.

Crane said he had five war-time deployments with the Navy SEALs, including three to the Middle East, during a 13-year military career.

He gained a measure of attention for a 2014 appearance on TV's "Shark Tank" in which his Bottle Breacher business caught the attention of entrepreneurs Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary with its .50-caliber-shaped bottle openers.

The company remains in business and places an emphasis on employing and aiding veterans.

Crane said he favors low taxes, less regulation, and "pro-growth, pro-job policies." Crane said Tuesday during an appearance on Fox News that his top issues are election integrity and border security.

Crane is new to politics as a candidate but has appeared in ads before. In 2020, he voiced his concerns with the candidacy of Democrat Mark Kelly in his race against then-Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz.

He's running against Blackman, a small business owner and 21-year Army veteran who became the first Black Republican elected to the Arizona Legislature when he first won in 2018.

Rep. Walt Blackman, R-Snowflake, talks about a criminal justice bill intended to reduce prison recidivism while Rep. Robert Meza, D-Phoenix, listens at the Arizona House of Representatives on June 28, 2021.

Blackman's website lists his top issues as border security, veterans, criminal justice, China, the Second Amendment, opposition to abortion rights and election integrity.

In his short time in office, Blackman has drawn attention for provocative comments and bills. 

In 2020, he called Black Lives Matter a "terrorist organization" and attacked the character of George Floyd days after the Minneapolis man died under the knee of a police officer in an incident that sparked a national push for social justice.  

This year, Blackman introduced an unsuccessful bill that would have required Arizona prosecutors to charge women who get abortions with murder. He has called abortion clinics "death factories" and suggested the Supreme Court's rulings on abortion rights are only an "opinion."

Both Republicans hope to take on O'Halleran, a centrist Democrat who is a former Chicago police detective and executive with the Chicago Board of Trade. He won his first congressional race in 2016 when voters in his district also supported former President Donald Trump.

Reach the reporter Ronald J. Hansen at or 602-444-4493. Follow him on Twitter @ronaldjhansen.

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