With close to a million bucks in the bank, the Arizona Democratic Party is finally making its move in support of legislative candidates in the push to wrest control of the state Legislature.
Meanwhile, the Arizona Republican Party appears to be experiencing an economic collapse. Good thing most of its candidates are accepting political welfare, because they would never be making it in the private sector.
Gov. Janet Napolitano took a swing through Southern Arizona today, exhorting Democrats to knock on doors, make phone calls and keep campaigning “until it hurts.”
Napolitano says a Democratic majority would fight to protect education, health care and the universities during the state’s worsening budget crisis, while a GOP majority would just look to slash spending with little regard for the impact. (If the budgets that Republican lawmakers Russell Pearce and Bob Burns have offered in the past is any indication, we imagine Napolitano is right.) Napolitano, who has had a mostly caustic relationship with the GOP House leadership, asked the crowd—with a laugh—to “do it for me.”
But motivating the volunteers—and the Democrats were on the move this weekend with marches, union rallies and party events—is just one part of the game.
The Democrats are finally giving us some idea of what they’re doing with the million bucks or so that they have in the bank as the election closes in.
The Democrats have held off on spending before now—perhaps to avoid giving their GOP opponents too much time to do much with any matching money they get from Clean Elections—but in the last week, their independent political committee, Victory 2008, has started send out mailers, according to reports recently filed with the Arizona Secretary of State.
To take control of the Arizona House of Representatives, the Democrats need to win four House seats and hang onto everything they picked up in 2006, when they scored some upset victories in GOP districts.
Down here in Southern Arizona, that means winning in Legislative District 26, which includes the Catalina Foothills, Oro Valley and Saddlebrooke. Democrats Nancy Young Wright and Don Jorgensen are in the House race against Republicans Vic Williams and Marilyn Zerull, while Democrat Cheryl Cage is facing Republican Al Melvin in the Senate race.
The Democrats are also targeting the House race in Legislative District 30, where Democrat Andrea Dalessandro is running a single-shot against Republicans Frank Antenori and David Gowan.
The first batch of mailers have gone out, according to the first trigger reports—so named because they trigger matching public funds for the GOP candidates who are using Clean Elections.
As a result, the conservative Republicans are grabbing a big ol’ pile of public dollars. In District 30, Gowan has collected more than $22K; up in LD26, Melvin and Zerull have received about $900.
The big question remains: What will the Democrats do next? Nathan Sproul, a controversial GOP political consultant, has suggested that a major negative attack is coming at the end of the campaign in hopes that candidates won’t get matching funds in time to respond.
The Arizona Democratic Party isn’t broadcasting its strategy. Spokeswoman Emily DeRose says that the party will “campaign vigorously on behalf of our candidates,” although she adds that Sproul’s memo “makes for interesting reading.”
Whatever the Democrats end up doing, it’s clear that the Arizona Republican Party is in no shape to fight back.
As of its most recent report, the party had all of $73K in the bank—and now, it appears they have to refund $105,000 from a shadowy organization which may or may not be called the Sheriff’s Command Association.
The contribution—listed as SCA on the GOP’s campaign-finance reports—kicked in the money right around the time that the Republican Party started running a vile advertisement attacking Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Democratic opponent, Dan Saban. The ad brought up allegations of rape and masturbation on duty.
Whatever the truth about any of this (and it’s pretty flimsy stuff), the ad is such sleazy and tasteless garbage that it soils what’s left of the GOP’s reputation. Where’s the political upside in running this? Sheriff Joe is a lock anyway, so why squander any lingering goodwill on an ad that’s such crap that even Joe doesn’t want to attach his name to it?
Then again, Arizona Republican Party chairman Randy Pullen has driven the state party into such a deep ditch that we can’t say we’re surprised to hear that he’d do something so politically dumb.
At any rate, now it appears that the contributors to the SCA don’t want their names revealed, although the fingerprints point right back to members of Arpaio’s circle.
The Arizona Democratic Party has requested an investigation into this Keystone Kops caper. That alone has the GOP refunding the SCA’s contribution to stave off more trouble.
Now the state party has to find donors willing to cover the cost of doing Arpaio’s dirty work. Good luck with that!
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