Ben Quayle is a political neophyte who has spent a small fraction of his life in Arizona, and he lacks the kind of business experience or community involvement that usually precedes a run for Congress.
But what Quayle does have — a ton of money and his father’s last name — scares the bejeepers out of the nine other candidates seeking the Republican nomination in Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District.
The 33-year-old attorney has raised almost twice as much money as any other candidate by tapping into his family’s social and political networks. And he’s the most recognizable candidate in the district, despite never holding a political position, because his father, Dan Quayle, was vice president in the George H.W. Bush administration.
Click here to read about the CD3 GOP candidates.
No reliable polls on the race have been released publicly during the past couple of months, but political consultants who are privy to internal polls conducted by the campaigns said Quayle is a top-tier candidate who may emerge as the frontrunner heading into the Aug. 24 primary election.
The other candidates in the race refuse to admit Quayle is in pole position, but their words and the actions of their campaigns tell a different, more ominous story.
“There’s 10 people in this race, and there’s nine of us that may not agree on anything, but we all agree that it is completely offensive that Dan Quayle is trying to buy his little a boy a seat in Congress,” said Pamela Gorman, a former state senator who resigned from the Legislature to run for the congressional seat.
Experienced politicians such as Jim Waring, Sam Crump and Gorman jumped into the race almost immediately after U.S. Rep. John Shadegg announced he would retire at the end of the year. Quayle’s decision to run came weeks later and disrupted their campaign strategies.
None of the campaign consultants who spoke to the Arizona Capitol Times claimed to have a playbook for running a campaign against nine other candidates, at least seven of which have backgrounds that make them viable contenders for the seat.
Among the candidates are three former state legislators, a successful businessman, two former Valley mayors, and a former general counsel to the Arizona Department of Administration.
“Magic Mountain has debuted a new ride in Arizona, and it is the roller coaster in CD-3,” said PR guru Jason Rose, who is working for Vernon Parker’s congressional campaign. “We don’t know all of its twists and turns yet. We just know it’s going to be a wild ride.”
The race is the most competitive primary in Arizona going back at least 20 years, and it’s one of the most crowded primary fields in the nation.
As a result, a candidate could target specific niches of voters and win with as little as 20 percent of the vote.
Political consultants and observers have categorized those who are running as first-tier and second-tier candidates, but they cautioned that any one of the pack could break out and win. The overriding challenge is to find a way to stand out.
“People are going to be getting mail from 10 different candidates, lot of whom are going to say the same thing,” said Chris Baker, Gorman’s political consultant. “So the question becomes: Which candidate is in the best position, for a lack of a better term, to capture enough of the imagination (of voters) to get themselves to what will likely be the winning number?”
While their backgrounds are impressive, no single candidate has a monopoly on the best traits, and everyone’s campaign has weaknesses.
Indeed, Quayle doesn’t have the most impressive résumé. That belongs to Parker, the former mayor of Paradise Valley who grew up in a rough neighborhood and whose rags-to-riches story rivals that of President Obama.
Quayle doesn’t have a natural voter base or a voting record to shore up his credentials. That would be former legislators like Crump, Gorman and Waring, who have been cultivating their political career for years.
At 33, Quayle’s life is pretty much still ahead of him; he therefore can’t claim he is running to “give back” to his community. Those credentials belong to business owners such as Steve Moak, who had quietly toiled in the private sector and did more to grow the economy than most politicians.
In this anti-Washington climate, a Quayle, even when backed by a huge war chest, may not have such big advantages after all. Quayle himself acknowledged that his name can cut both ways.
“That’s a double-edged sword, actually,” Quayle said during an interview last week at his campaign headquarters in Phoenix. “It helps with name ID, but I also have to prove myself more than the other people because there is that sense that, you know, it’s just the name.”
But in a 10-way race, anything that helps a candidate stand out is an advantage, said Constantin Querard, a campaign consultant who is working with Crump.
“In a case like Quayle, for instance, you’d rather have the name and all the fundraising help that you get with it,” he said. “If some folks don’t like you because of your name (but) there’s a whole lot of people who did like you because of your name, then it’s a good trade.”
It was more than 110 degrees outside on July 1, and the air-conditioning unit was straining to cool Quayle’s cramped campaign headquarters in Phoenix. It was humid inside as a dozen or so young volunteers furiously worked the phones and their computers trying to secure votes for their candidate.
Almost everyone in Arizona has heard of Ben Quayle’s dad, but many voters have no idea where the younger Quayle’s priorities lie.
For the most part, he sounds a lot like the other candidates, touting pro-business, small-government policies and a focus on immigration reform. Unlike most of the other contenders, he has seen Washington politics from the inside and says he won’t be swayed by the glamour of D.C.
“I know how to avoid the pitfalls that sometimes happen with certain people who go to Washington, and I know how to get things done,” he said.
Many of Quayle’s contributors are from out-of-state, including heavyweight politicians such as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former White House Chief of Staff John Sununu and former Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady.
Quayle also seems to have a never-ending supply of celebrities and dignitaries to bait potential donors. Former President George H.W. Bush held a fundraiser for him at Bush’s Houston home last May, and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning was scheduled to appear at a fundraiser in New York last month.
Quayle’s money — his campaign had raised $558,727 as of May 31 — is particularly concerning to Rose and other consultants who are pulling for candidates who lack the gravitas to match Quayle’s donor list.
“I kind of liken it to giving a Middle Eastern county a nuclear weapon,” Rose said. “Ben Quayle with a million dollars, you just know don’t know what he is going to do with it. Is he going to use it wisely? Is he going to use it poorly?”
Other candidates who are established in their communities have struggled to raise money; some of the fundraising totals as of the last reporting period were dismal for a congressional campaign.
Five of the candidates — Bob Branch, LeAnn Hull, Ed Winkler, Crump and Gorman — reported raising less than $100,000. The next federal campaign finance reporting deadline is July 15.
Gorman, in particular, has had trouble raising cash. Her $37,318 stacks up poorly compared to just about everyone else in the race — especially Quayle.
“It’s, really, everything that has gone wrong with the Republican Party could probably be tracked back to this kind of good-old-boy, big-dollar, old-family-money baloney,” Gorman said.
But Quayle shot back at his critics: “When you start attacking the other candidates, then you obviously don’t have something good to talk about your own candidate.”
He also laughed off the charge that he moved back to Arizona solely to pursue a political career, pointing out that his family traces its Arizona roots to newspaper mogul Gene Pulliam, his great-grandfather who once owned The Arizona Republic.
“To be called a carpetbagger when you are fourth generation — I don’t think that sticks,” Quayle said.
The Quayle family has oscillated between Indiana and Arizona during the past couple of decades. The family moved back to Arizona in 1996 when Ben Quayle was 20 years old. He lived out of state from 2002 until 2006, when he moved back to Phoenix.
Quayle said he decided to run because he doesn’t agree with the direction the nation is heading; he said the Democratic Congress is pushing the U.S. toward bankruptcy. And his campaign paints him as a candidate who will choose his own path, despite pressure from powerful special interests.
Yet for a candidate who is trying to emerge as an independent thinker, he already has endured at least one major miscue: The former vice president usurped him on Feb. 12 by making the first formal announcement of his son’s candidacy on Fox News.
“He’s proud that I have decided to run for public office,” Ben Quayle said of his father. “But I’m running for Congress, not my father. I’m the one who has to convince and earn the trust of the voters.”