Ben Quayle didn’t even have an election night party planned, but he had plenty of reasons to celebrate when the votes were counted.
The 33-year-old attorney and son of former Vice President Dan Quayle had been raked over the coals for weeks leading up to the Aug. 24 Republican primary in Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District, and several internal polls prior to the election showed that he’d fallen from the frontrunner’s perch.
But signs of Quayle’s demise turned out to be overblown. Quayle led the 10-person field with nearly 23 percent of the GOP vote. He left the relative’s home where he’d been watching election results come in and made his triumphant entrance with cheering friends at Arizona Republican Party headquarters.
The next day, Quayle declared victory. With two dozen supporters and his famous father standing behind him, Quayle thanked both his voters and his opponents, and looked ahead to the general election.
“It’s been a long primary, and we’re really excited about how the events unfolded. I really just have eight words to share with you, and that is ‘Barack Obama is the worst president in history,’” Quayle said, echoing his line from a recent television commercial. “For those voters who voted for somebody else, I know I have to earn your trust and your faith moving forward, and I promise you I will do that because I’m going to give it everything I have to win in November.”
Quayle’s victory came after a rough couple of weeks during which he was forced to talk about his ties to DirtyScottsdale.com, a racy website that satirized Scottsdale nightclub culture.
Former Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker, who placed fourth with about 16.8 percent of the vote, said Quayle’s name ID and fundraising advantage helped clinch the race for him. Parker raised about $400,000, but said he would have won if he’d had Quayle’s $1.3 million war chest.
Parker said he thought Quayle was helped by the fact that the DirtyScottsdale.com allegations didn’t surface until after voters started sending in early ballots.
“It’s inexplicable to me. I don’t know what happened. I probably attribute a lot of it to early voting,” Parker said. “He also did well election day too, though, so it’s hard to figure out.”
About two weeks before the primary, the owner of TheDirty.com, formerly known as DirtyScottsdale.com, claimed on his website that Quayle was a co-founder and had contributed frequently under the pseudonym Brock Landers, the name of a fictional porn star in the movie “Boogie Nights.”
Quayle initially denied any ties. Later he said he recommended an intellectual property lawyer to founder Hooman Karamian, a friend of his, and that he posted a few comments on the original site – which he said was far different than the site it later became.
Still later, Quayle’s campaign told the Arizona Capitol Times that he used a pseudonym to contribute to the site, but couldn’t remember which name he used.
Jason Rose, a spokesman for Parker’s campaign, said Quayle’s hard work after the website incident, as well as his highly publicized anti-Obama ad, propeled him to victory. The campaign was in “full-blown crisis mode,” he said, but was creative, resourceful and tough enough to bounce back.
“I was surprised. That campaign deserves an extraordinary amount of credit,” Rose said. “A television spot that was widely ridiculed, I think, was in fact what stopped the freefall.”
Jerry Cobb, a spokesman for businessman Steve Moak, who placed second in the crowded primary, said he was surprised by Quayle’s win, which he attributed to the strength of Quayle’s name identification.
Moak had a fundraising edge over every candidate but Quayle, and after the DirtyScottsdale.com incident, many viewed him as the frontrunner. He launched a television advertising blitz and went on the attack against Quayle. But allegations that Moak profited from a nonprofit organization he founded to fight adolescent drug abuse dogged him in the final weeks of the campaign.
Despite the GOP’s massive voter registration advantage in the 3rd Congressional District, Cobb said he believes Quayle will be vulnerable to Democratic businessman Jon Hulburd because of the questions raised by the DirtyScottsdale.com incident.
“The Democrats were probably, up until last night, writing off CD3. Not anymore. I’m sure they’re going to pour a ton of money into this race now that they see a vulnerable candidate on the other side,” Cobb said.
Hulburd wasted no time trying to make the prediction come true. The morning after the primary, he attacked Quayle over the allegations.
“This election is now between Jon Hulburd and Brock Landers,” a Hulburd press release read. “It’s between a young man who fabricated a family, degraded women, and then tried to lie about it, and a small businessman and father of five who has been dedicated to his community.”
The Quayle campaign called Hulburd’s comment the act of a desperate campaign.
“I think that Mr. Hulburd has got to start answering questions on the issues. And he has given varied answers on various issues like Obamacare, like SB 1070, like illegal immigration,” Quayle said. “He goes left, he goes right, he goes center. He doesn’t know what he believes in on these issues. So for him to talk about me not answering questions, I think that’s a pretty interesting statement.”
Many observers expected Moak or former Sen. Jim Waring to reap the benefits of his Quayle’s hits, but with 18 percent and 17.4 percent, respectively, neither was able to seize the race.
Some campaigns even said pre-primary polling showed Quayle trailing earlier in the day. Waring spokesman Bert Coleman said Quayle was in second place in a poll the campaign conducted of 1,240 early ballot voters, with Waring in the lead. Another poll of 597 election-day voters, which also showed Waring leading, had Quayle in third place.
The race took an increasingly negative tone as Moak, Parker and Quayle trained their fire on each other.
Moak, who raised about $1 million for his campaign, including several hundred thousand of his own money, bombarded the district with television ads and mailers slamming Quayle.
Moak said he didn’t know what kind of impact the mudslinging had, but said he had no regrets.
“It’s probably hard to judge. I think we ran a good campaign. Looking back, I wouldn’t have done anything different,” he said.
Waring only raised about $250,000, but said he spent about 65 hours a week knocking on doors and had been to the homes of about 50,000 primary voters.
Quayle hit Waring with a mailer in the last week of the campaign criticizing him over his “no” vote to send National Guard troops on the U.S.-Mexico border, but Waring was largely unscathed by the negativity that seemed to define the rest of the race.
Former Sen. Pamela Gorman, who ran as a conservative tea party candidate, took fifth place and attorney Paulina Morris, a former member of the Maricopa County Special Health Care District, trailed her in sixth. Former Rep. Sam Crump garnered about 4 percent of the vote in seventh place.