Democrat Jon Hulburd kept hammering away at Ben Quayle over the Republican’s ties to a racy website, but after the candidates’ first and only televised debate, observers are saying that line of attack has run its course.
Hulburd, an attorney and former businessman, used his opening statement in an Oct. 14 debate on Channel 8’s “Horizon” to question Quayle’s moral character, and the topic dominated enough of the debate that key issues such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan went unmentioned.
“Can the voters trust your judgment, your judgment to be a congressman, when you’ve admitted that you posted comments on DirtyScottsdale.com as little as three years ago, and that you, in your own words, did it to drive traffic. I think people want to know why you drove traffic to that website,” Hulburd, 50, said in his opening statement.
But the allegations that Quayle was an early contributor to DirtyScottsdale.com, now called TheDirty.com, didn’t sink him in a fierce, 10-way Republican primary, and the 33-year-old attorney won among both early voters and Election Day voters.
With a Republican voter registration advantage of about 50,000 in Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District and voters sporting strong anti-Democratic sentiment, Hulburd is going to need more than a raunchy website to put him over the top, political experts said.
“It doesn’t really change the race,” said GOP consultant Constantin Querard, who said he didn’t’ watch the debate. “If it didn’t work in the Republican primary, I don’t see how it’s going to work in the general.”
Democratic lobbyist Barry Dill said he still feels that Hulburd, who has moderate and conservative positions on issues like the Bush tax cuts and SB1070, is a strong candidate. But he needs more than the website allegations, he said. Dill said he also didn’t watch the debate.
“In my opinion, it has reached the ceiling,” Dill said of Hulburd’s attacks over the website. “If I were advising him, I would wrap the website into other issues about Ben Quayle’s character that would question his overall qualifications to serve in Congress.”
Hulburd and Quayle’s opening statements reflected the messages their campaigns have pushed since Quayle won the GOP nomination in August. As Hulburd questioned Quayle’s judgment, Quayle focused on anger toward President Barack Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress.
Querard said the website allegations may have drawn some voters into the Hulburd camp, but not nearly as many as he needs. The fact that neither campaign has released polling numbers, he said, probably indicates that Hulburd isn’t close enough to claim he’s a serious threat to Quayle, while it likely shows that Quayle isn’t as far ahead as he probably should be.
“My guess is that the Republicans are still ahead. They’re probably ahead by less than they historically might be, so they don’t necessarily want to give the Democrats any encouragement. At the same time, it’s not so competitive that the Democrats should actually be encouraged,” Querard said. “That’s truly an educated guess based on the fact that nobody has given us polling data.”
Quayle defended himself from Hulburd’s allegations that he hadn’t adequately answered questions about his involvement with the website. Quayle said he contributed to DirtyScottsdale.com to help the founder drive traffic, but said the original website was far different than its successor, TheDirty.com. He denied writing a post on the website that has been attributed to him by the website’s founder and used in several Hulburd ads.
Both candidates said they would vote to extend tax cuts passed under former President George W. Bush, and both said they would not consider any comprehensive immigration reform legislation until the border is secured. Ironically, the only candidate who said the federal government could not afford to cut taxes was Libertarian candidate Michael Schoen.
While Hulburd touted his moderate positions, Quayle sought to remind voters that his opponent is still a Democrat. Quayle chastised Hulburd for refusing to say how he would have voted on Obama’s landmark health care bill. Hulburd said it would be impossible to say without actually taking part in the negotiations. Quayle also said his opponent would support Democratic legislation such as the 2009 “cap-and-trade” bill and “card check” for union elections.
“The Democrats have been going after policies and initiatives that will weaken our country going forward and make our future less bright,” Quayle said. “I’m the only one who’s going to go to Washington and fight to get government on the side of the people.”
Hulburd said he dislikes the tax hikes included in the health care bill but said there are parts of the legislation he supported, such as the ban on insurance comapanies denying people coverage due to pre-existing conditions. He said Quayle’s vow to repeal the bill is a “fairy tale” because the GOP would need to take both chambers of Congress and the White House, which is at least a few years away.
The pair also traded shots over contributors to each other’s campaigns. Before Quayle even brought up his oft-repeated criticism that Hulburd has taken money from unions that supported a boycott against Arizona after the Legislature passed SB1070, Hulburd offered to return the contributions if Quayle would do the same with money contributed by executives from companies that took money in 2008 from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, also known as the bank bailout. Quayle said he took contributions from individuals, while Hulburd took money from organizations with a political agenda.
In response to the website allegations, Quayle also said Hulburd should face the same heightened level scrutiny that he has, and mentioned two lawsuits from the 1990s in which Hulburd was a defendant.
The first was a defamation lawsuit filed against numerous people at Paradise Valley Country Club involving alleged false remarks that a member was a lesbian. Those allegations, which were actually part of three separate lawsuits, were dismissed and Hulburd was awarded judgments totaling nearly $2,000, according to Maricopa County Superior Court documents. Hulburd described it as a “nuisance lawsuit.”
The other was a business dispute involving a company Hulburd once owned, CD Sales. A court order shows that both parties agreed to dismiss the suit about five months after it was filed.