A race that many expected to be one of the nastiest in the country so far hasn’t lived up to the billing.
There’s been no shortage of potshots between U.S. Reps. Ben Quayle and David Schweikert. But the all-out brawl that many envisioned between the two GOP freshmen hasn’t materialized, though observers point out that there’s still a lot of time left before the Aug. 28 primary.
“To this point, it hasn’t lived up to what a lot of people predicted, and I think that’s a good thing. But it absolutely could very quickly,” said Republican lobbyist Kurt Davis. “Word on the street with the political chattering class was how flat-out nasty this is going to be.”
Lobbyist Stan Barnes, a Schweikert supporter who served with him in the Legislature in the early 1990s, agreed the race hasn’t been as intense as predicted, at least not yet.
“What stands out is everyone seems to be holding their dollars until a later date. Conventional wisdom was these guys would be shooting flaming arrows at each other by now, but that conventional wisdom has not come true,” Barnes said.
Schweikert says he won’t be the one to fire the first shot, at least when it comes to attack advertising.
“We won’t be the first ones to get negative in this race,” said Chris Baker, a consultant for Schweikert’s campaign. “Now, circumstances from our opponent may change the dynamic of that. … But I can tell you, unequivocally, if he or his surrogates run straight positive TV ads this entire race, we will do the same thing.”
So far, only Quayle has run ads on television, and those juxtapose him against President Barack Obama, not Schweikert.
Quayle wouldn’t make the same pledge, but insisted that his plan is to focus on the issues and highlight his record.
“We’re focusing on my message and the accomplishments that I’ve been able to lead on in the year and a half that I’ve been in Washington, and really show a vision for the future that will hopefully garner a considerable amount of support,” Quayle said.
Even if the race hasn’t gotten flat-out dirty, there’s certainly been plenty of sniping. The day after Quayle announced he would switch districts and run against Schweikert in Arizona’s new 6th Congressional District — redistricting put Quayle about a block outside of the district — Schweikert sent out a fundraising email saying Quayle wanted people to “join him on a magic carpet ride to carpetbag a new district.” Schweikert accused Quayle of abandoning the party in the 9th Congressional District, a highly competitive district where Democrats are making a serious push.
Quayle has since moved into CD6.
Since then, Schweikert has accused Quayle of taking credit for another congressman’s bill, saying House GOP leadership gave him the bill as a reward for loyalty, and has criticized Quayle as a political neophyte whose only claim to office is that he’s from “political royalty.”
Quayle, meanwhile, has accused Schweikert of sending a spy to his campaign headquarters, and says he broke an agreement made by GOP members of Arizona’s congressional delegation that they wouldn’t announce where they were running until a dispute with the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission was resolved. Schweikert announced he would move to a house he owns in Scottsdale after the original version of the IRC’s map put his Fountain Hills home in a western Arizona-based rural district.
Schweikert has denied both accusations, and said no such agreement was made by Arizona’s GOP delegation.
Despite a number of pointed remarks about Quayle — he called his rival’s political aspirations a “flying fancy with a checkbook” — Schweikert said he doesn’t think the race has gotten negative yet. Even things like the carpetbagger email, he said, don’t meet that threshold.
“Saying that we live in the district and someone doesn’t, that’s not negative. Trust me,” Schweikert said. “That was humor. That was funny. It didn’t have a dark theme. It was meant to be light-hearted.”
Baker said the campaign defines ‘negative’ as attack ads or mailers.
If the race does get negative, it could rehash some of the hits Quayle took in 2010, primarily his association with a racy website called thedirty.com, formerly known as dirtyscottsdale.com, which Quayle wrote for under an alias years earlier.
Schweikert said he hasn’t decided yet whether he’ll use the website against Quayle if the race gets negative. But if things get nasty, it’s on the table.
“My preference would be not to, but if it starts becoming a tell-us-about-your-commitment-to-the-community and you want to have a battle about character, then obviously that would go into play,” Schweikert said.
Quayle said he isn’t worried about the possibility.
“I really think that the people of CD6 are going to really be focusing on … who the real conservative leader is going to be, who is going to be able to really drive that. I do think that they want a new generation of conservative leaders that are going to be pushing that,” he said.
Even if the race does get negative, some observers expect the candidates to bite their tongues at least a little bit. Consultant Chad Willems, a Schweikert supporter, said he doesn’t expect “Dirty Scottsdale” or other personal attacks to come into play.
“I hope it doesn’t come to that. I can’t foresee a situation where either candidate would go at least negative on some sort of personal level. I don’t see that developing,” he said.
But that doesn’t mean the race can’t get negative in other ways. Consultant Max Fose, who said he isn’t supporting either candidate but has given money to Quayle, expects the two to go after each other on their records.
“I think every campaign has to engage the opposition, and I think both of these candidates will. Both of them have probably pretty good opp research on each other, and I would expect that opp research to be used as they try to win,” Fose said.