The son of former Vice President Dan Quayle won an open Arizona congressional seat in 2010 by beating nine other Republicans while using a hard-hitting ad that called President Barack Obama “the worst president in history.”
But Rep. Ben Quayle’s decision this year to seek re-election in a safely Republican district nearby instead of the more competitive one where he landed after a once-a-decade redistricting ended poorly.
It was Quayle who was knocked out by voters in last week’s primary election, a defeat that means he’ll be in office for only two years while Obama finishes out his fourth and seeks four additional years in office.
The younger Quayle’s decision to move into the Phoenix area’s 6th District to take on fellow one-term Republican Rep. David Schweikert led to a vicious primary fight.
The state’s new 9th Congressional District where Quayle landed following the redistricting process is competitive, meaning Quayle would have to fight for re-election every two years for a seat that either party could win.
Choosing the safe seat and bucking party officials who badly wanted him to seek election in the new district, Quayle decided to take on Schweikert, knowing if he won the primary he’d have virtually no Democratic opposition for years to come.
“This was a really unusual experience for any place in the country to go through,” Schweikert said Friday. “Two freshmen members running against each, at least on paper fairly similar ideologies. So it really sort of became a pure family battle.”
With little policy differences separating the two conservatives, the race became personal. Schweikert accused Quayle of being a “carpetbagger” by moving into his district and rehashed attacks Quayle faced in 2010, when it came out that he was a contributor for a racy Scottsdale website.
Quayle fired back, calling Schweikert a liar in ads and suggesting he leaked a report that Quayle was one of multiple congressmen who took a dip in the Sea of Galilee during a junket to Israel. He also ran ads criticizing Schweikert for not turning down a congressional pension, as he has done.
Schweikert points out Quayle has a multi-million dollar trust fund and his parents are rich.
“To their credit, I think a lot of the public saw through that,” Schweikert said. “They said, ‘OK, we already know you’re really rich, we know you live in one of your dad’s probably couple million dollar houses.’”
Quayle also had the backing of Arizona’s two senators, Jon Kyl and John McCain, and strong financial backing from the national Republican establishment.
Schweikert said he expected those developments and doesn’t have hard feelings.
“Look, my dad wasn’t the Vice President of the United States,” he said. “(Dan Quayle has) raised for all sorts of political causes lots of money. It was always going to happen and we were prepared for it.”
Ben Quayle conceded defeat on election night, telling supporters that he wasn’t through with public life.
“I’m going to continue to work so we can make this country a better place, so my daughter will have better opportunities than we had,” he said.
He’s been on vacation and unavailable since, his staff said.
His campaign consultant and strategist, Jay Heiler, said Friday that the low turnout and what he called “smears” by Schweikert’s campaign turned the race. He also denied that Quayle decided on the 6th District because it would be safe. Instead, he said most of Quayle’s current constituents live there.
For Quayle, there’s always next time if he decides to continue in politics. Republican strategist Doug Cole said if a Democrat wins the 9th District seat in November, Quayle should immediately declare his intent to run in 2014.
Schweikert said despite the bruising primary battle, he thinks Quayle’s future is bright.
“Ben’s still a young man, he’s going to have a tremendous number of opportunities, partly because of who he is and the family,” he said. “So we’ll see Ben Quayle I’m sure very soon in some type of high profile (job) if that’s what he chooses to do.
“Ultimately I wish him and his wife well and I hope they find what makes them happy,” he said.