Cheap but effective: Attack mailers once again are in season

Hank Stephenson//August 1, 2014

Cheap but effective: Attack mailers once again are in season

Hank Stephenson//August 1, 2014

For a dose of fear and loathing on the campaign trail, check your mailbox.

As early ballots started arriving by mail this week for the primary election, voters’ mailboxes are also filling up with another kind of election material — political attack ads.

Attack mailers are one of the most common and inexpensive ways candidates can influence voters’ perceptions of their opponent in the election.

The ads are mean-spirited, often distort the truth and always paint an unfavorable picture of an opposing candidate.

And although voters claim to distain negative advertisements, candidates and outside groups continue to send them at an increasing rate, because research shows they are often effective.

Attack ads have a long history in this state, and one of the first and still most famous political attack ads of all time was directed against an Arizonan.

In the 1964 presidential campaign, Lyndon Johnson hit Arizona’s U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater with an ad that has been called the mother of modern negative campaign ads.

In the “daisy ad” a little girl counts pedals on a flower from one to 10. The camera then zooms in on her eye as a voiceover counts down from 10 to one, and the scene is replaced by images of nuclear explosions and mushroom clouds.

“Vote for President Johnson on November 3. The stakes are too high for you to stay home,” a voiceover says at the end of the ad.

And although it was effective, it was a little too intense for the electorate, and only showed on television one time before being pulled down.

In recent years, the rise of independent expenditure committees has allowed candidates to distance themselves from negative campaigning — a significant development in the art of slinging mud without getting dirty.

Below is a look at some of the political attack ads hitting mailboxes in Arizona’s legislative, congressional and statewide elections.

A pair of mailers paid for by the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, which is backing Republican Rep. Justin Pierce in the secretary of state GOP primary, attacked Republican candidate Wil Cardon on illegal immigration.

Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin attacked Republican Rep. Adam Kwasman on Social Security in this ad circulating in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District, where the two are competing for the GOP nomination.

The Arizona Free Enterprise Club attacked Vernon Parker and Lucy Mason, Republican candidates for the Arizona Corporation Commission, claiming they support President Barack Obama’s energy plan, just like Democrats in the race.

Tobin also went after his other opponent in the three-way Republican primary in CD1, criticizing Gary Kiehne for his comments comparing police officers working during the 2011 Wallow Fire in the White Mountains to Nazi SS officers, and using the opportunity to highlight Tobin’s endorsements from law enforcement.

The Arizona Free Enterprise Club used a Western-themed “wanted” poster to attack Arizona Senate candidate Scott Bartle in the GOP primary to unseat Sen. Steve Smith in Legislative District 11.