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Ben Quayle in Crowded, Ugly Battle for Arizona House Seat

4 years ago
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For anyone who loves to watch a dramatic political race unfold, the contest to succeed retiring Rep, John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) in Arizona's third congressional district will not disappoint on Tuesday night.

The increasingly bitter GOP primary has pitted 10 candidates against one another in the conservative district, where three state legislators, two mayors, several businesspeople and the son of former Vice President Dan Quayle have been battling for months to win the nomination. Local reports calling the race "atomic" seem to understate the vitriol the candidates have spewed in recent weeks.

One of the best-financed and most controversial candidates in the field is Ben Quayle, the 33-year-old lawyer whose famous last name has helped the political novice rake in more than $1.3 million in campaign cash, while heated attacks from rivals and a self-inflicted wound and have sent him tumbling in recent polls.

To get a sense of the tough tone of the campaign, just take a look at Quayle's most recent ad, in which Quayle attacks Barack Obama as "the worst president in history" and declares, "Someone has to go to Washington and knock the hell out of the place."

While Quayle has been able to generate media interest in his candidacy and raise more money than most of his competitors, he hasn't been able to out-talk the fiery crew, who run the political spectrum from conservative to extremely conservative.

Pamela Gorman, an affable 41-year-old state senator, recently joked to Fox Business Network that her team calls Quayle "Hillary Lite," referring to the fact that although Quayle's roots in the state date back four generations, he has lived in the state intermittently for the last 14 years, with departures for school and work.

"He came to a state with nothing but a name and a lot of money and he's trying to buy a seat just like Hillary Clinton did," Gorman said, referring to Clinton's move to New York, where she was elected U.S. senator. "The difference is Hillary Clinton had some actual experience in public policy. This kid's got nothing."

Gorman seems to be the genuine article when it comes to conservative bona fides. In addition to sponsoring Arizona's controversial immigration bill SB 1070, Gorman ran a campaign ad featuring her firing a Thompson sub-machine gun in the Arizona desert. "You can't help but smile when you pull that trigger," she told FBN's David Asman, before adding that she has nothing against "the young man," Quayle.

Quayle has had more incendiary exchanges with Vernon Parker, the African-American mayor of tony Paradise Valley, who grew up in poverty in California and eventually attended Georgetown Law School before working his way up to jobs in both Bush administrations. Parker calls famous GOP operative Lee Atwater his political mentor and has been endorsed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County.

The bad blood between Parker and Quayle surfaced last month when a Quayle campaign mailer featured Quayle, his wife, and two young children, with Quayle declaring his plans to "raise our family" in Arizona. The only problem -- the newly wedded Quayles have no children. Parker accused Quayle of "renting a family" to win votes, to which Quayle angrily responded that the girls in the photo were his nieces, and thus, his family.

Later, Quayle put out a statement about Parker, warning GOP voters that, "If Vernon Parker were the Republican nominee, he would quickly become a national poster boy for the Democrat Party."

Parker's camp fired back that the use of the term "boy" to describe the mayor was derogatory, and implied that it was racist, as well.

"To have the 33-year-old son of one of the wealthiest families in America refer to a leading Republican African-American as 'boy' is over the top," Parker's campaign spokesman said in a statement.

Quayle's campaign called Parker's accusations part of an ongoing smear campaign.

As ugly as things got between Parker and Quayle, the latest and perhaps most serious battle among the rivals has come between Quayle and Steve Moak, a successful Paradise Valley businessman and local philanthropist, whom Quayle accused of padding his corporate income with money from a personal nonprofit.

Moak took deep offense to Quayle's accusations about notMYkid, the nonprofit that Moak started with his wife after their son battled against addiction. He fired back at Quayle, accusing him of using "dishonest and deceitful campaign tactics."

Moak also recently released an ad about Quayle and his past writings for the now-defunct website, DirtyScottsdale.com, a nightlife blog that said it was dedicated to "exposing the trashy side of Scottsdale nightlife." Although Quayle at first called stories about his involvement in the site political smears, he later confirmed to Politico that he had contributed to the site in an effort to drive traffic to it. The site's founder later told Politico that Quayle had helped to start the website, which is now TheDirty.com, and wrote under the pseudonym Brock Landers, a fictional porn star from the film "Boogie Nights."

Moak's ad hammered Quayle over his involvement with DirtyScottsdale, which the ad called "a raunchy website that degrades women."

"Is this the type of behavior we want from our next congressman?" the ad asks.

The response to Moak's attack came Monday night, not from Ben Quayle, but from his parents, Dan and Marilyn Quayle, who sent separate e-mails urging supporters to stand behind their son.

Dan Quayle wrote, "I have never in my 35 years of politics seen such an ugly, slanderous assault in the closing days of a campaign against a fellow Republican."

The younger Quayle told PD's Matt Lewis recently that he believes the race will be a referendum on Barack Obama. But with so many attacks focused on Quayle, the contest seems to have become a referendum on him, with the other candidates improving their fortunes by hurting Quayle's.

Moak has led in recent polls, but with early voting well underway and a wide-open field, the winner for the nomination is anyone's guess. The polls in Arizona open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. MST.
Filed Under: The Capitolist

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