The Debate Over Debates

There are certain sillinesses that go on every election that remind us that, yes, it is time to exercise our franchise soon. For example, I got an e-mail from Ally Miller’s campaign alleging that Nancy Young Wright was messing with her signs.


One of the other biannual rituals is a candidate complaining that the other candidate will not debate them. The craziest is when a candidate agrees to several debates, but one particular debate invite being refused is a sign of a disrespect for the voters, hatred of our democratic process and a general lack of cojones.

Of course, once in a while you gotta ask if someone is ducking. Which brings us to the debate imbroglio between Jeff Flake and Richard Carmona.

Flake has agreed to a sum total of one debate
. Solitary. Singleton. Nada mas uno. What strikes me more than the number (once again, one) or refusal to have one outside of the greater Phoenix area is the length.

Half an hour.

That’s right, because the issues facing our nation can be handled in half an hour. By comparison, Jonathan Paton and Ann Kirkpatrick will be having three debates, the shortest of which will be an hour and a half. Heck, your typical Clean Elections forum featuring a couple of State Senate candidates will be longer.

So, what gives, Jeff?

Carmona Ahead?

Yes, I read the same news as you did that Richard Carmona is leading Jeff Flake by five points.

I admit that I like seeing a number that is that good. I expected that Carmona would pull a slight lead, given Flake’s primary, Carmona’s lead in money and the national mood. Five points though?

The press accounts of the poll are vague about its provenance. They all identify it as coming from a Republican firm, but not much else. I admit that I didn’t call the outlets that ran the story, but I called my usual gang of political hacks and unindicted co-conspirators to find out what they heard.

What did they hear? Not much.

Several people thought that the numbers indicated that there was an over sample of Democrats, but one person who was able to see more detailed numbers thought that independents were under sampled. If that’s the case and given how strong Carmona has been among independents, the poll could be under reading Carmona’s lead.

As for who paid for the poll, I just heard speculation. One theory is that it wasn’t a survey done for Flake’s campaign per se, but a test question on a poll done on another question, a ballot proposition, for example. These numbers sometimes get released, but mostly with the responsible firm’s name on it so they can get some publicity out of it.

The other theory I’ve heard is that it may be from a committee associated with Flake’s operation. Although the Carmona people sent out a press release yesterday touting the $1 million that the Club for Growth spent for Flake in his primary, there hasn’t been the piles of money spent by independent groups in the general election yet.

This was supposed to be a gimmie for Flake. He spent most of the last year and a half with no serious Democratic opponent. National Republican groups might not be taking it seriously yet. The theory goes that Flake’s people released the poll to let these groups know he’s got a race and could you spend money here please? Thanks.

Great, except it has also lit a fire under Democratic groups to do the same. And, why would you want to show yourself that far back when the neck-and-neck polls of the last few weeks would do the same thing?

Unless, of course, there aren’t polls that show it neck-and-neck any more…

Carmona on the Teevee

Richard Carmona is going up on TV starting tomorrow. This ad is scheduled to be on broadcast and cable stations in the Phoenix and Tucson markets.

The commercial covers similar themes to his announcement video from a few months back.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is touting a poll that shows Carmona tied with Jeff Flake. Admittedly, the poll may be an outlier (most numbers show Carmona behind but Flake with less than 50%). However, it is hard to dismiss the damage that Wil Cardon’s negative campaign did to Flake’s image with general election voters. Also keep in mind that Carmona has slightly more money in the bank than Flake. It’s been a while since the Democrat was on par with the Republican money wise in a senate race.

An Akin in His Heart

Jeff Flake sent this tweet on Sunday, trying to get himself in front of the Todd Akin mess:

I oppose abortion, but exceptions must be made for rape, incest and to protect life of the mother. Cong. Akin’s comment was wrong. #azsen

I’ll say it again, as bad as what Akin said was, what’s worse is when folks like him try to write laws based on the notion that some rapes are different from others. And, sorry Jeff, you are one of those folks.

Some of you may already be familiar with HR 3, which was the bill that differentiated “forcible rape” from others. Flake was one of the co-sponsors, so it’s nice of him to argue for exceptions to rape and incest, but then he wants to redefine rape and incest.

It isn’t the only bill where he did this. In 2011, Flake was one of the co-sponsors (along with his friend Mr. Akin) of HR 358, another bill that included the words “forcible rape,” different from other kinds of rape. The language was later taken out, but Flake was happy to sponsor it when those words were in.

Once again, words are words. If Akin’s words are so offensive, why the heck would Flake want to put them into law?


I’ve had another thought about what Akin said now that he is backing off “clarifying.” Even though I’m pro-choice, I understand why someone who is pro-life would not want to carve out exceptions for rape. If you believe that an unborn life is one worth saving, you wouldn’t be concerned about how that life was created.

The defenses of Akin coming from pro-life groups center around that notion. He’s only thinking of the children, they argue.

The trouble is, that wasn’t his argument. The mention of a child came as an incidental footnote in his statement, squeezed right next to his assertion that the rapist ought to have “some punishment.”

(“Some punishment.” Gosh, really?)

What Akin did was misogyny disguised as pseudoscience, and it’s some ugly stuff. If anti-abortion activists are tired of getting caricatured as woman haters and slut shamers, they may want to cover Akin’s mouth with duct tape rather than praise him.

Y tú, Jeff? Paul?

Unfortunately, I gave up being shocked years ago that there are men like Rep. Todd Akin with some supremely ignorant views about rape and how the female reproductive organs actually work. What is disappointing is that people that are so unenlightened are rewarded with high office, even worse that they are probably there precisely because they are complete morons.

As offensive as what Akin said was, it was just words. I mean, he hasn’t tried to enact these ridiculous views into law, has he?

Well, yes he did.

Last year, Akin was one of 227 house members that signed on to HR 3, which at first seemed like a rehash of the perennial Hyde Amendment. The usual Hyde language banned government funding except in cases of rape and incest, but this one appended the word “forcible” to the word “rape.”

There was no reason for the language except to make some sort of line between some rapes (“legitimate,” Akin might say if he is capable of so much thought) and rapes involving drug use or other forms or coercion. Needless to say, it caused an uproar.

So, who else signed on to the bill?

It would surprise none of you that Trent Franks was one of co-sponsors. I’m sure if he was asked about it, he could be counted on saying something even more shockingly idiotic than what Akin said.

The other two are Paul Gosar, who I’m guessing won’t even clear his primary this go around, and…wait for it…

Jeff Flake.

Hey all you reporters out there, I know you read me but don’t like to admit it to your editors, ask Jeff Flake about Akin’s comments. If he distances himself from them (as Mitt Romney has), ask him why he supported a bill that wrote Akin’s ignorant views into law.

Because We All Really Want Sylvia Allen and Al Melvin to Have More of a Voice

Headline in the Huffington Post:

Jeff Flake, Arizona Senate Candidate, Calls For Ending Direct Election Of Senators

Because there is nothing better than asking voters for their support in a run for an office that you don’t think they should be able to vote for.

So, which of our two Senators does Flake think shouldn’t have been elected? Careful, dude, they both endorsed you.

This enthusiasm to take the votes away from citizens doesn’t have anything to do with his poll numbers these days, does it?


By the way, this may have no effect in Arizona. The reasons are the same as why I always get a chuckle when antidiezysieteistas invoke going back to the good old days before we had democracy.

Those “good old days” when Arizona legislators picked our Senators? They never happened.

Arizona’s first two Senators were elected by an advisory vote and the choice was ratified by the legislature. By the time Marcus Aurelius Smith was up for a full term in 1914, the Seventeenth Amendment had been adopted and Senators were elected nationwide.

Arizona, by the way, was the second state to ratify the amendment.

If for some reason the Seventeenth Amendment were to just disappear, that advisory vote would still exist. The language providing for it is still in the constitution. The statutes that made the vote binding on the legislature don’t seem to be in the law anymore, but I can’t see even the current group of jokers being able to ignore such a clear vote.

Wil Cardon Keep Gaining?

When this whole open senate seat bidness got underway, I thought that Wil Cardon would, at best, make it so Jeff Flake would have to blow some money in the primary. You know, run the sort of “look at me, I’m a statesman” ads that would show him to be the grown up and even help him out in the general election.

I’m starting to change my mind about that one. I’ve noticed that the talk about the race has shifted. For example, look at Flake’s last few endorsements. Both Jon Kyl and John McCain endorsed Flake, which was touted as “unusual” in press outlets and evidence that Flake needed to shore up support. Had Flake still been the Senator-in-waiting he was presented as only a few months ago, these endorsements would have been portrayed as further evidence that the establishment saw him as a sure winner.

By the way, how many Republican primary voters that had doubts about Flake were going to switch to him because of the McCain endorsement? I don’t think the eleven of them will move polling numbers.

Now we have the Sarah Palin endorsement. In January or February, her stamp of approval would have been Palin being pragmatic and picking someone with conservative cred that could actually win a general election. Now, it’s Flake being desperate. Richard Carmona’s campaign was able to put out a press release saying that with a straight face because the press sees Flake’s numbers against Cardon slipping too.

Will Cardon be the nominee? More likely, but I’m not willing to bet on it. How much money will Flake have to spend to make sure it doesn’t happen? Carmona’s people are hoping plenty.

Senate race fun I haven’t gotten to over the last week or so:

  • Carmona’s fundraising report showed that he outraised Flake last quarter. I don’t think I would have ever expected that. Flake had more cash on hand than Carmona, but he’s got to spend money in the primary. Carmona doesn’t.
  • The Carmona folks have been touting a video where Flake addressed the Rippon Society. The video was edited to take out Flake’s comments on immigration.
  • Speaking of desperation: The-relatively-moderate-on-immigration Flake’s anti-immigration attacks on Cardon. Nuff said.
  • We now have a super PAC dedicated to attacking Flake. It’s funded by members of the Walton family as well as relatives of Wil Cardon, but is “independent” of course.
  • And finally…driving North on I-10 from Tucson you may have seen the pink “McClung for US House” billboard. It now says “Van for US Senate,” presumably for talk show host, long shot candidate and “Christian Constitutional Republican” Clair Van Steenwyk.
  • Okay, that wasn’t finally: Van Steenwyk gets extra points for the Elvis tie he’s wearing on his website.

Not 1976, But…

The Richard Carmona campaign is bragging about not only the $1.1 million they raised this last quarter, but how much of it came from donors giving less than $250.

Candidates like to tout the number of donors less than $250 (in Carmona’s case, it’s 86% of their donors). It is a way of saying “I’m not the big money candidate. Why, I’m grassroots!” More importantly, the small donors can be tapped again later in the campaign, something that can’t be done with big money donors that maxed out.

This gives Carmona $1.6 million in cash on hand, which is dwarfed by Jeff Flake who has $3 million on hand. But, Flake has a primary to win, one that’s getting ugly.

I never quite bought into Wil Cardon being the Republican nominee. I still don’t. But, there is some concern about Flake’s fundraising. A report in Roll Call says that the money that one would expect to go to a candidate like Flake is not coming to him. That money will come to him in a general election (when he’s only got a matter of weeks to raise it), but his fundraising numbers have prevented him from burying Cardon, who can self fund.

Rather than being buried, Cardon is getting some momentum. He got the endorsement of the Mayor of Mesa this week.

Not that the $3 million isn’t impressive, but remember that Carmona doesn’t have to blow his money on stuff like this:

Franks Incensed

Oh, that poor Club for Growth!

They’ve taken so much grief over the last few years for supporting “insurgent” candidates against the “establishment” in Republican primaries, and they get blamed when those insurgents prove to be too radical (reactionary, really) to win a general election.

This year in Arizona, they’ve endorsed establishment candidate Jeff Flake. So, they are avoiding all of that grief, right?

Well, no.

Here is Wil Cardon’s ad featuring Trent Franks:

Club for Growth is claiming that Franks is just bitter because he wanted to run and the Club wouldn’t support him. Here is their spokesman quoted at Talking Points Memo:

Trent Franks is a good man and it’s a shame that he is allowing his personal bitterness at the Club for Growth PAC’s support of Jeff Flake over him in the U.S. Senate race to cloud his judgment about liberal Wil Cardon.

By the way, you read that right: Wil Cardon is a liberal. Somehow I missed that.

This Day in Lobbyists-Turned-Politicians

Well, two of our congressional candidates are getting a wee bit of blow back for their previous careers as shills…I mean hired guns…I mean necessary parts of our legislative process.

Jeff Flake’s previous career as a lobbyist is a not well hidden, but seldom mentioned, part of his past. It was left off of his bios, much like Mark Wahlberg’s years as Marky Mark are a blank spot on his resume.

Well, he’s all of a sudden discovered that claiming private sector experience is hip. He’s spent the last decade in congress, so he had to dig back a ways. Well, he now brags on his Facebook page about his time managing “public affairs” for a mining company in Namibia:

After returning to the United States, I formed Interface Public Affairs, which provided public affairs representation to Namibian companies and translation services to U.S. entities.

By the way, Flake is allowed to use his time as a lobbyist to respond to attacks from his primary opponent, but Democrats are forbidden from bringing it up. Those are the rules.

Anyone remember the phrase “Payday Paton”? It may be back.

For those of you who need a refresher, “Payday Paton” was the moniker foisted on Jonathan Paton by the Arizona Democratic Party in 2010 to remind voters of Paton’s time as a lobbyist for payday lenders. The industry was odious enough that even Frank Antenori took pot shots at them, and the phrase became so ubiquitous that Jesse Kelly used it a few times.

The Payday Paton website has been revived by the Arizona Democratic Party, and this time it comes with a Twitter account.

I’ve never seen the polling data, but I’ve always suspected that the attacks may have hurt Paton in the 2010 Republican primary. Given that his opposition is so split, I can’t see him losing this one. But it can’t help him much.