The special election to replace former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona will be decided next week. The contest between Republican Jesse Kelly and Democrat Ron Barber is viewed as a tossup and as a messaging test for both parties.
But despite the lack of personal attacks, this is still a negative race.
Barber and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have hammered Kelly hard on entitlements. On the other side, the Kelly campaign and the National Republican Congressional Committee have accused Barber of supporting cap-and-trade and “Obamacare.”
At the mention of the charges, the congenial Barber turns steely. He calls the portrayals “misinformation, exaggerations, fabrications.”
“I wish I had that kind of influence,” he said of his days as a Hill staffer.
Kelly’s aides similarly accuse Democrats of dishonest tactics, specifically on the charges that Kelly intends to privatize Social Security.
“Our take on it is that we want the next generation to have choices,” he said when asked if he supports Social Security privatization. “We want to protect the benefits that seniors have earned. The government doesn’t have the option to take away those benefits, to protect the seniors that are currently on it, and give choices to the next generation.”
But fair or not, it is very apparent on the ground that the Democratic attacks and portrayal of Kelly have registered with elderly voters.
The 8th district, as it is drawn now, is pure swing territory, and next week’s race will be decided by independent voters.
There is little evidence that there are many Democrats willing to vote for Kelly. But there are some Republicans who will cross over, based on residual loyalty to Giffords.
One such voter is Bo Downey, a National Rifle Association member from Willcox who was in Tombstone for the annual “Wyatt Earp Days” celebration.
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
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