Endorsement War Heating Up in Arizona Senate Primary

Posted February 23, 2010 at 5:37pm

The endorsements war is really heating up in Arizona’s GOP Senate primary, as both Sen. John McCain and former Rep. J.D. Hayworth seek to line up support from local and national GOP constituencies and politicians.

The political action committee of Citizens Against Government Waste — the group that lives to spotlight wasteful government spending — will be the next to weigh in when the group announces its endorsement of McCain on Wednesday.

That nod comes on the heels of McCain receiving the high-profile endorsement of former presidential-race rival and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on Tuesday morning.

Romney, a likely 2012 presidential contender, famously tangled with McCain on the campaign trail in 2008 and has some indirect ties to Hayworth. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, one of Hayworth’s biggest boosters, served as honorary chairman of Romney’s 2008 Arizona campaign team, and Jason Rose, an adviser to Hayworth’s Senate run, was Romney’s state director.

On Tuesday, however, Romney had nothing but effusive praise for McCain, saying it would be hard to imagine the Senate without McCain and “I’m proud to call him my friend.”

Hayworth countered Tuesday with an endorsement from an anti-illegal immigration group, Americans for Legal Immigration political action committee. The PAC spent as much time bashing McCain — “a notorious supporter of amnesty for illegal aliens” — as it did praising Hayworth.

“J.D. Hayworth has taken sides with the 80 percent of Americans who want our borders secured and our existing immigration laws enforced,” said William Gheen, the group’s president. “By contrast, John McCain has clearly taken sides with the Open Borders Lobby which would wreck this nation by pursuing amnesty, instead of enforcement.”

Hayworth also announced Monday that he has the backing of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, which represents the largest law enforcement agency in Arizona.

McCain’s campaign simultaneously put out endorsements from two past presidents and six past board members of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association.