For those of you have been following the crowded race in Arizona's 3rd Congressional District, the initial opinion of Red State's Erick Erickson certainly seems to be revealing itself as the correct one. The benefit of time, increased familiarity with conservative Pamela Gorman, and increased exposure to Gorman's opponents leave any objective observer to the conclusion that Gorman clearly is the best candidate in this race. For those interested in changing the partisan breakdown in the Congress and expanding the influence of conservatives within the Party, Gorman gives Republicans the best opportunity to keep the seat in Republican hands and to put the most conservative candidate in the Republican caucus.
Gorman, because she fought corporate welfare and led the charge against back room deals negotiated by the Governor and insider lobbyists to raise taxes and also expand the public financing of campaigns, is not the darling of the Arizona inside-the-beltway crowd. In fact, she has been the leader most willing and able to fight that gang. But Gorman is increasingly revealing herself as the only serious candidate in the crowd who can be trusted to not just be a Republican but be the right kind of Republican we need in Washington.
At event after event, including the Tea Party Border Coalition Rally on Sunday and in appearances all over the District and Arizona and on talk radio, Gorman has made a point that none of the other candidates in the race are making. Gorman believes that the fights taking place in Republican primaries across the country aren't only about defeating Democrats in November, but they are something more. Perhaps Gorman is the only official Tea Party endorsed candidate in the race because she recognizes that while the Democratic Party represents a real current threat, Republicans have too often failed to deliver what voters demand and what the country needs. Gorman has preached not only throwing out the Democrats, but also ensuring that the right Republicans win so that the Party is not dominated by moderates who don't have the stomach for the serious medicine the country needs.
Gorman knows that of which she speaks. As she has told audiences, you can't run for office and claim to be for smaller government and less spending and then not have the intestinal fortitude to seriously cut spending when the state is broke. If you can't cut with that built in excuse, you'll never cut. Gorman's ability to articulate that case is one of the reasons she would be so tough for Democrats to beat. When it comes to candidates in this race who have served in any elected office before, Gorman is clearly the only one with the demonstrated willingness to put conservative principles before the Party, even if it means disappointing (or losing) friends. And of the candidates who are newly-minted politicians, the three early leaders with the big money are demonstrating that none of them are ready for prime time and all are fundamentally-flawed. Democrats are desperately hoping that any one of the three will beat Gorman and give them a chance to win this seat in a tough year.
Ben Quayle is young. He's not just young in years, but he's particularly young in his maturity level. He has yet to distinguish himself professionally in any meaningful way, having three jobs in the last four years. And he's fresh off denying, then admitting, then denying again, then admitting that he did have a role in both launching a very raunchy, sexually-oriented website and writing a column under the name of a fictional porn star character from the movies. While his writing was not hardcore pornography it is highly distasteful and juvenile. He should have put some years behind him and established himself professionally before considering a run for any office, much less Congress. In just the last 8 or 9 months, Quayle has bought a house in the District, gotten married, adopted a dog from the shelter and posed for pictures with children trying to create the perception they were his own. He hasn't even voted in an Arizona primary.
Despite plenty of opportunity, Gorman has been very measured and pointed in her criticism of the young Quayle. Oh, don't kid yourself. Gorman is never afraid to speak her mind. But she does so in a controlled and responsible (and sometimes deservedly tough) fashion. Gorman has referred to Quayle as "Hillary Lite" but makes a pretty strong case for the nickname, as he attempts to run in Arizona with nothing but a famous last name and a lot of insider DC money just as Hillary Clinton did in New York. She focuses on issues and the lack of maturity demonstrated by Quayle's actions, rather than attempting to capitalize on his foolish mishaps and represent them as something other than what they are. Gorman hasn't shied away from pointing out what seems obvious, though, that the "young man" isn't ready and his father is attempting to use his influence to acquire a Congressional seat and that the voters deserve better.
When Gorman speaks on issues and the other candidates are there, you really get the sense that she's the adult in the room with the greatest policy understanding and willingness to lay it on the line. Quayle is probably the least capable on articulating the conservative agenda. While the Quayle campaign was in a tailspin from the sex website revelations and his lack of candor in addressing his role, his "Barack Obama is the worst President" ad served its intended purpose. It changed the subject. And Quayle still has money to spend. Democrats are hoping he can recover because they would love to face him in the general election and if Quayle won the primary, Democrats would absolutely not concede this seat.
Vernon Parker is a second candidate who has been in a political tailspin with the voters as they have grown more familiar with his record. In light of his efforts to capitalize on Quayle scandal, Parker's campaign has instead pretty much imploded. It appears more likely than not that the entire launching of the Quayle story was orchestrated by the Parker camp. Parker and his public relations representative originally denied any involvement and then seemingly were caught in a lie when the facts seemed to indicate otherwise.
Parker's bigger problems go well beyond any role they played in getting the racy story about Quayle leaked to the media and the relationships they may have had with the leaker(s). Of larger concern is the fact that Parker has been caught in several unrelated, but extremely high profile lies. Perhaps seeming to misrepresent their role in the Quayle controversy is the final straw that broke Parker's political back. According to local media reports, Parker has been playing dirtier than any of the other candidates and has made a deliberate effort to spread rumors about the other candidates with no care about the veracity or nature of those rumors. The only criteria is that the rumors benefit Parker.
Vernon Parker's trouble starts with his well-documented attempt to secure a $1.25 million affirmative action contract from the government. Although the law prohibits federal employees from securing such preferences or contracts, Vernon apparently attempted to secure the funds while still a federal employee. Then he appears to have fudged the records to suggest otherwise. All from "an opponent of affirmative action." Parker remains under a legal cloud and has subsequently sued the taxpayers for $2 million in what appears to be an attempt to cover up the investigation of his allegedly falsifying records and Parker's underlying efforts to seek special race-based preferential treatment. No one is seriously holding his breath thinking Parker will ever collect a dime.
The impact of these swirling legal accusations surrounding Vernon Parker was only compounded exponentially with Parker's comments on FOX News in response to the story about the NAACP calling the Tea Party movement racist. Parker, who is African-American, convinced FOX News to allow him to appear and respond to the NAACP charges. Rather than simply point out that the NAACP characterization of the Tea Party was unfair, inflammatory and inaccurate, Parker looked straight into the camera and said "I've been endorsed by the largest Tea Party in Arizona" and distributed that video anywhere and everywhere. That would be fine except for the small complication that it wasn't true. Not only was Parker not endorsed by the state's largest Tea Party, Parker wasn't endorsed by any Tea Party and still has not been to this day.
Parker, later called the statement a "mistake" when challenged at an actual tea party meeting. He was asked to retract the statement but said he didn't have enough money to send out a retraction. One activists reminded Parker that it didn't cost anything to send out a press release, but he has yet to do so. Though hard to believe, Parker is actually still promoting the YouTube video in what would seem to be the hopes that he can fool more people with the lie than the number who will actually realize it's a lie and hold him accountable for it.
Parker's absolute aversion to honesty didn't stop there. He took it further by sending out an "autodialer" phone message that lied to voters claiming he deserved support because "Vernon Parker is the only candidate in the race to oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants." That call likely went out to hundreds of thousands of Arizona voters. Problem is that Parker's phone autodialer was an absolute lie as well. And Vernon knows it was a lie after sitting at dozens of forums with his opponents. According to those who witnessed dialogue at the last candidate forum, the other candidates are livid. It is one thing when Vernon exaggerates his own accomplishments or past. It's quite another when he deliberately lies about almost all 9 of his opponents, on tape, on the most important issue to Arizona voters right now. Parker genuinely made a political determination that it benefits him to lie to voters faster than he gets discovered by other voters. Normally such an approach would guarantee an electoral collapse and may still prove to be true. But in a ten-person primary, not only Parker, but the Democrats would be ecstatic if Parker pulled through because his strategy (and ongoing legal questions) dooms him in the general election.
The third major candidate is the only one who actually has expressed support for amnesty for illegal immigrants though he currently denies such to be the case. Steve Moak denies that he supports amnesty now, but according to multiple sources Moak did indicate support for the DREAM Act which includes a massive (and open-ended) grant of amnesty for illegal immigrants. Moak indicated support to the editorial board of the Arizona Republic when he was seeking their endorsement. His claims that he opposes amnesty were damaged by the fact that his support for it was witnessed by four of his opponents who participated in the same interview (and all of whom indicated opposition to the DREAM Act), several members of the Arizona Republic reporting and editorial team -- and the fact that the interview was actually recorded. Moak's pandering on amnesty didn't prove to win him the Republic endorsement, and he subsequently retreated from his position.
Moak's repeated flip-flops and misstatements on amnesty for illegal immigrants are serious in a state where immigration issues predominate at this time. His lack of firm resolve is further complicated when you consider the fact that Moak's opponent Pamela Gorman not only cosponsored SB 1070, Arizona's new illegal immigration law, but also is supported by Senator Russell Pearce who authored the law. Gorman and Pearce have worked together on illegal immigration issues for years, both in the Arizona House and Senate.
But Moak is a millionaire several times over, has invested heavily in his own race and is hoping his investment, partnered with the feud between Parker and Quayle, will allow him to sneak in between the dirt and grab the nomination. Politically it makes sense, but Moak's problems go much further than illegal immigration. Those problems are just now revealing themselves. Moak made his money as a telemarketer. And he's telemarketing heavily as a candidate. However, while the mainstream media hasn't reported it, a number of blogs have indicated that Moak is forcing his corporate employees at call centers throughout the country to call Arizona voters on behalf of his campaign. He's also allegedly making them sign non-disclosure waivers and it's unclear whether he is properly paying for and recording these services. He also may be utilizing corporate-owned or acquired lists that must come with a cost and haven't necessarily been reported. This is still a developing story. With only a week to go until the election, both Moak and the Democrats are hoping the story doesn't break in the mainstream media until after the election (when only Democrats will benefit from it).
Moak also has a number of questionable activities that have come to light in regard to a charity he founded. Moak's charity is designed to help families cope with the addictive behavior and drug use of their children. A major tenet of the program is strongly encouraging and making the case for families to give regular, home drug tests for the troubled youth. All good so far, except Moak purchased a for-profit company that is manufacturing and selling the home drug-testing kits at full price to the charity. Some of the kits which are purchased with donated funds are given to families on a first come, first served basis. Those that don't get free kits are encouraged to purchase - you guessed it - drug kits from Moak's for-profit Company. So Moak personally profits from those purchases, he creates a market for his for-profit company by encouraging all parents to purchase and acquire tests and he profits from using donated funds to purchase kits from his for-profit Company. A lot of these issues are just barely becoming known to the voters. And Moak and Democrats are hoping the voters don't understand these issues until after the Republican primary.
Gorman, however, has steadily seemed to increase steam as the campaign has progressed. Being the only Tea Party endorsed candidate in the race has certainly helped her stature not only with Tea Party activists, but also with the great percentage of voters who identify strongly with the fundamental tenets of the Tea Party such as reduced spending, lower taxes, smaller government and protection of individual liberties. Gorman has carved out a leading niche on all of these issues despite having very few funds to deliver her message. She will likely be outspent 10-1 by Quayle and Moak and 5-1 by Parker. The fact that she's still competitive speaks volumes about her ability to demonstrate a record and commitment to issues that she prioritizes with the disenfranchised voters she's reaching.
Gorman has done it creatively by using Facebook and Twitter aggressively and by maximizing opportunities for earned media and capitalizing upon them when they have occurred. There is little doubt that the nexus for all this activity was the volunteer-produced campaign video featuring Gorman shooting various firearms and attracting the ire of the left and the adoration of many on the right. It was created to provide national attention and interest that would provide Gorman with a forum to showcase her record on issues and it's worked.
Gorman's record is entirely consistent with the Tea Party movement. While all the candidates are parroting Gorman's position on the issues, it's becoming increasingly clear than none can come close to demonstrating a proven record of commitment to those principles. Likewise, Gorman is endorsed by Arizona Right to Life and is the only candidate with such a designation who has actually proactively introduced and passed pro-active pro-life legislation through both houses of the legislature. She has the best conservative voting record, as highlighted by independent watchdog groups such as Americans for Prosperity and The Goldwater Institute, in fiscal matters and in limiting the size of government. She leads on conservatives issues, always has, and no one in this race comes close to her record as a proven conservative leader. Erick Erickson's early recognition of Gorman as the proven and committed conservative is actually organically revealing itself to voters. Let's just hope it continues and increases by Tuesday's election.