McCain Battles To Keep Senate Seat

In Arizona, political tensions have been running high, particularly over the issue of immigration. Howie Fischer of Arizona Capitol News Service, discusses the state's primary elections tomorrow. Republican Senator John McCain faces a conservative challenger, and a congressional race pits the son of former Vice President Dan Quayle against a black Republican.

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ALLISON KEYES, host:

Now we're going to turn to yet another sunny state. Known as much for its politics as for its many retirement communities, Arizona holds its primary tomorrow as well, and it's also expected to be a little contentious. Tensions have been running high there for months.

Joining us to look at just a few of tomorrow's contest is Howie Fischer of the Arizona capitol News Service. Welcome, Howie, thanks for joining us.

Mr. HOWIE FISCHER (Arizona Capitol News Services): Glad to be here.

KEYES: We will get to Senator McCain in a minute. But first, let's talk about the 3rd District congressional race just north of downtown Phoenix. There are 10 people running in this mostly urban district. And the fight for name recognition can't be pretty. But you've got Ben Quayle, the son of former Vice President Dan Quayle, and Vernon Parker, the African-American Republican candidate. What's going on with the tiff the two of them are having right now?

Mr. FISCHER: Well, clearly, the two of them see each other as the people to knock off. And the charges have been flying thick and heavy. For example, Vernon Parker noted that Ben Quayle had this family shots and there were two little girls in there and turns out they weren't Ben's kids. They were actually his nieces and he said he's they're renting a family.

Meanwhile, Ben Quayle made a comment suggesting that because of Vernon's getting disciplined by the Small Business Administration, that if he gets elected, he will become, the quote, "poster boy for the Democratic Party" when it comes to ethical violations. Vernon in turn responded not on the issue of poster part, but the boy part. He said I've just been called a poster child for the Democratic Party.

KEYES: In other words, a race issue.

Mr. FISCHER: It's a race issue in there. Each one is spending a lot of money. And the trick is to get above that (unintelligible). Ben Quayle got a lot of national attention. For example, he ran an ad calling Barack Obama the worst president ever in the entire history of the United States. And that kind of thing is designed to, you know, get attention.

Now, of course, as you point out, with 10 people in the race, low turnout, somebody with a couple of thousand votes could be the next congressperson from that district since it's heavily Republican.

KEYES: Howie, is race really that much of an issue in Arizona?

Mr. FISCHER: Not so much here. Obviously, Arizona's gotten a lot of attention over Senate Bill 1070 immigration reform that that hasn't really factored in terms of the federal contest here, at least not this one, certainly the McCain/Hayworth if you want to talk about that.

But it's simply a question of each side looking for the other's vulnerability. Vernon was mayor of Paradise Valley, which is a largely white affluent community. Managed to get elected there. Race was never an issue. I think that it simply came up because Vernon saw an opportunity to attack Quayle, who's gotten a lot of publicity, has gotten a lot of money because of his dad's name. And Vernon figured, oh, you're going to call me poster boy? Well, I'll show you.

KEYES: Sounds like the fun there continues. But let's move on to Senator McCain, who's hoping for a fifth term in office. He's up against former Congressman J.D. Hayworth and there's a Tea Party activist named Jim Deakin. But McCain was in some trouble there for a while, wasn't he? How did he turn things around?

Mr. FISCHER: Well, this has been a fascinating race where you have somebody to the right, righter and rightest, I guess you'd call it that to get to Jim Deakin, particularly over the issue of immigration. J.D. Hayworth spent 12 years in Congress, very conservative, says that McCain is not a true conservative because one time, you may remember, he and Senator Kennedy sponsored an immigration reform bill. And that included a path to citizenship. That's the dreaded A-word, amnesty.

Now, McCain will deny he's ever sponsored a bill with amnesty because he said you'd have to pay a fine. You'd have to learn English. You'd have to go to the back of the line. But Hayworth was able to use that fairly effectively for a while. What happened is that an old TV infomercial surfaced, which showed J.D. as sort of huckster saying, you can get free money from the government. I'm former Congressman J.D. Hayworth.

And John McCain has beaten about the (unintelligible) severely on that. Now, it doesn't hurt by virtue of the fact that John McCain has $20 million and J.D. has perhaps $2 million because...

KEYES: Yeah, that can't make a difference at all.

Mr. FISCHER: Couldn't possibly. You cannot, you know, you cannot turn on the radio in this town or watch a TV without seeing a McCain ad there. So I think J.D., absent some miracle in the next 18 to 24 hours, put a fork in him.

KEYES: Howie, really briefly, what does the McCain race say about the influence of the Tea Party uprising everybody was talking about just a few months ago, and I mean briefly.

Mr. FISCHER: Well, obviously, he's taking advantage of it to the extent that Sarah Palin came to town, his former vice presidential running mate. He says they need to be paid attention to and obviously I see myself as a true conservative, and that's McCain's attitude.

KEYES: Howie Fischer is a political reporter from Arizona's Capitol News Service. He joined us today from Phoenix. Thanks so much for your insight.

Mr. FISCHER: You're very welcome.

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