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click to enlarge AZ Sen. John McCain speaks at a town hall meeting at TRICO Electric in Marana.

JD Fitzgerald

AZ Sen. John McCain speaks at a town hall meeting at TRICO Electric in Marana.

Guilt by Association

Kirkpatrick continues her effort to link McCain to Trump, while McCain links Kirkpatrick to Hillary

Democratic Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick continues to hammer away at Republican John McCain in her quest to unseat the six-term senator this November.

McCain appears to be cruising to a primary win over former state lawmaker Kelli Ward and Clair Van Steenwyck (as well as Alex Meluskey, who quit the race earlier this month), despite the fact that a significant segment of the GOP base really dislikes him. Still, McCain's enemies are making a final thrust against him with a half-million dollar TV ad buy (supplemented by $100,000 in digital advertising) in support of Ward, according to a Politico Report. The ad says McCain has "betrayed" conservatives with his support for immigration reform, Wall Street and the war in Libya.

Kirkpatrick is continuing her strategy of linking McCain to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in hopes that Trump drags down the rest of the GOP ticket this fall. McCain has no love for Trump and is clearly growing weary of answering questions about the childish buffoon who has managed to complete a hostile takeover of the GOP.

McCain was particularly critical of Trump's recent attacks on Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son was killed in Iraq in 2004.

"In recent days, Donald Trump disparaged a fallen soldier's parents," McCain wrote in press statement a few weeks ago. "He has suggested that the likes of their son should not be allowed in the United States—to say nothing of entering its service. I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump's statement. I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates."

But McCain has also endorsed Trump's presidential campaign and has warned earlier this month on Phoenix NPR affiliate KJZZ that allowing Hillary Clinton to win the presidency "is to me a worse outcome than anything that I could imagine. Particularly when you're looking at the Supreme Court. We're looking at what is clearly been a lurch to the left of Hillary Clinton."

Kirkpatrick's latest salvo is a new online video that crosscuts between McCain saying that he supports Trump and Trump's own comments about McCain, including his criticism of McCain's record on veteran care, his contemptuous dismissal of the time that McCain spent as a POW ("I like people who weren't captured") and his desire to see the "dummy" lose in next month's primary. It also worked in Trump's comment last week that maybe "Second Amendment people" could do something about Clinton if she manages to win the election, which was widely viewed as a veiled call to assassinate Clinton.

The one-minute ad, which hasn't yet made it onto TV screens, got a lot of national attention as an example of how Democrats around the country are likely to tie their GOP opponents to Trump, who has been free-falling in the polls since the Democratic National Convention.

McCain, in turn, has been working to link Kirkpatrick to the Obama administration, pointing to her support of the Affordable Care Act and the multi-nation deal with Iran to limit that nation's pursuit of nuclear weapons in exchange for the lifting of sanctions and the repayment of money that the U.S. owed Iran, among other details.

It's been awhile since Arizona voters supported a Democrat in a statewide race and McCain remains the favorite to win the race; the Real Clear Politics polling average puts McCain ahead by 5.5 percentage points, although the site also puts the race in the category of "toss up." Political forecast Stu Rothenberg has Arizona in the "Republican favored" column.

House Speaker Quits Congressional Race

We won't have David Gowan to kick around anymore

Bowing to reality and hoping to avoid a humiliating loss, Arizona Speaker of the House David Gowan abandoned his hopeless campaign for Congress last week.

Gowan was marred by scandal throughout the campaign after Arizona Capitol Times reporter Hank Stephenson revealed that Gowan used a state car to campaign all around the sprawling Congressional District 1, which stretches from Oro Valley and Marana all the way to the Utah border and includes most of rural Eastern Arizona. Gowan, who said he was just reaching out to Arizonans across the state as House Speaker, also repaid some $12,000 he shouldn't have claimed related to mileage piled up in the taxpayer-owned car and other bogus expenses—a particularly hypocritical move from someone who complains that too many people want handouts from the government. Gowan remains under investigation by the Arizona Attorney General's Office for his piggy ways.

On his way out of the race, Gowan endorsed fellow candidate Gary Kiehne, saying that Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu "must not be our nominee." Gowan was critical of Babeu because the "baggage he brings to the race simply cannot survive the millions of dollars that the Democrats will bring to this race and we have no reason to believe that the Republican Party will spend millions of dollars trying to save such a lost cause, particularly not with so many other critical races going on around the country."

Kiehne, a rancher and oilman from the White Mountains, narrowly lost the 2014 GOP primary in his first bid for public office.

The crowded CD1 Republican primary also features Ken Bennett, the former Arizona secretary of state and state lawmaker; Wendy Rogers, who has run previously for Congress and the Arizona Legislature; and political rookie Shawn Redd. The winner will face Democrat Tom O'Halleran in November.

Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel airs at 8 a.m. Sunday on the CW Tucson, Channel 8 on Cox and Comcast and Channel 58 on Dish, DirecTV and broadcast. You can hear the show on KXCI, 91.3 FM, at 5 p.m. Sundays or watch it online at zonapolitics.com. This week's encore episode features UA College of Science Dean Joaquin Ruiz; Phoenix New Times managing editor Amy Silverman, who will talk about her new book, My Heart Can't Even Believe It; and UA tree-ring scientist Valerie Trouet.


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