Ugly primary ends with Schweikert edging Quayle

August 29, 2012

Tuesday night, Arizona voters ended the brief congressional career of Republican Ben Quayle. He lost the 6th Congressional District primary by five points to fellow Congressman David Schweikert. KJZZ’s Jude Joffe-Block reports on the fierce election battle that pit two colleagues against each other.

Ben Quayle election night Congressman Ben Quayle just before giving his concession speech following Tuesday's primary election. (Photo by Jude Joffe-Block - KJZZ)

JUDE JOFFE-BLOCK: The newly drawn 6th District includes northern parts of Phoenix, Paradise Valley and Scottsdale. It leans Republican by about 10 points. Many of those GOP voters who showed up at the polls on Tuesday mentioned the same priorities.

TERRY FLANIGAN: Small government, cut down on the spending, fix the economy.

JOFFE-BLOCK: Terry Flanigan has lived in this neighborhood, near Old Town Scottsdale, for 50 years. But when it came to choosing a Republican candidate for Congress, he had to pick between two conservative incumbents who shared his values.

FLANIGAN: You know it is a hard choice, they are both good men.

JOFFE-BLOCK: After redistricting shook up district boundaries, Congressman David Schweikert’s home was drawn into District 6. But many of Congressman Ben Quayle’s constituents also wound up in that district. So Quayle, son of former vice president Dan Quayle, relocated to run against Schweikert. But his move didn’t work.

DREW ALEXANDER: Looking at both candidates I had to weigh each one, there was certain things I liked about Mr Quayle, but I had to make a choice and I made it in favor of Schweikert.

JOFFE-BLOCK: Alexander said he’s impressed with Schweikert’s grasp of the issues. But he wasn't impressed with was the negative tone of this race.

DREW ALEXANDER: That really turned me off. I got so upset with that I was ready to not vote for anybody.

JOFFE-BLOCK: Each campaign blames the other for going negative first. Quayle ribbed Schweikert for voting to extend the payroll tax cut.  Schweikert’s attacks took a personal tone. He suggested Quayle -- who is 35 -- didn't have the character or maturity for the job. When it came out just before the election that another Republican congressman had skinny dipped in the Sea of Galilee during a trip to Israel, Schweikert was quick to link Quayle to the incident. He also sent out a mailer that said Quayle “goes both ways” which critics saw as a cheap allusion to bisexuality.

KIM FRIDKIN: There is a danger of being too negative.

JOFFE-BLOCK: Kim Fridkin is a political scientist at ASU. She says Schweikert took a risk by making his attacks so personal.

FRIDKIN: Research shows that when people see the attacks as irrelevant to governing, they don't think that is a great tactic and they basically ignore the message.

JOFFE-BLOCK: One reason Fridkin believes the campaign turned so nasty? Because both candidates are ultimately pretty similar.

FRIDKIN: You can't really make a policy distinction, so you have to base it on personality and that might be one of the reasons there is so much negativity.

JOFFE-BLOCK: When the results came in on Tuesday night, they revealed that Schweikert’s strategy worked, or at least didn't do too much damage. He beat Quayle by about five points -- despite the fact that Quayle had out-fundrasied him and secured high-profile endorsements. From his celebration at campaign headquarters, Schweikert said he was happy he’d be returning to Washington.

DAVID SCHWEIKERT: When you realize the devastation that the financial markets, the Dodd-Frank legislation, how do we get the mortgage market. There is a lot of work I have ahead of me.

JOFFE-BLOCK: Still he said he doesn't plan on becoming a career politician. He admitted he himself was disappointed by the negativity of the race, but said such is the reality of modern politics.

SCHWEIKERT: I believe I need to step up and earn the voters who didn't vote for us tonight.

JOFFE-BLOCK: A few miles down the road, Quayle gave his concession speech to a small crowd of supporters at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort.

BEN QUAYLE: Obviously we are disappointed. But all of us should be able to hold our heads up high. We ran a very honorable campaign and we were fighting for all the right reasons.

JOFFE-BLOCK: Quayle told his supporters they must fight for conservatives to win back the White House and gain complete control of Congress. Come November, Schweikert will face off against Democratic nominee Matt Jette. But analysts say the District 6 seat is likely to be safely Republican for years to come.

Election results can be found on the Arizona Secretary of State's website.