CD 1 Candidates square off

Wendy Rogers, right, speaks during a Congressional District 1 forum sponsored by the Casa Grande Republican Club at The Property Conference Center. Other candidates were Tiffany Shedd, left, and Steve Smith.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Arizona’s next elected U.S. senator will be a single woman with no children.

Ten years ago someone like that being elected to statewide office was considered unimaginable. Even a single male being elected was considered a rarity.

Phoenix-area Rep. Kyrsten Sinema won the Democratic primary against token opposition Tuesday, while Tucson area Rep. Martha McSally won a three-way race in the Republican primary, besting former state Sen. Kelli Ward of Lake Havasu City and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Both women are divorced.

The fact that gender, marital status and parenthood wasn’t an issue in the campaign is a testament to how far we have come as an electorate.

But in contrast, the GOP race in Congressional District 1 with a similar demographic winner also shows how far we’ve sunk.

Former Air Force pilot Wendy Rogers ran a disturbing campaign against state Sen. Steve Smith to win the three-way race to be the Republican nominee to face Democratic incumbent Tom O’Halleran in the general election. If her tactics during the primary are any indication, it is going to be an ugly, muddy campaign.

How bad was Rogers’ campaign?

Rogers repeatedly referred to Smith as “Slimy Steve,” creating a website under that moniker, questioning the moral character of the Maricopa man, who listed “family” as one of the three important items on his campaign signs. (The other two were “God” and “Country.”) The site called into question Smith’s relationship with a modeling and talent agency.

She also sent out paid advertisements printed on newsprint, created to look like a newspaper to voters. Smith at the time called the publication “fake news.”

In early August, Smith called for Rogers to step down.

For her part, Eloy-area farmer Tiffany Shedd, the third candidate, tried to address the issues while the mud-slinging between her opponents was going on. She even had the guts to defend NAFTA during a forum, saying how the trade agreement had been good for Pinal County.

I’m sure Smith and Shedd will end up endorsing Rogers in the general election because they are good Pinal County Republicans. However, I wouldn’t blame Smith if he decided to sit this one out. Rogers didn’t win on the issues; she got personal.

The real losers will be most of the residents of Pinal County, who once again will be represented in Congress by a northern Arizona resident. (O’Halleran is from Sedona.) Smith and Shedd are throwbacks to a time when character and heart, as well as issues, mattered. Either would have made a quality representative.

It is sad that during a week in which we honor stalwart GOP Sen. John McCain for his service, and his steadfast devotion to civility in politics, that we experienced such a race in CD1.

In a famous video clip from the 2008 presidential election, McCain takes the mic away from a woman at a town forum when she calls Barack Obama “an Arab.” He defends Obama as a good American and family man, whom he happens to disagree with on the issues.

“And that’s what this campaign is about,” McCain says on the tape.

If Rogers had been in the same situation at the same time, she probably would have taken the mic away from the woman and said: “Would you like to be my campaign manager?”

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Andy Howell is assistant managing editor. He can be reached at ahowell@pinalcentral.com.

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