Tuesday night, Democrat Ron Barber beat Republican Jesse Kelly in a special U.S. House election in Arizona.
Wednesday morning, one of my regular sources in Arizona wrote in, offering his assessment of what went wrong: “The district has a lot of independents, but the Pima County GOTV decided to ignore them and only target Republican voters, especially those who vote early.”
The Pima County Republican party really didn’t like that assessment, and wrote in, laying out that they did in fact target independents. Walt Stephenson, the Get-Out-the-Vote chairman for the Pima County Republican party, says:
We had three “consultants”, two from D.C. and one from the West Coast that came in to help us with the special election around the end of March. Additionally we received NRCC phones at our HQ office with Jesse Kelly’s office getting the Victory Solutions phone system. Up until that time we were targeting Republican voters growing our “PEVL” list (permanent early voter list). As you know the NRCC phone system and the universe it calls into is controlled by the folks in DC that are looking at special data. We, at the county level, have no control over what universe is being called with this phone system. We just supply the volunteers to make the phone calls and do the door knocking. Pima County does not have the money nor the data resources the special consultants have so to think we could or would refuse to act on their recommendation is absurd and since they programmed the phone system quite impossible. I personally made hundreds of phone calls from Pima County Republican HQ to Independents and voters identified as “soft Democrats” by our consulting team.
. . . In this special election we targeted all potential voters that we identified as supporting Jesse Kelly.
My guy in Arizona laid out what he had heard, which I would describe as initial conversations suggesting that independent voters would not be the priority, but it was far from a final, laid-out policy to “ignore” them. So I regret passing along an assertion from a source that was too sweeping in its assessment and did not represent the totality of the county party’s efforts.
Of course, a lot of factors go into any election result, and after that post, I also heard from other Campaign Spot readers in the district who were unimpressed with Jesse Kelly as a candidate. Kelly announced Thursday he has decided to not pursue the seat in the November election.
Finally, it’s worth noting that this was a race in which former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, now a figure of enormous, bipartisan public sympathy and admiration for her comeback from near-fatal injuries, campaigned pretty extensively for her former staffer, Barber. With such a heartstring-tugging emotional factor in this race, it may be that the independents were never really that much in play.