David Espo, AP, September 21, 2006
Washington — Republicans signaled retreat Thursday in their battle to retain an Arizona congressional seat, dropping plans for nonstop television advertisements through Election Day on behalf of GOP contender Randy Graf.
The decision came on a day party leaders clashed sharply over Graf.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the Democratic campaign committee, sent a letter to his Republican counterpart saying that Graf had the support of white supremacist David Duke. He challenged Rep. Tom Reynolds of New York, chairman of the GOP campaign committee, to stop advertising immediately on Graf’s behalf, adding, “Candidates tied to white supremacists are not right for Arizona and they are certainly not right for America.”
In a scathing reply, Reynolds accused Emanuel of hypocrisy. Reynolds wrote that the Democrat had tried to recruit a candidate in Pennsylvania last year who “used the n-word with regard to his employees, a controversy that led to a local chapter of the NAACP calling for his removal from office. Your noble response was to stress that `there are two sides to every story,’” Reynolds wrote.
Graf defeated four opponents to win the primary on Sept. 12, running as the most conservative of the group. Immigration was a key topic in the race, with Graf emphasizing his determination to secure the border with Mexico and crack down on illegal immigrants.
Both parties sought to influence the outcome of the primary.
In an unusual move, the NRCC ran ads supporting Steven Huffman, and strategists at the time said they believed Graf could not be elected in the district.
Democrats, calculating that Graf would be easier to defeat in November, ran commercials attacking Huffman.
The Democratic party is upset that former Ku Klux Klan leader and Louisiana State Rep. David Duke put a link on his Web site to District 8 GOP congressional candidate Randy Graf’s site.
Graf’s campaign swiftly denounced Duke after the Arizona Democratic Party sent out a press release Wednesday afternoon suggesting Graf is associated with the controversial figure. The link on Duke’s Web site is the only evidence offered to support the allegation.
“We have no ties nor have we ever had ties with David Duke or any of his racist crazies,” said Graf campaign manager R.T. Gregg.
The link to Graf’s site accompanies a link to a U.S. News & Report story about Graf, who is running against Democrat Gabrielle Giffords. Both are former state legislators, and the race has gained national attention.
“In this day and age anyone can put a link anywhere to anything,” said Gregg.
Still, Democrats want Graf to personally contact Duke and request he remove the link, said Peter Jackson, spokesman for the state party.
Gregg said Graf has no plans to do so.
“David Duke doesn’t even live in the district,” Gregg said. “He’s somewhere off in the deep South.”
In their release, Democrats criticize Graf, who has taken a hard stance on border security, as having “extremist” beliefs that would attract Duke and other “racists.”
But Gregg said that suggestion is false and offensive.
“Randy’s position on illegal immigration has nothing to do with race, creed, color, national origin or religion,” he said. “It has to do with whether or not we are a country that lives under the rule of law.”