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CD 2: SOCIAL INSECURITY

We noted last week that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had released a poll showing Congressman Ron Barber with a massive, 14-percentage-point lead over GOP challenger Martha McSally. (See "Backing Up Barber," Oct. 4.)

Now McSally has released a poll of her own, showing a race that was a dead heat, with Barber getting 47.5 percent of support, compared to McSally's 47.3 percent. Five percent of the voters were undecided.

Barber spokesman Mark Prentice said via email that Team Barber remained "confident that Ron Barber will win this race, because Southern Arizonans know that he is fighting for the middle class, and they also know that Martha McSally agrees with Jesse Kelly on issue after issue—like privatizing Social Security."

McSally's poll—first leaked to Roll Call Wednesday, Oct. 3—has yet to lead the Rothenberg Political Report to move the CD 2 seat out of the "Democrat Favored" column. Meanwhile, National Journal's Hotline House Race Rankings had CD 2 way down on the list of seats likely to flip in 2012, at No. 70 out of 71 in the country. Hotline's Scott Bland noted last week that McSally "is one to watch, but probably in the future."

Here's the final sign that the DCCC isn't that worried about Barber's campaign: They cancelled plans to run TV ads supporting him over the next few weeks.

But even as the DCCC is pulling out, the National Republican Congressional Committee is entering the CD 2 arena. NRCC spokesman Daniel Scarpinato confirmed last week that the NRCC has reserved $255,000 in air time to boost McSally's Southern Arizona campaign, with an ad that's scheduled to run through Oct. 18.

And McSally herself is running a hard race. She tapped Republican Jim Kolbe, who represented Southern Arizona in Congress for 22 years before retiring in 2006, to cut a TV ad for her, denouncing another TV ad that was run by the House Majority PAC, an independent-expenditure committee dedicated to electing Democrats.

The House Majority PAC ad took aim at McSally for supporting a plan that would allow younger workers to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in private accounts.

"I saw Ron Barber unfairly attack my friend, Martha McSally," Kolbe said in the McSally ad. "He's wrong."

Team Barber spokesman Prentice said via email that Kolbe "supports privatizing Social Security, so it is no surprise he has endorsed Martha McSally. She wants to raise the retirement age, voucherize Medicare and gamble Social Security in the stock market, just like he does. But Ron Barber is committed to protecting Social Security and Medicare and has stood up against plans to privatize and voucherize these programs—plans that would weaken Social Security and Medicare and hurt Arizona seniors."

Team McSally also scored a few points by persuading KVOA Channel 4, to take the House Majority PAC ad down a few days before its one-week run was completed.

McSally spokesman Bruce Harvie said in a statement that the TV ad was "clearly false and lies about Martha's stance on the very important issue of Social Security. ... Martha McSally never supported privatization of Social Security."

While McSally hasn't called for total privatization of Social Security, she has supported allowing younger workers to divert some of their Social Security taxes into private retirement funds—a plan that groups such as AARP have called privatization. Those plans have been criticized over concerns that diverting money out of the Social Security system would make it harder for the program to continue paying benefits.

House Majority PAC spokesman Andy Stone stood by the TV ad "100 percent."

"Countless experts from across the political spectrum recognize the type of plan McSally laid out to be privatization," Stone said via email. "In fact, the nonpartisan AARP not only called that type of proposal privatization, but even said that such a plan would undermine the financial stability of the Social Security system. It's unfortunate for KVOA viewers that the station has chosen to deny them the opportunity to learn more about Martha McSally's record."


CD 1: BULLSHIT WATCH

The National Republican Congressional Committee released a poll this week showing Republican Jonathan Paton with a 5-percentage-point lead over Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick in Congressional District 1.

The survey, which was done via robocall, showed Paton with the support of 50 percent of voters, and Kirkpatrick with the support of 45 percent in the sprawling district that includes Oro Valley, Marana, Eastern Arizona, Flagstaff and the Navajo reservation.

Team Kirkpatrick dismissed the poll results.

"This is a useless partisan push poll," said Kirkpatrick campaign manager Carmen Gallus via email. "We challenge Paton and the NRCC to release the full questionnaire and crosstabs."

NRCC spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said the organization would not be releasing the full crosstabs, but insisted the poll was legitimate.

"We set out to conduct an accurate, objective poll of the district to see where the candidates stand, which is reflective in the sampling and questions," Scarpinato said. "The only one to blame for Ann Kirkpatrick's lack of support from voters is Ann Kirkpatrick."

While the NRCC was rolling out its poll, Team Kirkpatrick rolled out the endorsement of former state lawmaker Pete Hershberger.

Hershberger, a Republican who worked with both Paton and Kirkpatrick when all three of them served together at the Arizona Legislature, called Kirkpatrick "a common-sense leader who looks at both sides of the issues and involves all the stakeholders."

"Unlike her opponent, Ann is not focused on partisan games or rigid ideology," Hershberger said in a statement. "She's the kind of person we need representing our region and our state."

Kirkpatrick also unveiled a TV ad accusing Paton of wasting more than $200 million while serving on the Rio Nuevo Board.

The narrator in the ad says that Paton "served on the Rio Nuevo board and wasted $200 million of taxpayers' money. Now it's under criminal investigation and could cost us another $72 million."

Rio Nuevo has a long and troubled history, but if you want to claim that $200 million was wasted, you have to admit that the money was wasted when the city of Tucson and the original Rio Nuevo board were in charge of the downtown revitalization project. Paton called for audits of that very spending while serving in the Arizona Legislature, and he pushed to see a new board formed that stripped control from the city of Tucson.

By the time Paton joined the new Rio Nuevo board in 2010, the Rio Nuevo board members had stopped spending money on almost anything besides audits and attorneys.

Regarding the criminal investigation: It's our understanding that the FBI has been assisting the Arizona Attorney General's Office with looking into what happened with spending before the new board was created. That investigation has dragged on a long time without any criminal charges being filed. The charge that Paton's activities are under criminal investigation doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

You can be critical of the reformed Rio Nuevo board that Paton joined for filing lawsuits instead of pushing forward with repairs to the Tucson Convention Center, but accusing him of being part of a group that may have wasted hundreds of millions of dollars is simply false.

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