Instead, in the last weeks of the election he has found himself in a dogfight with a thoughtful, independent candidate who has been one of the most tireless campaigners this election. As a result, Senator Jerry Lewis has managed to do something few thought possible – make the race truly competitive. And Ed Ableser reacted the way most lazy, and desperate, politicians do: He went straight for the gutter.
His campaign released a slate mail piece, along with the two Democrat candidates for the House, that depicted Jerry Lewis and the two Republican candidates for the Arizona House, Ray Speakman and Mary Lou Taylor, hung up by puppet strings with the caption “Meet your Tea Party Puppets.” The three were accused of “funding Sheriff Joe Arpaio,” “taking $100,000 from crooked lobbyists” and, amazingly, “endorsing Russell Pearce” – with those words printed directly underneath a picture of Jerry Lewis.
The breathtaking dishonesty is hard to miss, and negative reaction to the piece was swift. More importantly, it wasn’t confined to just Republicans.
Stephen Lemons of the Phoenix New Times, who was such a foil to Russell Pearce over the years that his organization pushed a boycott of the newspaper, unloaded.
“According to sources close to the Dems’ LD 26 campaign,” Lemons wrote, “the attack mailer was Ableser’s idea. And that’s not hard to believe. Butter wouldn’t melt in this guy’s mouth. He is shamelessness personified.”
Lemons even pleaded with one of the House Democratic candidates to distance himself from Ableser, advising Mr. Sherwood to “emulate Lewis, not Ableser. Ableser is just another hack on the make. Lewis is a profile in courage, a man of conscience. More Jerry Lewises are what this state needs. The Ed Ablesers we can do without.”
Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts – she of “kook” fame who this organization has certainly taken umbrage with this year – was more measured, but had similar thoughts. She concluded her column by offering that “it’s fair to say that no candidate should so badly want to be elected that he’d flat-out lie to win.”
However, the most revealing moment of this campaign wasn’t just the mailer itself, but Ed Ableser’s defense of it.
Ableser agreed to be interviewed by both Lemons and Roberts, perhaps believing that he was speaking to natural allies who were coming to his defense. Instead, Ableser dug himself a deeper hole.
Being unable to defend the ludicrous implication that Jerry Lewis, who once took a padlock to the groin during his bid to defeat Russell Pearce, is a Pearce “puppet,” he tried – and failed – to focus on the other false accusations in the ad.
As Lemons pointed out, the “funding” of Joe Arpaio came from a budget bill appropriating money for the Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission (GIITEM), of which the Maricopa Sheriff’s Office took part. Regardless of the merits of this program, according to Ableser’s logic, any funding to the MCSO constitutes “funding” Arpaio – a crime for which apparently every County Commissioner over the past 20 years must swing.
As for Lewis taking in $100,000 from “crooked” lobbyists, it would have been a neat trick considering Lewis has so far only raised a total of $41,000 for his campaign as of the last filing.
“They are lobbyists from very suspect organizations,” Ableser told Roberts. You know, like the Mesa Police Association, the Mesa Fire Fighters, and various Chambers of Commerce.
Ableser went on to state that “between Azscam, alt fuels, Fiesta Bowl, FBI sting – between all that stuff, in my opinion, I think no candidate should ever take money from a lobbyist because they have their own self interest and not the community interest at heart.”
No candidate, except for Ed Ableser.
Ed Ableser is the epitome of why so many are turned off by politics and become cynics. Should he prevail in his race against Lewis, it will be another example one can point to as evidence of a broken system, of why faith in democracy all too often devolves into apathy.
This is the guy that, according to the Capitol Times (subscription required), defended missing a stunning 432 votes the last two sessions by proclaiming that going down to the Capitol was a “waste of time and energy” because the legislature was a “mockery” that he refused to “participate in.” He maintained that his time was better “spent better working with my constituents.”
A few months later, after his part-time hours at the part-time Legislature became a campaign issue, Ableser self-righteously claimed his absences were due to his wife’s pregnancy in 2011, along with babysitting and trips to the doctor’s office. Nevermind that he’s hardly the only member of the Legislature with young children, and that the son-in-law of a US Senator could probably afford a babysitter now and then. His “babysitter” defense was nowhere to be found when the Capitol Times asked him about his missed votes a few months ago. Only after he saw some polls he didn’t like did he feel the need to drag his young family into the campaign.
There’s just a little over a week left before Election Day. We can only hope that after that, as Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said, Ableser goes away. 100% away, not just 60% away.