Former state attorney general Grant Woods led a contingent of high-profile Republicans who publicly endorsed Democratic candidate Harry Mitchell for U.S. Congress on Friday. Mitchell is trying to unseat six-term Republican incumbent J.D. Hayworth in Arizona’s Fifth Congressional District.
While cross-party endorsements are fairly common political gimmicks, the development was remarkable because of the stature and number of those involved.
Mitchell’s campaign touted GOP endorsements of Woods, plus former Tempe mayors Neil Giuliano, John Moeur and Bill LoPiano, former Scottsdale Mayor Sam Campana, former state Senate President Leo Corbet and others.
During a news conference at Mitchell’s campaign headquarters, Woods freely and repeatedly broke Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican.”
Woods called Hayworth an idealogue who creates more problems than he solves.
“I’ve never seen any real discussion that anyone would have with J.D. Hayworth. It’s him doing his Foghorn Leghorn impression to an empty crowd on the floor of the House of Representatives. It’s not what we need,” Woods said in comparing Hayworth to a Looney Tunes cartoon rooster who speaks with a Southern accent.
“His rhetoric on immigration, in particular, is hurtful,” Woods said.
Hayworth has been an outspoken advocate for a House measure that would increase enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The measure, unlike the Senate version that was cosponsored by Republican Sen. John McCain and supported by President Bush, would not create a temporary worker status for foreign workers, nor offer a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already living in the United States.
Hayworth’s campaign manager Todd Sommers said the endorsement was no surprise because Woods served as Mitchell’s defense attorney when Mitchell faced criminal charges in connection with removing signs posted by a political opponent in 2000.
Woods won the case based on the argument that the opponent’s signs, which altered Mitchell’s campaign signs, failed to meet the technical definition of a campaign sign. Political signs are a protected form of free speech.
Giuliano credited Mitchell, who also served as a mayor of Tempe, for his values.
“As a moderate Republican, I would rather have a moderate Democrat in office than an extreme, far-right Republican,” Giuliano said in a statement.
Arizona’s Fifth Congressional District includes Scottsdale, Tempe, Fountain Hills, Ahwatukee Foothills, Rio Verde, plus parts of Mesa, Chandler and Phoenix.