One of the few things two Scottsdale candidates for state senator can agree on is that the race between them is already getting ugly. The contest pits two Republicans who represent District 8, which consists of Fountain Hills and most of Scottsdale.
Rep. Colette Rosati wants to take Sen. Carolyn Allen’s seat in the September primary. Though never before directly campaigning against each other, the lawmakers have long been opponents.
“They do not personally care for each other very much,” said Rep. Michele Reagan, a Republican who also represents District 8. “There’s been a lot of bomb throwing from one side to the other and there’s bound to be hurt feelings.”
Because Scottsdale and Fountain Hills are made up mostly of Republican voters, the primary races often decide the winner of District 8.
Much of the campaigning at this early stage is delivered in biting comments passed through supporters. Rosati has expressed doubts about Allen’s health, Reagan said, as the senator battles with severe arthritis that has noticeably contorted her hands.
In turn, Allen has openly questioned Rosati’s intellectual capacity.
First elected as a representative in 1994, Allen has risen to chairwoman of the Senate’s health committee.
Among the political cartoons and paintings of desert landscapes that hang on the walls of Allen’s office is a framed campaign ad bearing pictures of Democratic stalwarts.
The ad — featuring Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and perennial candidate Al Sharpton — alleges that Allen is linked ideologically to the political left. Allen said she hung the ad, which was used against her when she ran for re-election two years ago, as a joke.
She acknowledged being a centrist, but the two-term senator dismissed the idea that such a label warrants her excommunication from the GOP.
She does not, however, dismiss the person who distributed the ad — Rosati.
She argues that Arizonans deserve low taxes, but votes against tax cuts that extend far into the future. “I can’t support that because there seems to be an attitude here . . . that there’s no end to the good times,” she said. “I’ve seen (the economy) go up, I’ve seen it go down.”
Allen supports abortion rights. She is a Christian, but resents the increased power that fundamentalist Christians have assumed within the GOP.
“The drift to the fringe is very, very harmful. People like my husband and my friends are becoming independents because they are unhappy that the party has gone so far to the right,” Allen said.
About Rosati, Allen has said: “She does not conduct herself as what I was taught, as a good Southern Baptist girl at my mother’s knee, of what a Christian is.”
To Rosati, the party is not drifting, but adhering to its core beliefs.
The two-term representative has built a reputation as a stringently right-wing lawmaker and has won praise from the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank, and the Arizona Federation of Taxpayers. In her view, taxes should not be just low, but minuscule.
She also believes the U.S.-Mexico border must be secured to stop “foreign invaders” and that abortion is immoral and should be illegal.
“Here’s my opponent, voting with all the Democrats,” Rosati said during an interview last month, while pointing at a report that criticized opponents of an extensive tax cut proposal. “These are Carolyn’s friends.”
Rosati is known to be a tough campaigner whose worst barbs are directed at fellow Republicans who are guilty, in her opinion, of straying from the party’s principals.
Running against Reagan and Royce Flora, Rosati — then a first-time candidate in the 2004 primary — sent an e-mail to supporters that insinuated something unseemly was behind the fact that Flora did not have children.
Rosati expressed remorse for the comment through her campaign consultant after Flora made it known that his wife had suffered three miscarriages, cancer and a hysterectomy.
Despite the misstep, Rosati beat Flora, winning reelection along with Reagan.
Allen also won re-election handily that year over Robert Ditchey, a more conservative but less experienced candidate. Rosati actively supported Ditchey.
Rosati does much of her campaigning at churches, at times drawing ire from the faithful for mixing religion and politics. Nonetheless, the tactic has worked.
But it will be a challenge to grow her political base enough to unseat Allen, political observers said.
Nathan Sproul, former head of the state Republican Party and a leader of the GOP’s national voter registration drive in 2004, said he is endorsing Allen despite their differences on issues like abortion.
“I would be surprised if they don’t keep sending her back as long as she wants to go back,” said Sproul, who is managing Republican Len Munsil’s campaign for governor.
He cited Allen’s skill at legislating as the deciding factor behind his endorsement.
“You pretty much have two opposites running against each other,” Reagan said. “And they’re both very feisty. That’s a combination that’s going to make for an interesting race.”