Campaign workers for Jim Pederson, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, say state Republican Party workers are engaging in “bush league” tactics to undermine Pederson’s campaign.
Republicans posted their own political signs above, below and in front of Pederson’s campaign signs on major street corners in Scottsdale and Phoenix during the weekend.
On some corners, the Republican signs obscure the bottom of Pederson’s signs, which provide his campaign Internet address, www.pederson2006.com. The Republican-made signs proclaim, “Liberal Agenda, Supports Amnesty.”
Arizona Republican Party chairman Matt Salmon approved the signs, which party spokesman Garrick Taylor said are a legitimate voter education effort.
“It’s just a simple, yet effective way of telling passers-by and potential voters of some of the distortions that the Pederson campaign is attempting to put forth,” he said.
Pederson campaign officials are checking into whether some of the signs are posted illegally. Republican signs that are physically attached to the Pederson signs may violate municipal sign laws, said Kevin Griffis, Pederson campaign spokesman.
Regardless, the signs mischaracterize Pederson and his stand on immigration, Griffis said. “This is more or less tactics you would see in a City Council race. It’s bush league.”
It’s typical negative campaigning, said Arizona State University assistant professor of communication Kelly McDonald. “Clearly, if it’s engineered to blend in and is being tactically deployed around these other signs, it is sort of a dirty trick,” he said.
The “Liberal Agenda” portion of the Republican signs is in response to Pederson’s first two TV commercials, Taylor said. In those commercials, Pederson states, “I’ll be an independent senator who gets results and puts the people of Arizona ahead of party politics.”
Taylor said the label is justified because Pederson, a shopping center developer and former state Democratic Party chairman, has financially supported causes and candidates who Taylor says represent the far left wing of the Democratic Party.
In rebuttal, Griffis said the label is a “tired” Republican ploy that paints all Democrats as caricatures of extreme liberal ideologues.
“The people of Arizona have had four years of Democratic leadership in the form of Governor (Janet) Napolitano. People know what an Arizona Democrat is. It means pragmatic, problem-solving. It means finding consensus, bringing people together,” he said.
The “Supports Amnesty” portion of the Republican signs is not based on Pederson’s immigration policy, Taylor said, but instead refers to a statement Pederson made during an interview on KTAR (620 AM) on April 8.
According to a transcript posted on the Republican Party’s Web site, Pederson said:
“Senator Kyl, you know, (has been) back there for 20 years. And this isn’t a problem that has crept up on us over the last two or three years. It’s been going on for 20 years. The last effective measure that we had, that passed Congress, was in 1986 — 20 years ago. And people like Senator Kyl have sat back there and done nothing.”
The Republicans interpreted that to mean Pederson supports amnesty, Taylor said.
Pederson was discussing the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, signed by President Ronald Reagan, a Republican. It granted citizenship to 2.7 million of the 6 million illegal immigrants living in the United States at that time. Other measures in the act, which were intended to reduce immigration, failed to stop in influx of illegal immigrants.
Griffis, who sat in on the Pederson radio interview, said Pederson clearly explained his belief that 1986 bill was the last time illegal immigration was looked at in a comprehensive way.
Griffis said, “He is not for amnesty. He never has been for amnesty and they are just taking this wildly out of context.”
Pederson’s immigration plan, available on his Web site, is similar to the Senate bill cosponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.
The plans call for illegal immigrants to pay fines, undergo background checks, pay back taxes and learn English and U.S. civics to apply for citizenship.
In most regards, Pederson’s plan is similar to a bill cosponsored by his opponent, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
The key difference is that Pederson’s proposal would allow illegal immigrants to apply for legal status from within the United States, while Kyl’s bill would require them to first return to their home countries to apply.
McDonald, an expert in political communication, said the Republican signs are designed to appeal to the conservative right-wing base of the Republican Party.
“Amnesty in some ways violates our fundamental sense of fair play and running that as a negative issue will get people’s ire up,” he said.
Pederson workers said they have no intention of moving their signs away from any legally placed Republican attack signs. “If they have the signs up and they are their own freestanding signs, those are fine — childish, but fine,” Griffis said.