Addendum: The Congressional District 1 Democratic Primary Just Got Stranger

This blog typically has pretty good takes. We’re not 100% correct, but we have a solid track record. So when attack ads against three of the top four challengers in the Democratic primary to unseat Representative David Schweikert go out but we can’t find one against the fourth (and that fourth is VERY well funded), well…it’s not hard to point out a likely culprit (read the entire story here). But this story has gotten significantly weirder, and the most likely culprit may not be that at all.

First, a representative of the O’Callaghan campaign reached out to us and denied their involvement in those attack ads. They pointed their fingers at the two other candidates in the primary, Andrew Horne and Kurt Kroemer. But both are significantly lagging in fundraising (Horne is nearly completely dependent on money he loaned to his campaign, and about half of Kroemer’s haul is a loan), and are political outsiders. Those factors combined make it unlikely that they would have the connections to make that happen.

Granted, the representative of the campaign could certainly be lying through their teeth; nothing new in politics. And recent ads from O’Callaghan that directly mirror the intent of that billboard are unwise if you didn’t want to be known as the culprit.

Is that proof of guilt? Absolutely not. But it is certainly using the same messaging, linking both to Trump and being anti-abortion.

When a citizen reached out to Democracy Rising, the group whose name is listed as the “Paid for by” for those ads, the director of the group denied putting them up. And since Democracy Rising has not filed any campaign finance reports, meaning that it is not spending in these races (or is being negligent), there is nothing we can glean from it.

We also reached out to Maria Perez from Democracy Rising. Her statement? “Our organization has nothing to do with these ads. Someone in AZ is using our name without consent for political ads. Our legal team is looking into this.” Wow.

However, this is where the story potentially turns very, very strange. Recently, Marlene Woods was the subject of television attack ads hammering her on supposed past views of abortion. They were paid for by a group named “Turn AZ Blue PAC”. The problem? The Turn AZ Blue PAC never registered with the FEC and never filed any campaign finance reports declaring the expenditure, both obvious campaign finance violations. The ads were paid for in cash, which is highly, highly unusual.

Come to find out, the treasurer of the group is a man named Thomas Datwyler, a prolific Republican campaign treasurer who recently worked with George Santos, the group that fed money to the Cyber Ninjas in their quixotic bid to find issues in our elections, and which has a long history of campaign finance violations. It has all the appearances of a Republican operation in a Democratic primary.

So is “Democracy Rising” simply the next iteration of “Turn AZ Blue”? A shady Republican-funded PAC meant to make all of the strong Democratic candidates look bad? Did they simply use a generic name that was already taken? It’s looking extremely possible.

In the end, we have more questions than answers. If the O’Callaghan campaign didn’t indirectly coordinate these attacks, then we apologize for implying that (and recommend that they stop using the same line of attack if they truly want to distance themselves from it). But we must conclude that there’s a very real chance that Republican operatives are slinging mud and making very muddy waters in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District Democratic primary.