Arizona GOP pledges to stop Mark Kelly ‘dead in his tracks’
PHOENIX – Kelli Ward, chair of the Arizona Republican Party, said in a fundraising email sent to supporters Thursday evening that together, “we’ll stop gun-grabber Mark Kelly dead in his tracks.”
Kelly, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, is the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who survived a Jan. 8, 2011, mass shooting at one of her constituent events near Tucson. Six people were killed; another 12 were wounded.
Giffords is paralyzed on the right side of her body, suffers from a speaking disorder and has partial vision loss. After that mass-shooting tragedy and others that have followed, Kelly, a retired NASA astronaut, raised his voice in support of what he calls common-sense gun controls.
Both Kelly and Giffords are gun owners.
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“This dangerous rhetoric has absolutely no place in Arizona and is what’s wrong with our politics,” said Jacob Peters, a spokesman for Kelly’s campaign. “Mark Kelly is running for Senate to overcome this type of nasty divisiveness that does nothing for Arizonans.”
Kelly faces no competitive challenger for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 Senate seat. He is expected to face Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz.
Ward’s message raises the issue of gun rights, historically a winner with conservatives, but a move that polling suggests could play badly with independents and suburban voters in 2020.
The state Republican Party’s fundraising email also took aim at Giffords’ PAC, the political action committee formed by the couple to help candidates who advocate for gun control. The PAC spent nearly $7 million in the last election cycle.
Ward defended the fundraising email on Twitter and slammed media coverage as “Utterly ridiculous!”
She wrote Friday morning, “I don’t wish harm on Mr. Kelly. We disagree politically on the Constitution and the #2a, and I’m well aware of the harm his policies would cause should he ever be elected.”
Ward, a two-time unsuccessful candidate for the Senate, has faced harsh criticism for her public statements before. Last year, for example, she implied via social media posts that the family of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., timed the announcement about his ending treatment for brain cancer to harm her Senate campaign.
The senator died Aug. 25, 2018, just a few days before Arizona’s Aug. 28 primary election.
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Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., called Ward’s remarks “disgusting” in a Twitter post. He said McSally should call on Ward to resign.
McSally was not immediately available for comment.
Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., defended Ward on Twitter and accused the media of overblowing her choice of words.
“Differentiating between idioms, slang, analogies and metaphors from statement of facts is learned in child hood. For supposed adults to feign ignorance” about Ward’s use of the phrase “is a demonstration of ignorance. Ignore #FakeNews and it’s handmaidens of stupid outrage.”
Follow Yvonne Wingett Sanchez on Twitter: @yvonnewingett