If there's one single quality that former U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Wendy Rogers has in spades, it's moxie.
One of six hopefuls in the GOP primary for the open seat in Arizona's First Congressional District, Rogers came out swinging from day one of her campaign, bloodying the nose of the putative front-runner, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.
So far, Rogers has been the only Republican CD1 contender willing to delve into the scandals that have dogged Babeu, such as those that kneecapped his 2012 bid for the GOP nod in Arizona's Fourth Congressional District — allegations that he oversaw systemic abuses while headmaster of Massachusetts' DeSisto School for troubled teens from 1999 to 2001, that he posted half-naked pics of himself to the pornographic gay pickup site Adam4Adam.com, and that he threatened to have his former lover deported if the Mexican immigrant didn't keep quiet about Babeu's then-closeted sexuality.
Rogers has hammered Babeu on these issues in candidate forums and campaign press releases, which likely explains a recent mass e-mail from the Babeu camp accusing Rogers of wanting to eliminate Social Security.
The e-mail, sent by Babeu spokesman Barrett Marson (who also works as the flack for the recreational pot initiative on Arizona's ballot this fall), slams Rogers as a perennial candidate for Congress and an "extremist" for the views on Social Security she espoused at a candidates' forum in 2012.
"Is Social Security constitutional? No," Rogers said in response to a question. "Should it be phased out? I'd like to see it phased out."
Lest there be any doubt, Marson's e-mail links to a video clip of the statement.
At the time, Rogers was running in the GOP primary for CD9, in which she wound up placing second behind former Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker, who went on to lose by a narrow margin to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.
What Marson doesn't mention is that Babeu endorsed Rogers in her 2014 run for Congress, in CD9, in which she lost to Sinema in the general election. Nor does he put Rogers' quote into context.
Here's the full quote, transcribed from a video of Rogers' entire appearance, available on YouTube:
"Is Social Security constitutional? No. Should it be phased out? I'd like to see it phased out. If it can't be phased out, I'd like to see private options. I know how to invest my money. If I want to have the government do it, OK. But I shouldn't be forced to have the government invest it. Because they don't do a very good job."
That view wouldn't fly in a Democratic primary. But this was a GOP primary, and Rogers was answering questions at the East Valley Liberty Caucus, a conservative group where such opinions are anything but taboo. Yet Rogers took a lot of heat at the time from the mainstream press.
And judging from the current statement on her campaign website about Social Security, her views have evolved.
"We need to act now to preserve and strengthen Social Security," reads the statement on the "Issues" page of Rogers' website. "Congress has refused to act because it would require tough political choices. However, we all want the same thing: we want Social Security to be there when we need it. This will require an American solution, not a partisan one. I would work with my colleagues to come up with a solution to keep Social Security financially stable for the future."
Babeu's attack is significant. Rogers recently announced the endorsements of two of the sheriff's sisters, who contend that their brother isn't fit to serve in Congress. The endorsements garnered Rogers media coverage and continued her tactic of drawing as much blood as possible from Babeu, who'll need to pull about 20 percent of the vote to win the crowded primary.
If Rogers manages to shave even a point or two from Babeu, it could cost him the election. Early voting starts a week from now, ending on primary day, August 30. So Babeu has to be biting his nails every time Rogers lays into him.
Babeu's latest attack on Rogers gives her campaign an excuse to blast him in response, which it did by releasing a video of Rogers discussing Social Security and how the program might be in trouble. In a juicier vein, Rogers' campaign issued this stinging rebuke:
Paul Babeu is hypocritically attacking Wendy Rogers because his campaign is in a tailspin.For the record, none of the racy pics of Babeu that have been published show him "buck naked." But his profile on Adam4Adam.com did describe his penis (7", cut), and as New Times revealed, he sent out a cheesy selfie of himself in his underwear and at least one dick pic to a man he believed at the time that he'd never met. (It was actually his ex, Orozco, who was corresponding with him under an assumed identity, in order to prove Babeu was cheating on him.)
Let's review: Babeu is under FBI investigation for using RICO funds for his campaign. He threatened his illegal immigrant lover with deportation. He posted buck naked photos of himself on a gay dating website. He was forced to flee Massachusetts because the school where he was headmaster, was investigated for rampant child abuse. And, two of his sisters endorsed Wendy Rogers for Congress. Paul Babeu can try to run a campaign of distractions, but the reality is his campaign is a massive joke and Democrats are salivating to see him in the general election where he’ll lose in spectacular fashion.
There's not much time left to chip away at Babeu's GOP support. As I wrote in a column last week, if some PAC or dark money group fails to bankroll a ton of negative publicity to remind voters about Babeu's scandalous past, he might walk away with a primary win on name recognition alone.
After that, all that would stand between him and the U.S. House of Representatives would be a general election in a toss-up district. That's a daunting prospect when the candidate in question is an amoral scalawag.