Arizona GOP Senate Hopeful Paid Big Bucks for Super Bowl Ad, But Critics Say it Missed the Mark

In a screen capture from Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Jim Lamon's most recent political TV ad, he returns fire on Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Mark Kelly.
In a screen capture from Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Jim Lamon's most recent political TV ad, he returns fire on Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Mark Kelly. Jim Lamon for Senate

Retired energy industry executive Jim Lamon is banking that Super Bowl fans this weekend will be inspired to cast votes for him at the polls in August.

Lamon is a former CEO for DEPCOM, a Scottsdale-based utility-scale solar company that has grown to several hundred workers over the years. Before that, Lamon worked in the coal and natural gas-fired power plant industry.

The Republican who lives in Fountain Hills is gunning for a seat in the U.S. Senate, seeking to oust the incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Kelly.

Lamon is among several prominent Republicans who submitted false information trying to certify Arizona's November 2020 election results in favor of Donald Trump. He even bankrolled efforts related to the election audit security detail and has bragged about pushing Karen Fann, a key Republican state senator to move forward with the partisan election audit in Maricopa County.

Lamon is using political theater for attention with a polarizing 30-second long campaign ad that NBC will show Arizonans watching the Super Bowl. The advertisement package cost the campaign "upwards of six figures," according to the campaign's manager Stephen Puetz.

It is expected to run on Tucson's NBC station on Sunday during the football game and then would be broadcast statewide on Sunday night.

The Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams will compete for the Super Bowl's big prize, the Lombardi Trophy this weekend.

But Lamon is already being shot down by critics on social media, some of whom he was hoping would become his constituents.

In the advertisement, Lamon is the sheriff and hero on the set of a "spaghetti western-style" movie scene where he pursues a gun battle with top-ranking Democrats, including Mark Kelly. 

One local political campaign executive criticized the advertisement for missing the mark with voters.

“It’s embarrassing, desperate, and cringeworthy all in one,” Barrett Marson, a long-time bipartisan campaign strategist in Phoenix, told Phoenix New Times.

Super Bowl fans might catch just a half-minute glimpse of the advertisement between plays. Avid supporters and critics alike may watch the 70-second-long clip campaign organizers described as the "directors cut" afterward.

Lamon garnered $600,000 of individual donations for his campaign, upwards of $10 million from his own coffers, and has spent $1 million each month since his bid for office began.

The Super Bowl ad is one of his biggest investments so far.

“The only candidates with the resources to afford Super Bowl ads are statewide campaigns,” said Ben Petersen, the Republican National Convention’s Arizona representative.

It was not immediately clear if any other state-level office campaigns in Arizona — eight in all — are running an advertisement during the Super Bowl.

Lamon promised to spend $50 million by Election Day.

His campaign manager, Puetz, called Lamon’s commercial a “one-of-a-kind campaign ad.”

The Lamon campaign has spent nearly $1 million on TV advertisements each month.

Last month, Yahoo rejected a different video ad campaign, calling it “overly inflammatory and offensive.” That commercial featured the emergent GOP slogan, “Let’s Go, Brandon,” a play on “Fuck Joe Biden.”

But NBC welcomed this ad with open arms.

In the ad, Lamon plays himself as “Big Jim Lamon,” the altruistic Wild West sheriff who saves the good people of Arizona from the unholy Washington D.C. Gang in a Hollywood-esque quick-draw duel.

The U.S.-Mexico border security debate is center stage. 

The D.C. gang is made up of a trio of bandits – Old Joe, Crazyface Pelosi, and Shifty Kelly – caricatures of President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Arizona Senator Kelly.

In a brazen act of valor, a revolver-wielding Lamon disarms the gang with three gunshots.

Mark Kelly’s wife, Gabby Giffords, a former congresswoman from Arizona, was shot in the head in 2011 during an assassination attempt near Tucson. It ended her career.

“I’d advise NBC to nix that ad because it outright promotes violence against a sitting U.S. senator who had already seen his wife survive an assassination attempt,” Marson, the political strategist said. 

Response to the ad on Twitter drew quick criticism for the joke in poor taste. 

Twitter activists tagged NBC, the NFL, and even the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service to stop the commercial before it airs.

“That you would produce an ad like this in that context is just sick,” Bill Prady, a television producer and longtime friend of Kelly and Giffords, told Lamon on Twitter. “It verges on being truly evil.”

Adam Parkhomenko, a Democrat strategist in D.C., called the campaign a “gross violent ad from a would-be domestic terrorist.”

And Brian Murray, the former executive director of the Arizona Republican Party, dubbed Lamon's ad his "most pathetic" yet.

“The thing this ad does show is that Lamon is desperate for attention,” Marson said.

According to nonpartisan D.C. think tank Race to the WH, Kelly is a three-point favorite in the midterm race for senator. But it’s almost too close to call, analysts noted.

For Lamon, the cost of a Super Bowl ad is pocket change.

And his campaign manager stands by the ad, sniping back at Twitter accounts like the Pima County Democrats that likened the ad to “murder.”

“The campaign was very cognizant of the controversy and in the ad,” Puetz told New Times. “The D.C. gang draws on Jim Lamon first and he simply disarms them.”
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Elias Weiss is a staff writer at the Phoenix New Times. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, he reported first for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and was editor of the Chatham Star-Tribune in Southern Virginia, where he covered politics and law. In 2020, the Virginia Press Association awarded him first place in the categories of Government Writing and Breaking News Writing for non-daily newspapers statewide.
Contact: Elias Weiss