Watch: The Worst Campaign Ads of Arizona's 2018 Primary Season

State Senator Steve Farley delivers policy briefs over pizza, according to this campaign ad.
State Senator Steve Farley delivers policy briefs over pizza, according to this campaign ad. Steve Farley/YouTube

A brutal, tumultuous primary season in Arizona is finally careening toward a finish, with the August 28 election less than two weeks away.

Candidates are making their final pitch to voters, urging Arizonans to send them to the general election while throwing elbows at other politicians in the process.

The feuds have intensified. Attack ads have gotten nastier. Candidates and political action committees are hurling money around in an attempt to capture internet eyeballs and prime-time television viewers.

Some ads are staid and boring. Others are memorable, mostly for how terrible they are. So, let's examine a few of the most ill-conceived, poorly shot, or just all-around awful commercials of the 2018 election season in Arizona. 

Steve Farley

click to enlarge State Senator Steve Farley delivers policy briefs over pizza, according to this campaign ad. - STEVE FARLEY/YOUTUBE
State Senator Steve Farley delivers policy briefs over pizza, according to this campaign ad.
Steve Farley/YouTube
This one's easy.

State Senator Steve Farley, a Democrat from Tucson who is running for governor, has pitched himself as an ideas guy – the glasses-wearing wonk who can turn Arizona around. And in this cringeworthy ad, Farley leans into the nerd persona, surrounded by enthusiastic staffers (actors?) who cheer him on.

Farley chucks a stack of papers onto a conference table, exclaiming that he's found corporate tax loopholes we can close. Thrilling! While munching on a slice of pizza by the water cooler, Farley waxes poetic about the benefits of banning dark money in politics. And in front of a PowerPoint slide, Farley claims to have found a novel solution to Arizona's education budget bind that doesn't require a tax hike.

People in the room jump to their feet in a standing ovation. One guy rips his shirt open in excitement, revealing a campaign T-shirt underneath.

"Steve Farley for governor," the narrator says. "Boring has never been so exciting."

Perhaps, but it might also be extremely awkward.

Joe Arpaio

Joe Arpaio's campaign for the U.S. Senate is many things: an improbable comeback run by a candidate Maricopa County voters rejected in 2016. One last zombie campaign from a former sheriff who can't relinquish the media spotlight he craves. A months-long paean to President Trump, who saved Arpaio from a contempt of court verdict — the result of a case where Arpaio was found guilty of contempt for failing to obey a court order to stop racially profiling Latinos.

But watching this ad, the only word that comes to mind is pathetic.

Arpaio looks worn out and defeated, staring blankly into the camera. He is slumped at his desk, clutching a custom-made microphone that bears his name. A tinkly piano version of "America the Beautiful" plays quietly in the background.

It's a terrible look for a guy who has struggled to answer policy questions that go beyond his support of Trump and his record as sheriff – to say nothing of the mounting evidence that points to Arpaio's mental decline. (Last week, Phoenix New Times' Ray Stern wrote about Arpaio's waning mental capacity in light of his Senate campaign.)

In this ad, 86-year-old Arpaio pledges to dedicate "the remaining years of my life to continue to fight."

His voice barely registers as more than a gravelly whisper.  "I need six more years to complete my mission," Arpaio says.

Kelli Ward

File this ad to the Willie Horton category.

Republican Senate candidate Kelli Ward hits her more establishment-minded opponent, Congresswoman Martha McSally, and outgoing Arizona Senator Jeff Flake for supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The ad delivers a series of alarming claims about crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

"Heinous crimes committed by illegals who were protected by Obama's DACA program," the narrator intones. "Rape. Murder. Two young girls killed in a deadly hit-and-run."

And although the ad notes that "every DACA recipient isn't a criminal," the ad urges Flake and McSally to support the construction of the border wall. It ends on grainy footage of people clambering on top of a freight train, evoking Trump's hair-raising statements about a caravan of migrants headed to the U.S. border.

David Garcia

In this ad, gubernatorial candidate David Garcia invites viewers, "Come walk with me." The camera follows the Democratic frontrunner hoping to unseat Republican Governor Doug Ducey as Garcia makes unbreaking eye contact with the viewer.

It's a slickly produced ad. But if you're the type of person for whom too much eye contact is awkward, this commercial is not for you.

"Governor Ducey's corrupt reign is wrecking our state," Garcia says, striding down the sidewalk. "We're gonna put an end to it and create an economy that works for all of us." At this point in the ad, many viewers have probably changed the channel to escape Garcia's steely gaze. 

(Bonus points if you spot political consultant Bill Scheel of the local firm Javelina among a crowd of earnest Garcia supporters.)

Kelly Townsend

State Representative Kelly Townsend's re-election ad starts off normally enough.

Townsend, a Mesa Republican who represents District 16, describes her personal history as a widowed mother of three adult children and a Navy veteran. The Capitol building is visible in the background.

But then the ad cuts to a distracting shot of Townsend at nearby Wesley Bolin Plaza, where she appears to caress a stone slab carved with the text of the Second Amendment. Townsend seems deep in thought. She nods slowly, seemingly considering the significance of the American right to keep and bear arms.

Why include this bizarre shot in an otherwise perfectly serviceable ad? Only her producers could tell you.

Kyrsten Sinema

Another awkward one.

Democratic Congresswoman and Senate frontrunner Kyrsten Sinema appears with her brother, Paul, who informs viewers that he's a police officer.

"She's my little sis," he says.

"And he's my big, bad Marine brother," Sinema says, giving him a playful punch on the shoulder.

"She's real headstrong," he says.

"I call it being independent," Sinema responds.

Are these the kind of quips the Sinema siblings deliver off-camera? Probably not. A good ad to demonstrate Sinema's support for law enforcement and veterans – less convincing as an acting reel for the Sinema family.

Doug Ducey

In this Doug Ducey campaign ad, the incumbent Republican governor claims that "it took an outsider, a businessman not afraid to shake things up" to pump up Arizona's economy and increase school funding.

But it's hard to find anything new or exciting in Ducey's re-election messaging, which is as bland and uninspiring as the former Cold Stone Creamery executive himself.

In this ad, there's plenty of footage of Ducey meeting regular folks – stock campaign imagery which could have been culled from literally every other candidate running on jobs and education.

And like other Ducey re-election ads, this commercial harps on the governor's Border Strike Force. The governor's border security partnership dovetails with his campaign slogan, "Securing Arizona's Future."

As far as slogans go, Ducey's motto is completely unspecific. What does it mean to secure Arizona's future? From what nebulous threat does the future need to be made secure? Ducey certainly isn't telling us in this ad.

David Stringer

State Representative David Stringer, who recently made headlines for his racist comments lamenting a critical lack of "white kids" in Arizona schools, posted this ad on YouTube less than a month after the controversy.

The ad is a low-budget production fit for public access TV in which the Republican legislator claims that his first term at the Capitol was productive. Stringer boasts that he "championed traditional family values" and "led the fight for criminal justice reform."

The fact that Stringer is up for re-election flies in the face of people like the governor and the chairman of the Arizona GOP, who have called for Stringer's resignation.

There are worse ads out there, but this one makes the list simply because Stringer is running at all.

Irina Baroness von Behr

In case you missed it, a self-proclaimed member of old-world royalty is running in Congressional District 9.

Irina Baroness von Behr claims to hail from a family of Czechoslovakian nobility on her mother's side. "I am the last surviving member of my family on both sides," her website says. "That is how I inherited my title and family name and that is why I hold onto it so dearly."

Her ad is truly bizarre.

We don't hear von Behr's voice at all. Instead, viewers get a narrator praising von Behr over a slideshow in which von Behr poses for photos with a remarkable cast of characters, including Governor Ducey and disgraced former congressman Trent Franks.

Inexplicably, the slideshow also includes a photo of the son of the deposed shah of Iran.

Von Behr's positions, according to her website, include establishing a national lottery to fund the construction of the border wall, combatting human trafficking, improving cyber-security, and preventing the establishment of Sharia in the United States. (Her website also features videos like "The Video About Sharia Law Youtube Keeps Taking Down.")

In 2016, von Behr ran for Tempe City Council, finishing in last place. Her competitors in the CD9 Republican primary are Steve Ferrara and Dave Giles.

Von Behr is hoping for an upset victory on August 28 so she can claim the title of congresswoman in addition to the mantle of baroness.
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Joseph Flaherty is a staff writer at New Times. Originally from Wisconsin, he is a graduate of Middlebury College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Contact: Joseph Flaherty