House races

RACE OF THE DAY — Ariz.-08

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s (D-Ariz.) opponent has made illegal immigration a central issue in his campaign, which earned him an endorsement from a controversial advocacy group.

Republican Jesse Kelly is backed by Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC), an advocacy group based in Raleigh, N.C., that, according to its website, “supports candidates who oppose any amnesty plan that would eventually make illegal immigrants voters.”

It’s an issue that’s likely to be raised when Kelly and Giffords meet in their first of two debates Monday night.

After the group endorsed J.D. Hayworth during his primary challenge to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), McCain’s campaign noted the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has raised questions about ALIPAC and complained in 2009 that it “disseminates its message with virulent, anti-immigrant rhetoric.”

In a March statement, McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said the group is “is backed by white supremacists, neo-Nazis and anti-Semites.”

A spokesman for ALIPAC said McCain and ADL were “political opponents” making “false” statements.

“ALIPAC has constantly fought to recruit more support from legal immigrants, tried to represent the views of most legal immigrants, and has made the constant clarification of concerns being directed at illegal immigration,” William Gheen, the group’s president, said in a statement posted online.

Kelly said the endorsement and the McCain campaign’s statements about the group were being exploited by Democrats.

“It is despicable of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to
exploit such a serious issue in their desperate attempt to distract the
voters from Giffords’ record of bankrupting America and forcing
Obamacare on Arizona,” Kelly said in a statement to The Hill.

Kelly is a 29-year-old former Marine who served in the Iraq war. He’s never before sought public office. During the campaign, he’s called for the construction of a double-layer fence along the Mexican border, the hiring of more Border Patrol agents and the deployment of 10,000 National Guard troops to the border region.

“Gabrielle Giffords has betrayed southern Arizona by refusing to secure the border,” he told the Arizona Republic in March. 

Giffords, meanwhile, has made solar energy her signature issue.

The two-term Democrat sponsored the Solar Technology Roadmap Act, which passed the House last year and increases federal funding for solar projects. She also helped secure a $1.5 billion federal loan guarantee to enable construction of Arizona’s largest solar-power-generation plant, near Gila Bend, according to the Republic.

Polls show the race virtually tied, giving added weight to the first candidates debate, set for Monday night at the University of Arizona Student Union Grand Ballroom. Libertarian Party candidate Steven Stoltz will also appear in the debate.

Both candidates had strong third-quarter fundraising numbers. Giffords raised $700,000 from July through September, while Kelly raised about $535,000 during the same period.

–Updated at 10:50 a.m., 5:51 p.m., 9:28 p.m. and 11:38 p.m.

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