The race to become Arizona's first new U.S. senator in nearly two decades is getting heated.
Locked in a primary clash, Republicans Jeff Flake and Wil Cardon are accusing each other of being dishonest with voters.
Flake, a six-term Congressman who polls show is the front-runner in the race, is also taking shots from Democrats and their presumptive nominee, Richard Carmona of Tucson.
Carmona, a former U.S. surgeon general, doesn't have a primary opponent now that Don Bivens has dropped out of the race.
"lot of material to use"
Cardon has aired Web, TV and radio ads this year about Flake's stances on immigration reform, his taxpayer-funded travels and his flip-flopping on issues. Flake's campaign usually issued just short statements in response, but this week it launched a series of "fact checks" about Cardon's comments.
"Wil Cardon is not being honest with the voters of Arizona," said Andrew Wilder, Flake's spokesman. "We've only begun this series of fact checks. Wil likes to talk a lot; he's given us a lot material to use."
The Flake campaign released an audio recording from October of Cardon saying he doesn't believe in self-funding candidates. Cardon has put $4.2 million of his own money into the campaign, and the Flake campaign has accused him of trying to use his inheritance to buy the election.
Cardon has raised $706,725 from outside sources, which is less than Flake and Carmona raised in the first quarter of 2012.
"I've always felt that one of the best tests of if you are viable candidate is if people are willing to support you," Flake said earlier this year.
Cardon, a Mesa businessman, has said he's willing to invest in his campaign because he's done well in the private sector, and he needs to make up ground in name recognition.
"Times are tough here in Arizona and many folks can't give huge amounts to candidates," Cardon's spokeswoman, Katie Martin, said this week.
A second fact-check ad questions Cardon's claims that he was never on Flake's Senate finance committee. Flake's campaign sent emails showing Cardon agreed in February to have his and his wife's names printed on a list committee members. Martin would not comment on the claim.
Cardon used to donate money to Flake's congressional campaigns but has not done so since 2007.
Flake's campaign has also brought up comments made by Cardon that sounded as if he wasn't convinced President Obama was a U.S. citizen. But Martin said that is simply not true.
"I can assure you that Wil Cardon believes President Obama was duly elected to the office of the president because he is a citizen of this country," she said in an emailed statement.
Cardon attacks Flake
Cardon this week accused Flake of being against Arizona's immigration enforcement law, SB 1070, which is being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a pair of fundraising emails, the Cardon campaign cites statements Flake made in 2010: One is a press release sent out by Flake on April 28, 2010, calling on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
"It's tough to blame states for moving ahead with their own enforcement efforts, when Congress has repeatedly failed to address immigration reform," Flake said in the release.
He advocated for Congress to pass a plan that "increases border security and interior enforcement, creates a temporary worker program, and deals with the millions of immigrants in the country illegally."
"If Congress again fails to act, you're going to see more states move ahead with imprudent immigration bills, similar to Arizona's new law," he said in the release.
On Wednesday - nearly two years after he sent that press release - the six-term congressman sent a release from his congressional office urging the Supreme Court to uphold SB 1070.
"States like Arizona will take action to enforce immigration laws when the federal government continues its long history of failing to do so," Flake said in the release. "The Obama administration ought to focus on securing the border instead of suing Arizona for trying to help."
Cardon, who says he's 100 percent behind SB 1070, called Flake's statements typical Washington double-speak.
"It is another example of Congressman Flake flip-flopping on the issues and not being honest with voters," Martin said.
Meanwhile, Cardon criticizes Flake for traveling the world on taxpayer expenses. A new Web video posted this week again makes the claim, though it fails to mention that Flake was a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It also uses photos from Flake's personal vacations.
"Wil Cardon continues to display a habitual pattern of dishonesty in this race, relying on doctored photos, fake backgrounds and fake facts to mislead voters," Flake spokesman Wilder said in an emailed statement.
Flake said earlier this year that Cardon should know that members of the Foreign Affairs Committee are encouraged to travel.
"It portrays a real lack of understanding about what members of Congress should do in order to provide oversight," Flake said.
Carmona on Flake
Cardon isn't the only candidate criticizing Flake.
Democrats have been circulating via social media an article from the National Journal that said Flake was a registered foreign agent in 1990-91 for a company that ran a uranium mine in Namibia, getting paid to lobby on behalf of the mine. The article says the mine had financial ties to Iran.
Flake told the National Journal he's never tried to hide his lobbying and said he's proud of having helped Namibia develop economically. He said he did not know about the ties to Iran.
The Flake campaign said the congressman is proud to have been named twice by Washingtonian Magazine as the No. 1 enemy of lobbyists in Congress.
The Cardon camp and Democrats say the revelation shows Flake is not the Washington outsider and conservative reformer he portrays himself to be.
"Some candidates have worked in public service their entire lives," said Andy Barr, Carmona's spokesman. "Others have been career politicians and lobbyists."
Reporter Brady McCombs: 573-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org