This is what Republican politics surrounding Arizona’s tough new immigration law look like on the ground: an image of an adorable toe-headed baby placed next to the claim that Democrats who opposed the state’s controversial immigration law “invite drugs and violence into our neighborhoods, schools and communities.”
In case the reader doesn’t get the less-than-subtle hint that the Democrat in question — in the case of a GOP mailer obtained by TPM, two-term state Rep. Rae Waters — is somehow inviting hordes of blood-thirsty illegal immigrants into Arizona’s peaceful suburbs, the Republican Party also offers up a photo of a shot-up stop sign next to this message: “By voting against 1070, Rae Waters would rather leave our border full of holes. Our neighborhoods are next.”
In an interview with TPM, Waters, who’s seeking re-election to the state house, said the level of vitriol in the mailer is “unusual.” The Yuma County Republican Party chair who approved the mailer, Phil Townsend, told me the message is “effective,” and rejected the idea that the implication of a shooting spree by undocumented immigrants if Waters is reelected might alienate Latino voters from the GOP down the road.Here’s the mailer, obtained from a Democratic supporter in Arizona and confirmed by the Yuma County GOP.
The 1070 immigration law has become a key component of Republican strategy, according to sources on both sides of the political debate. The law’s overwhelming popularity in the state makes standing in opposition to it, even in part, a precarious position for any politician, especially one in a swingy district like Waters’. Though she didn’t officially vote against 1070 in the legislature as the mailer attests — she was called out of town because of a “family emergency” that day — Waters admits that if she had cast a vote it would have been against the law that put Arizona on the receiving end of criticism from around the country, the continent and the world. Waters said she would have opposed it because the law does not do what it purports to do, namely secure Arizona’s long border with Mexico.
Waters praises the bill for doing at least one positive thing for Arizona’s immigration debate. “The one thing that the bill has done is brought the issue to the spotlight,” she told me. “Maybe we can sit down and actually solve some of these immigration issues.”
If that discussion does happen in the legislature, Waters may not be there to be a part of it. She said she’s having a tough time this year and has become a prime target for Republicans hoping to pick up her seat. As evidence of her status as a target, she pointed to the mailer’s origins in Yuma County, a three-hour drive from her district in Arizona’s northern Maricopa County. She said the ad is especially dismaying because of her self-described long history as a children’s and educational advocate.
“This is like completely against what I’ve fought for,” she told me. “Any group that supports children’s issues, I have a 100% rating.”
“This is pretty strong,” she added, saying that the mailer was “not normal” for politics at her level.
“They’re using the politics of fear,” she said. “I think that’s despicable, to make people afraid for their children and their lives when they don’t need to be afraid.”
Townsend, the GOP chair, said messaging like the mailer’s is proving extremely effective at turning districts like Waters’, which flipped from GOP to Democratic control in recent years, back to the Republicans. (Another targeted Democratic state legislator I spoke to, Rep. Nancy Young-Wright from the Tuscon area, told me that the 1070 attacks have made reelection prospects tough for folks like her). Townsend confirmed that his party and other GOP groups are pushing the politics of 1070 in swingy districts across the state.
Townsend wouldn’t comment on this mailer specifically, but said that running on the potential of illegal immigrant violence was the right move, and was not going to prevent Latino voters from voting GOP now or into the future.
“I’ve got family that are Hispanic in heritage, I’ve got friends that I’ve grown up with all my life,” Townsend told me. “A lot of them agree with this.”
“They’re citizens as well,” he said. “And the fear factor that’s being instilled in them by falsely accusing Senate Bill 1070 of doing things that it’s not doing is more of an atrocity in my mind than what Senate Bill 1070 actually does.”