Steve Smith calls on GOP rival Wendy Rogers to quit Arizona’s CD1 race
Here’s what you need to know about Arizona’s CD 1 race. Tom O’Halleran, Tiffany Shedd, Wendy Rogers and Steve Smith are running for the seat.
Carly Henry, The Republic | azcentral.com
Republican congressional candidate Steve Smith called on Wendy Rogers, one of his GOP primary rivals, to drop out of the rural Arizona race Thursday after she suggested in ads and on a website that he worked with a modeling agency linked to sex trafficking.
Rogers swiftly refused to quit the 1st Congressional District race and doubled down on her attacks that Smith is insufficiently loyal to President Donald Trump and personally ill-suited to run as a conservative.
“For 10 years, Wendy Rogers has been trying unsuccessfully to get into political office. Today she’s so desperate to win that she’s abandoned truth, decency and the values of the Republican Party,” Smith said as he was surrounded by members of law enforcement who continue to back his campaign.
“She’s not disagreeing with me on policy. She’s coming after a well-respected business and their employees just to try to score political points in a way that is so shockingly reprehensible. … It’s a hundred percent false.”
Smith called for Rogers to apologize and said he is exploring whether he has any legal recourse.
The campaign spectacle could bring renewed angst to Republicans hoping to unseat U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran, a first-term Democrat holding a seat in a district Trump narrowly won in 2016. The 1st district runs from the Utah border down to the outskirts of Tucson and includes parts of 11 of Arizona’s 15 counties.
O’Halleran is viewed as among the most vulnerable Democrats in the country in a year that doesn’t offer Republicans many chances for pickups.
The battle between Smith and Rogers in the Aug. 28 primary heated up this week after Rogers’ campaign put together the website slimysteve.com.
The website claims Smith downplays his work directing the Young Agency, a modeling firm that has advertised models on a website called Model Mayhem. Authorities have tied that website, Rogers said, to human trafficking and sexual assault.
“Smith is a slimy character whose modeling agency specializes in underage girls and advertises on websites linked to sex trafficking,” a Rogers radio ad says.
Rogers’ website attributes the source of the trafficking information to ABC News, though the story is actually a 2013 piece by the network’s Columbia, Missouri, affiliate.
Model Mayhem, which is popular among photographers seeking models for work, has been sued by some people who said they were not warned that sexual predators have also used the website to contact potential victims.
Smith said it is defamatory to suggest that his agency is connected to any abusive behavior by a few who don’t work for him or for Model Mayhem. His supporters also complained.
Congressional reporter Ron Hansen details all the info you’ll need to know going into the next election.
Noah Lau, Arizona Republic
“To even infer that Sen. Smith’s business was somehow involved in some type of inappropriate conduct, ladies and gentlemen, this is a new low,” said Justin Harris, president of the Arizona Police Association, which is supporting Smith’s candidacy.
“If Wendy is willing to stoop to these lows during a political campaign, I can only imagine what compromises she’s willing to make in Congress and Washington to further her own personal agenda. This is disgusting. It’s deplorable. It’s despicable and Wendy Rogers should step down from this race to save the Republican Party any further embarrassment.”
The Rogers campaign said they stood by their messages.
“Steve Smith is in panic mode because, despite what he says, he knows he is losing. He hasn’t been up in a single poll all year. We stand by our radio ad. It is 100 percent true,” said Spence Rogers, a consultant to the Rogers campaign.
“If Steve Smith can’t handle scrutiny about his supposed ‘Christian’ website with teenage bikini models and girls in lingerie, and the fact that he personally has a profile on Model Mayhem, a website linked to human trafficking by ABC News and the Huffington Post, then he does not have the stomach for a fight against Tom O’Halleran.”
Others, ranging from Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery to Cathi Herrod, president of the conservative Center for Arizona Policy, defended Smith on Thursday.
Tiffany Shedd, a third GOP candidate in the race, said her opponents were displaying the typical political ugliness.
“I’m incredibly disappointed to see my opponents bringing Washington, D.C.,-style politics to rural Arizona,” she said.
“While they’ve been slinging mud, I’ve been traveling all over our district discussing the issues that matter most. Rural voters don’t care about a disreputable modeling agency. What they do care about is having someone represent them in Congress who will work to protect rural values, promote family values and protect Social Security.”
Rogers is a retired Air Force colonel who has run as a strong advocate for a border wall and of Trump generally.
She finished third in the 2016 Republican primary for the 1st District and was soundly defeated in 2014 when she was the GOP nominee in the Phoenix-based 9th Congressional District currently held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema.
Smith, a state senator from Maricopa, entered the race last year with high-profile endorsements from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Arizona. He has since added other endorsements from members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus as well.
By comparison, Shedd, a Pinal County business owner, has run a campaign emphasizing her roots in the district, gun rights and restoring integrity to Washington.
For Republicans, the 1st District has offered a series of frustrating losses in an area where conservatives expect to win.
Two years ago, O’Halleran easily defeated Paul Babeu, a Republican whose oversight of a shuttered Massachusetts school for emotionally troubled children damaged his chances to win that race.
Before that, Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick won three terms as well.
In Congress, O’Halleran, who was a Republican during his tenure in the Arizona Legislature, has voted in line with Trump’s agenda more than half the time, according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight.
Read or Share this story: https://azc.cc/2nrKKhK
Help Support The AZPSC by Contributing Today!
We can only provide advocacy for Arizona’s law enforcement officers with your support. Keep our unique voice alive.