Hoping to capitalize on the popularity of the state's new immigration law and anti-union sentiment, five Republican candidates for statewide office and several congressional hopefuls called on their Democratic foes Tuesday to denounce a boycott and the unions that support those calls.
In virtually simultaneous press releases, the Republican candidates for governor, treasurer, attorney general, superintendent of public instruction, and mine inspector said their opponents should distance themselves from the United Food and Commercial Workers and the Service Employees International Union who have urged organizations to move their conferences out of Arizona.
Gov. Jan Brewer specifically referred to the unions as the "boycott cartel."
Nearly identical releases came from several Republicans hoping to win congressional seats, including Jesse Kelly, Paul Gosar and David Schweikert.
Brewer campaign spokesman Doug Cole said it's no accident that all the releases went out at once.
"It is coordinated, absolutely," he said. "We are going to draw the contrast between our Republican ticket and the Democrat ticket who is supported by these two national unions that are trying to harm Arizona and Arizona families by boycotting. All those candidates ... need to renounce their endorsements."
Cole said the Republicans will continue to hammer away at that theme until election day.
But not everyone was enthusiastic about the idea.
"I was hesitant to do it," state Mine Inspector Joe Hart told Capitol Media Services. He said, though, it was part of being a "team player" for the Republican ticket.
"I didn't think I needed to stoop to that," he said. "But I darn sure don't need to support anybody that's boycotting Arizona."
Polls show that most Arizonans support SB 1070. And the state also has never been terribly friendly to unions. Arizona has a specific "right to work" provision in the state constitution banning "closed shops" where employment is contingent on membership in a union.
But Cole, whose candidate has been endorsed by the Arizona Police Association, insisted the effort is not anti-union. He said it's aimed only at national unions - and these two unions in particular.
Janey Pearl, press aide to Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Terry Goddard, said he has no intention of rejecting any union endorsements.
"He's proud of any organization that supports workers, which is more than she (Brewer) has done," Pearl said. Anyway, Pearl said that Goddard has publicly opposed calls for a boycott. She said this is just a diversionary tactic by the incumbent.
"This is just another example of them being silly, twisting the truth around and try to focus away from the real issues," Pearl said. "Let's look at how she's going to create jobs, not just from the (federal) stimulus."
Pearl also pointed out that Brewer has so far refused to agree to participate in more than the one debate she is legally required to do by virtue of taking public funds for her campaign. That hour-long debate is set to air at 7 p.m. Wednesday on both KAET-TV and KUAT-TV.
The attack from each of the other Republican campaigns was slightly different.
Tom Horne, running for attorney general, called it "troubling" that Democrat Felecia Rotellini is supported by the union. She took the maximum $4,176 from UFCW Local 99.
"I believe Ms. Rotellini, if she is serious about enforcing the law, should repudiate the support of any organization, including the UFCW, that is targeting Arizona economically," Horne's statement read.
That brought a sharp retort from Dave Cieslak, Rotellini's campaign spokesman.
"Here's a better question: Will Tom Horne renounce this morning's endorsement from Andrew Thomas, who is under investigation by the FBI?" Cieslak said. That refers to Horne's own attacks on his now-defeated primary foe, whom Horne said was under scrutiny for whether he used his position as Maricopa County attorney by not only the State Bar of Arizona but also federal agents. "Tom should think twice about throwing stones after jumping into bed with the likes of Andy Thomas."
Andrei Cherny, the Democrat running for state treasurer, said Republican Doug Ducey is in no position to question endorsements. Cherny said Ducey is being backed by organizers of a group that unsuccessfully challenged a 2007 law which allows the state to suspend or revoke the business licenses of companies that knowingly hire undocumented workers.
James McLaughlin, president of UFCW Local 99, said the hostility toward his organization is misplaced. He said the Arizona-based local - the group that has made campaign contributions and endorsed some candidates - has never asked people not to come to the state.
"It doesn't work that way," he said. "We live here."
McLaughlin said the Republicans have purposely chosen to ignore that the boycott calls came from the international union.
"These guys have never missed an opportunity to attack working families in this state," he said.
Scott Washburn, state director of SEIU, said the same situation exists with his union, with any decision not to meet here coming at the national level.
That, however, did not stop Brewer from taking her message to the airwaves.
In a new TV commercial, her campaign says Goddard is endorsed by SEIU "and other big labor organizations who are financially supporting the boycott of Arizona businesses." The ad says the unions "are even leading the effort to boycott our Major League All-Star Game," a reference to requests by some unions to convince the league to move the 2011 mid-season event from Phoenix.