Republican U.S. Rep. John Shadegg weathered a bitter campaign and sailed to a clear victory Tuesday over Democrat Bob Lord, earning his eighth term representing the northeast Valley’s 3rd congressional district amid a sea of Democratic victories.
“It was a phenomenonally nasty race,” said Shadegg, speaking from the Arizona Biltmore as John McCain began his concession speech. “I think, sadly, Bob Lord allowed himself to be used to just do a hatchet job and it backfired.”
Shadegg said voters also didn’t approve of the millions spent on Lord’s behalf by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to bankroll TV ads and direct mail pieces that slammed Shadegg and made little or no mention of Lord.
“It was hateful and vicious and ugly criticism that the people saw through,” Shadegg said. “I think the message that we sent was that Washington politicians shouldn’t decide Arizona elections, Arizonans should.”
Lord said he attacked Shadegg’s voting record, not the congressman. That’s the only way to run a successful campaign against an incumbent, he said.
“We stand by what we did,” he said. “Nobody’s going to vote an incumbent out of office because the challenger’s a really good guy.”
He also fell victim to a strong Republican turnout to support McCain, he said, and the GOP registration edge.
“Up until the results came in, I thought we’d done it,” Lord said. “We felt it was an uphill fight. We knew the numbers were against us,” Lord said. “But up until the results came in, I thought we’d done it.”
Shadegg took 54 percent to Lord’s 42 percent. Libertarian Michael Shoen grabbed about 4 percent.
The rancorous race attracted national attention and funding, featured veterans in dueling press conferences, and got progressively nastier as Election Day neared.
Shadegg, 59, spent the better part of the campaign defending himself against the pugnacious Lord, whose early fundraising success, opposition to the Iraq war and command of the issues made him a formidable foe.
From a World War II veteran and former POW who took offense at being in a Shadegg ad, to $20,000 in legal fees to quash literary references to an affair that never happened, the seven-term congressman struggled to get his message out.
In the end, he battled back, calling Lord’s claims “false and misleading” and putting out urgent appeals for funding and support that earned him a comfortable victory.
Shadegg, a staunch conservative, easily won election in 1994 to the seat vacated when Jon Kyl ran for the Senate, swept into office in the so-called Republican Revolution that gave the GOP control of both the House and the Senate.
He unsuccessfully sought the top Republican House leadership post in 2006 and announced his retirement in February. He changed his mind days later at the urging of congressional colleagues.
Described by one longtime friend as a “more of a work horse than a show horse,” Shadegg has quietly supported small-government conservative causes and opposed spending.
Lord, 52, gave Shadegg the only real challenge of his career, helped greatly by an infusion of cash from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- $1.3 million in the final weeks – that bought a steady stream of TV ads, direct mail and strategic support.
Beginning in early summer, the Scottsdale tax attorney issued near-daily press releases blasting Shadegg on veterans’ issues, gas prices and the environment.
Lord called Shadegg polarizing, characterized him as a lapdog of the Bush administration and pushed the mantra of change. One ad showed a photo of Shadegg morphing into Bush.
Shadegg, an attorney and Arizona native, stopped just short of calling Lord a liar. He stressed the occasions he’d broken with Republican ranks to vote his conscience and block what he considered excessive federal spending, and explained his votes on veteran health care and energy..
By late summer, as gas prices were skyrocketing, Shadegg was flying to Alaska to tour the Artic National Wildlife Refuge and touting his support for an “all of the above” energy policy that includes alternative energy.
Lord had accused Shadegg of abandoning solar energy. But in one of two televised joint appearances, Shadegg told Lord that he voted for the bill that gave Lord tax credits for the solar panels on his house.
Lord, a political newcomer, emphasized his experience helping incorporate hundreds of businesses that created jobs in Arizona, as well as his support for universal health care, stem-cell research and abortion rights.
He argued that he could accomplish more in the majority party than the intensely partisan Shadegg, and maintained that his moderate positions were more in line with the district’s changing demographics.
A surge of new voters brought more Democrats and Independents into the sprawling district, which stretches from Thomas Road north through Paradise Valley to Carefree and Cave Creek.
But in the end, Lord failed to overcome the GOP registration advantage (44 percent GOP to 29 percent Democrat) and struggled to raise his name ID.
Despite the campaign’s often nasty tone and the blizzard of TV ads it generated, some voters said they didn’t know much about either candidate.
Democrat Barbara Garber of Phoenix voted for Lord, but said “I don’t even know him.”
Hakeem Shaheed, a Republican, voted for Shadegg.
Garber had heard things about Shadegg she didn’t like, and Shaheed said he’d heard only good reviews about the congressman.