Some Southern Arizona Republicans are lashing out at Senate President Steve Pierce, saying he's not funding GOP candidates who could win senate seats in this area.
State Sen. Al Melvin is among those criticizing Pierce, arguing that the Republican Victory Fund should be donating money to Republican Senate candidates Frank Antenori in LD10, Tyler Mott in LD9 and Joe Ortiz in LD8.
Antenori has faced a $205,000 deluge of outside spending against him or for his Democratic opponent, David Bradley. So far, there has been no outside spending for him or against Bradley, in the Democratic-leaning district.
Pierce says he doesn't control the Republican Victory Fund, which has raised at least $600,000 this year, mostly from businesses and business groups. However, his campaign manager, Camilla Strongin, chairs the fund, and his campaign treasurer, Hieu Tran, is the fund's treasurer.
"We make our decisions based on scientific polling research," Strongin said Wednesday. "I feel very strongly that we have an obligation to our donors not to waste our money in races that we can’t make a difference in."
Melvin and some candidates accuse Pierce of funneling money only to those GOP Senate candidates who are likely to vote for him as Senate president, rather than Andy Biggs, who plans to challenge Pierce for the presidency.
"Andy Biggs has 8 votes, Steve Pierce has 8 votes, and the outcome of this election will determine who becomes senate president," said Antenori, who would support Biggs if he is elected. "This is about a struggle within the Republican Party between the conservative wing and the go-along to get-along wing."
Mott, who is running against Democrat Steve Farley in a district centered on the Catalina Foothills, said, "I’m not sure what his (Pierce's) motivation is, but it doesn’t look good."
"It would be nice if he were to look at the bigger picture, which is about Republicans getting elected across the state," Mott said.
The Republican Victory Fund reported spending about $78,000 to help moderate Republican Rich Crandall defeat the more conservative John Fillmore in the August primary. That raised criticism from some Republicans, who thought the fund should not play in the party's primary.
In the general election, the fund has spent significant money in Republican Chester Crandell's race against Democrat Tom Chabin in LD6, in John McComish's race against Democrat Janie Hydrick in LD18 and in Republican Jerry Lewis' race against Democrat Ed Ableser in LD26. Of those Crandell is considered the most conservative candidate.
Strongin would not name the members of the committee that makes the decisions on which candidates to fund, but she said supporting Pierce's senate presidency is not their aim.
"It’s about hanging on to a majority of Republicans in a world that’s been more challenging thanks to independent redistricting," she said. "These races throughout the state have been much more difficult based on redistricting."