McSally staffer resigns after odd exchange with Barber campaign

2012-06-19T11:02:00Z 2012-06-19T13:01:17Z McSally staffer resigns after odd exchange with Barber campaignBy Brady McCombs Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The campaign spokesman for Republican Congressional candidate Martha McSally is out after an accusation he offered campaign advice to a staffer of Democrat Ron Barber.

The unsolicited advice — apparently jotted down on a business card — provided tips to the staffer on defeating fellow Republican Jesse Kelly.

McSally’s campaign issued a news release this morning saying Sam Stone resigned as communications director. The statement thanks Stone for helping to launch the McSally campaign during the Congressional District 8 primary but doesn’t address the exact reason for his ouster.

Stone decided to step down to do what’s best for McSally, said her campaign manager, Christian Morgan. But McSally wasn’t pleased that Stone offered advice to Barber’s campaign, Morgan said.

“Obviously a staff member for the campaign lending aide and suport to Mr. Barber’s campaign was not what Martha wants,” said Morgan, who added that McSally offered her support to Kelly during the CD8 campaign.

McSally wants to change Congress by sending a conservative Republican, and Barber holds many of the opposite views, Morgan said.

“So, it was outside of the bounds for her campaign to give any kind of support to Ron Barber’s campaign,” Morgan said.

Problems began for Stone after Barber’s campaign revealed this weekend that Stone approached a Barber aide at the June 7 University of Arizona Bio5 conference and offered her advice on how to beat Kelly, whom Barber defeated in last week’s CD8 special election.

Stone reportedly handed the staffer a business card with a hand-written note on the back. The note says a Republican polling shows Barber was down 3 percent, and that the only room to move is on “social issues (abortion).” The notes suggest to “target” independents and Republican women, according to a copy of the business card Barber’s staff provided to the Arizona Daily Star and other media outlets.

“We never asked McSally’s campaign for their advice or for further information,” said the Barber campaign in a statement about the encounter.

Stone has not yet returned calls and emails seeking comment. Kelly declined to comment, via his spokesman, John Ellinwood.

Stone told Politico he only had a “quick, friendly chat” with the Barber staffer and denied offering any campaign advice. Stone said he was not privy to any Republican polling on the race, and denied writing advice on the back of the business card.

McSally, who finished second to Kelly in the CD8 Republican primary April 17, filed her papers to be on the ballot in the newly-drawn Congressional District 2 but said she would withdraw if Kelly beat Barber in the June 12 CD8 special election.

After Kelly was soundly defeated by Barber last Tuesday, McSally reaffirmed her candidacy for CD2, and launched her campaign with Stone as her spokesman.

But, less than one week into the campaign, she’ll move forward without Stone, who helped McSally establish herself with the electorate during the abbreviated CD8 primary.

Though she lost to Kelly, McSally quickly went from being an unknown to a formidable candidate. She collected more election day votes than Kelly in the primary.

McSally is the favorite to face Barber in the Nov. 6 election. Her only primary opponent, Mark Koskiniemi, is a political unknown. Barber, meanwhile, faces state Rep. Matt Heinz in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary.

Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or bmccombs@azstarnet.com

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