Could Rep. Raúl Grijalva be a traitor? His opponent in the Congressional District 3 race, Republican Gabriela Saucedo Mercer, thinks so.

The fiery challenger made the accusation during a debate this week when asked a question about the war in Afghanistan. It wasn't the first haymaker thrown by Saucedo Mercer in this campaign, and likely won't be the last.

Grijalva, the Democratic incumbent, isn't just taking it, either. He's been more than happy to return fire with his sharp tongue.

During the debate, Saucedo Mercer said it's disingenuous for Grijalva to talk about the country's brave men and women in uniform when he was on board with other members of Congress in allowing soldiers to travel behind enemy lines to give aid and comfort "to the enemy."

"In my book that is treason," she said, citing a 2-year-old unsupported assertion by a conservative blogger. Grijalva warned her that she should be "very, very careful in how we use a weapon such as treason and accuse somebody else without any merit."

"What else would you call it but treason?" Saucedo Mercer shot back.

The moderator moved on to the next question, but Grijalva got the last word on Facebook the next day.

"At last night's debate Mrs. Mercer accused me - again - of being a wild-eyed traitor. In case your conservative friends are sending you their favorite two-year-old chain e-mails, here are the facts," wrote Grijalva, with a link to a Media Matters article debunking the accusation Saucedo Mercer was alluding to.

"If someone wants to represent you in Congress, they should have more to say about issues that really matter. Just my two cents," he said.

Internal polls

It was a busy week in the U.S. Senate race with the first debate in Phoenix, a slew of new ads and a visit by former President Bill Clinton to stump for Democrat Richard Carmona. The back-and-forth between the campaigns of Carmona and Republican Jeff Flake was nearly constant, including a midweek clash over internal polls.

On Wednesday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released a poll it commissioned showing Carmona with a 47-to-43 percent lead. A rush of tweets and Facebook posts followed from Democrats touting the results.

Less than two hours later, Flake's campaign sent out its own internal poll, which showed Flake leading 49 to 43 percent in a not-so-subtle attempt to tamp down the Democratic excitement.

The stakes are high in this race - the winner becomes just the 11th U.S. senator in the state's 100-year history - so we get the daily jockeying for momentum.

But it is funny, isn't it, how the only internal polls that make the light of day are the ones that show a favorable result for the candidate that paid for the poll?

Smashing records

Early ballots went out on Thursday, and another record was broken.

The Pima County Recorder's Office sent out 295,000 early ballots, and even though it's only the first wave, the total already surpassed the previous record of 247,500 sent out in the 2010 general election.

Voters have until Oct. 26 to request an early ballot, so that figure will go up. As many as 80 percent of votes cast in the Nov. 6 election could be cast by early ballot.

One major advantage to getting your ballot at home is having time to mull over decisions. And there is plenty of mulling to do on this ballot. Voters have more than 40 choices to make between candidates for president, U.S. senator, U.S. House, state and local races and the nine statewide propositions.

The good news is, voters have plenty of time. Even though they are called early ballots, voters have until 7 p.m. on Election Day to turn them in at a polling place.

Becky Pallack contributed to this story.