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Desert Warfare

Two Republican congressmen fight it out near Phoenix.

Aug 20, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 45 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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A real estate financier in Fountain Hills near Scottsdale, Schweikert has been in politics for more than 20 years. He served four years in the Arizona state house, including two as the majority whip, before running unsuccessfully for Congress in 1994. After spending a few years in local government, Schweikert was elected treasurer of Maricopa County in 2004. In 2008, he took on Democratic congressman Harry Mitchell. Schweikert lost that race, but came back in 2010, riding the Tea Party wave, and beat Mitchell in the rematch. 

Quayle, too, has been surrounded by politics for more than two decades. Born just after his father, former vice president Dan Quayle, was elected to the House, the younger Quayle grew up in Washington, where his father served 12 years in Congress and 4 in the White House.

Quayle looks younger than his 35 years and suffers, unfairly or not, from an image of a fortunate son. To counter this, he has made an effort to look and sound like he’s earned his standing. Recent campaign ads feature a serious-looking Quayle, in a suit and tie, looking straight at the camera and furrowing his brow. “Still no jobs,” he says in one spot. “Spending and debt are crushing us. And President Obama’s big solution? Spend more.”

Another ad features his wife, Tiffany, and their infant daughter. “Meet Evie. She’s our first child,” Quayle says, with only a hint of a smile. “And born with more than fifty thousand dollars of debt,” his wife adds firmly.

A lawyer and entrepreneur, Quayle insists he wasn’t always interested in getting into the family business.

“If you had asked me four or five years ago, I would have said never,” he says about running for public office. “I saw what the media did to my dad, and I didn’t think I wanted to put my family through that.” But he says he grew frustrated with how congressional Republicans in the George W. Bush era became complicit in big government spending, which went into overdrive after the Democratic victories of 2006 and 2008.

“I just decided that I have to be willing to put up with the arrows I know are going to be pointed at me in order to try to do something,” Quayle says.

In 2010, Quayle won a contentious 10-way GOP primary and beat his Democratic opponent by 11 points. He says he’s tried to keep a low profile in his first term, focusing on building relationships with his colleagues and reducing regulatory burdens. He’s made a name for himself on the Judiciary Committee, firing off tough questions for Eric Holder during the Fast and Furious hearings.

Polling for the August 28 primary has been infrequent, although in late July one survey commissioned by a conservative group backing Schweikert had him 13 points ahead. Quayle says he feels confident running in a district where nearly two-thirds of the residents are already his constituents. It’s no use asking Schweikert how he feels about the race so far—he’s on his fifth cup of coffee and excited about everything.

Michael Warren is a reporter at The Weekly Standard.

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