PHOENIX — Arizona U.S. Senate candidate Jim Lamon is taking heat for a new TV ad that shows him firing a gun at an actor depicting U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly.
Kelly is the husband of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was gravely wounded by an assassin in the Tucson shootings 11 years ago.
The TV ad shows Lamon in an Old West-style gunfight with actors playing the "D.C. Gang" - Kelly, President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
"The good people of Arizona have had enough of you," Lamon says in the ad. "It's time for a showdown."
Gunfire ensues, with Lamon's bullets knocking the trio's weapons out of their hands. Lamon is cheered by actors depicting citizens "tired of being pushed around."
Kelly's campaign declined to comment.
The social media reaction was swift.
"Disgusting," tweeted Shannon Watts of the gun-safety group Moms Demand Action.
Fred Guttenberg, a gun-safety advocate whose daughter was killed in the Parkland school shooting, demanded that Lamon pull the ad.
Lamon Campaign: "Tongue-in-Cheek" ad
Lamon campaign spokesman Stephen Puetz provided this response to 12 News via text message:
"The ad is a tongue-in-cheek, Spaghetti Western-themed Super Bowl ad, where a stagecoach driver complains about gas prices. The DC Gang is disarmed by Lamon, after drawing on Lamon first."
Puetz said the ad would run during the Super Bowl broadcast Sunday in Tucson and in the Phoenix market starting Monday morning.
Some social media users have called for TV stations to reject the Lamon ad.
Federal Communications Commission regulations bar TV stations from censoring or rejecting campaign ads placed by a candidate's committee.
Campaign ads featuring Republican candidates wielding weapons are nothing new in Arizona. The Second Amendment is a core issue among GOP voters.
'He's doing it on purpose'
Lamon's TV ad breaks new ground.
"That's something you really haven't seen in political TV commercials - politicians shooting at each other," said Marcus Dell'Artino, a Republican consultant at First Strategic Communications and Public Affairs.
Lamon is a first-time political candidate who recently sold his engineering and construction business. He entered the Senate campaign last year with zero name recognition among Republican voters.
"The ad is going to do exactly what it was designed to do, which is get a lot of people talking and create controversy," Dell'Artino said.
"That's what he wants to with this ad, and he's doing it on purpose."
But Dell'Artino says the ad is a turn-off for the women and independent voters Lamon would need to defeat Kelly in a general election matchup.
Giving campaign $1 million a month
Lamon has pledged to spend $50 million on a statewide Senate campaign. He's writing checks at a rate of a million dollars a month, according to campaign finance reports.
Lamon has also been a major benefactor of the Arizona Republican Party and a donor to Arizona Senate Republicans' partisan election review.
More recently, Lamon has found himself ensnared in the "phony elector" scandal.
He and the 10 other Trump electors in Arizona signed a document a month after the November 2020 election that falsely claimed they were the legitimate presidential electors for the State of Arizona.
The House's January 6tth Select Committee is now investigating the origin of that document.
Lamon Mocks Critics
This isn't Lamon's first provocative ad.
In January, his campaign aired a TV spot that repeated a phrase - "Let's Go Brandon" - that has become a synonym for a profane insult of President Joe Biden.
In this latest ad, Dell'Artino said, Lamon had to know that Gabby Giffords was Kelly's husband.
"He is responsible for the ad, and it looks like he's enjoying it very much on Twitter."
Lamon has mocked critics on Twitter as "left-wing snowflakes."
Two of Lamon's endorsers make cameo appearances in the ad: Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, and Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents rank-and-file Border Patrol agents nationwide.
Lamon's GOP Rivals Respond
Two of Lamon's primary opponents have spoken up.
Retired Maj. Gen. Mick McGuire, former adjutant general of the Arizona National Guard, tweeted, "The ad shows poor judgment and isn't reflective of the values of the Second Amendment. It'll do more to boost Mark Kelly's fundraising than help Republicans."
GOP rival Blake Masters told the Arizona Republic that Lamon's ad was “Absurd and desperate. Fits his campaign.”
Masters has contributed to Arizona Republicans' library of Second Amendment-related videos.
In a November Twitter video, he said: "This is a short-barreled rifle. It wasn't designed for hunting. This is designed to kill people. But if you're not a bad guy, I support your right to own one."
Kelly will face the winner of the four-person GOP Senate primary in the November general election.
The Republican candidates are: Lamon; McGuire; Masters, a venture capital investor backed by his boss, billionaire Peter Thiel; and Attorney General Mark Brnovich.
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