The gloves are off in the rematch between incumbent U.S. Rep. Harry Mitchell (D-Ariz.) and Republican nominee David Schweikert to represent Arizona's 5th Congressional District, which includes Ahwatukee Foothills.
Schweikert's campaign has been playing tag with Mitchell's campaign signs by erecting similar signs nearby in the same colors and font, accusing Mitchell of being "Pelosi's Lap Dog," among other things.
On the other hand, Mitchell's campaign is touting a website funded by the Arizona Democratic Party that describes Schweikert as a "vulture" who snaps up foreclosed homes from people in distress and evicts them.
Neither side, however, is willing to admit that the campaign has taken a negative turn.
Brian Symes, Schweikert's director of field operations, said the anti-Mitchell campaign signs began going up last weekend. Three signs currently are being circulated, containing phrases such as "Supports Obamacare," "Union Owned" and "Hides from Voters." The one describing Mitchell as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's lapdog has been taken out of circulation for the time being, he said.
Symes said the signs conform to Phoenix laws. Putting them up has been a game of cat and mouse, he said.
"He moves it every time we put one over it," Symes said. "It's Harry Mitchell's record, and he's running from it. This is all true."
Melissa Hodgdon, Mitchell's press secretary, said the signs unintentionally may do harm to Schweikert in the minds of voters.
"I think voters know it's just a silly game," she said. "The congressman is not running away from his record. The Schweikert campaign is distorting his record."
For its part, Mitchell's side is depicting Schweikert as a heartless real estate agent more interested in making money off foreclosed homes than in helping people. Hodgdon referred to the anti-Schweikert website yourlosshisgain.com, which accuses the Republican of profiting from the purchase of foreclosures at the expense of struggling homeowners.
"The fact is he is a vulture investor that makes money from buying hundreds of foreclosed homes," Hodgdon said.
The anti-Mitchell signs are an attempt to divert focus away from Schweikert's real estate dealings, which puts neighborhoods at risk of decay and keeps home prices deflated, she said.
"It's just the Schweikert campaign trying to distract attention from his foreclosure business," Hodgdon added.
Oliver Schwab, Schweikert's campaign manager, said it's Mitchell who is trying to distract voters from his record as a "secure vote for the unions and big government liberals."
"David Schweikert uses private investment to buy homes from banks, rehabilitate them, and improve communities. What has Harry Mitchell done for our communities but waste our tax dollars?" Schwab said. "He is trying to con the voters into thinking he is not lock, stock and barrel fighting alongside Nancy Pelosi to expand government."
This is the second time the two candidates have faced each other. Mitchell successfully defended his congressional seat against Schweikert in 2008.