PAC spends more than $280,000 in late bid to unseat Gosar in primary

A campaign aide to three-term Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, said he is confident of victory in next week’s GOP primary despite heavy spending by an independent political action committee targeting Gosar. (Photo by Keshia Butts/Cronkite News)

WASHINGTON – An independent political action committee has spent more than $280,000 since Aug. 1 in Arizona’s 4th Congressional District in an effort to unseat three-term Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, in next week’s primary election.

The Right Way SuperPAC has spent a total of $281,025.94 as of Monday, the bulk of which has been in opposition to Gosar with a smaller amount going in support of his primary challenger, Ray Strauss, according to the PAC’s latest filings with the Federal Election Commission.

Attempts to reach officials at the PAC this week were unsuccessful, but it describes itself on its sparse website as being dedicated to electing “constructive conservatives.” FEC reports indicate that much of the funding for the PAC came from agricultural businesses, many in the Southwest.

But Gosar’s campaign manager Tom Van Flein said the rush of spending is evidence that Gosar, a Tea Party and Freedom Caucus member, is being targeted by the Washington establishment.

“Gosar is definitely an outsider still,” Van Flein said. “He doesn’t play the Washington, D.C., insider game.”

Van Flein said the fund’s backers are “big corporate agriculture interests, who were advocating for amnesty, illegal immigration, open borders for cheap labor.”

Western Growers Association – the PAC’s largest contributor at $150,000, according to the FEC filing – said in an emailed statement that it donated to Right Way because “Mr. Gosar chose to denigrate our members and dismiss their legitimate concerns. We find that unacceptable.”

“We don’t expect every member of Congress to agree with us all the time, but we do expect legislators to try to work constructively with us to solve difficult problems affecting the livelihoods of their constituents,” said Western Growers Executive Vice President Dave Puglia in a prepared statement released by the association.

Caleb Humphrey, who manages Strauss’ campaign, was careful to say that the candidate is not affiliated in any way with Right Way SuperPAC. But, he said, he believes the PAC is likely motivated by anger over the currently polarized Congress.

“The national movement of people getting fed up with ineffective congressmen is one that is gaining momentum,” Humphrey said Wednesday.

He said the campaign is less focused on outside help from super PACs – Right Way reported spending $23,472.20 in support of Strauss’s candidacy – and more focused on getting its message out to voters in the 4th District.

“If the Lord sees fit and Mr. Strauss wins, hopefully we get to actually take that fight to D.C. and actually stick up for our constituents,” Humphrey said. “Our campaign has been built on getting out and talking to individuals, talking to folks, and that’s why all of our endorsements of our campaign are city, municipal and local officials.”

Van Flein said that while the PAC funding “poses a potential threat” to the campaign, he remains confident that Gosar will win Tuesday’s primary.

“Congressman Gosar is taking this very seriously, he’s out there campaigning very hard, raised a lot of money in this quarter to rebut the false allegations made by this PAC,” Van Flein said.

Gosar’s campaign reported spending $380,743 as of Aug. 10 with $183,287 cash on hand, according to its latest FEC filing, while Strauss’ campaign said it had spent $98,139 and had $8,166 in the bank in the same period.