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Abe Hamadeh
Abe Hamadeh, now running in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, identifies culturally as Druze and Muslim. Ross D. Franklin/AP

A Nasty House Primary Gets Even Nastier Over Religion

The Arizona race between Blake Masters and Abe Hamadeh is mired in accusations of Islamophobia.

The personal and extraordinarily contentious Arizona congressional primary between Republicans Blake Masters and Abe Hamadeh has further devolved this week into anger over how Masters is using Hamadeh’s religion in the campaign.

An ad released Monday from a PAC backing Masters refers to Hamadeh as a “terrorist sympathizer.” Hamadeh identifies culturally as Druze and Muslim, and the ad, like road signs and other ads backing Masters, hinges on social media posts Hamadeh wrote as a teenager.

“Dishonest Abe claims that ‘America was founded on Islamic principles,’ not the Judeo-Christian values that made America great. We have enough terrorist sympathizers in Congress,” the ad says.

Hamadeh and Masters are running in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District to replace Rep. Debbie Lesko, and Hamadeh has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump. Masters had previously been endorsed by Trump when he ran for Senate in 2022, a campaign he lost after winning the primary. Hamadeh has positioned himself as one of the most pro-Israel candidates in the crowded Republican primary despite teenaged social media posts repeating antisemitic tropes.

The new ad is paid for by the American Principles Project PAC, which is supporting Masters. Masters’ campaign has previously put out ads negatively emphasizing Hamadeh’s religion, along with a quote taken from a post on a Rand Paul forum Hamadeh made as a teenager.

“You claim Islam is a religion of hate, and should be feared yet our own Constitution of the United States was based off of Abrahamic religions, Including Islam,” he wrote. He then linked to a Supreme Court website explaining the different friezes on the U.S. Supreme Court Building. The Prophet Muhammad is depicted on a frieze on the north wall of the Supreme Court.

Masters has highlighted Hamadeh’s religion at campaign events, and the campaign has paid for street signs that feature the “America was founded on Islamic principles” quote alongside a picture of Hamadeh in Mecca on a Hajj, taken on a deployment for which Hamadeh would receive a Meritorious Service Medal.

The Masters campaign and the American Principles Project did not respond to a request for comment.

“These are baseless lies from a desperate man bitter about President Trump’s endorsement of Abe for Congress. Abe, a dedicated veteran who served our country honorably, is the only candidate with military service in this race. The truth is, Abe comes from a diverse, mixed-faith household and embodies the same Judeo-Christian values that our nation was built upon. Distorting his words from his teenage years reveals the extreme lengths his opponents will go to undermine President Trump’s chosen candidate,” Hamadeh spokesperson Erica Knight told NOTUS in a written statement.

Republicans who have already endorsed Hamadeh have attacked the ad.

“This is despicable. Trump-endorsed @AbrahamHamadeh is a good man,” Republican Senate candidate Kari Lake tweeted Tuesday.

Hamadeh “certainly holds dear the US Constitution and the principles the US was founded upon,” former Republican state party Chair Kelli Ward told NOTUS via text message. “He’s honorably served our country in the military and stands firm in his belief in freedom and liberty for all. It’s a shame that campaigns are filled with so many lies and smears — I’ve endured many myself over the years.”

Trump ally Bernard Kerik told NOTUS that for Masters “to attack him with these frivolous BS issues, especially knowing that President Trump has already endorsed Abe, it demonstrates how sleazy the guy is. … He’s not an American-first type candidate.”

Arizona Republicans who haven’t yet endorsed in the race, however, are staying muted. NOTUS reached out to eight Arizona Republicans, either officeholders or candidates seeking election who have not endorsed Hamadeh, who either refused to comment or responded with an iteration of liking both Hamadeh and Masters.

“I genuinely think there is a lack of politicians coming out because they don’t want to be looked at as, ‘Oh, all the Democrats say everything is racist, so we don’t necessarily want to either.’ But we’re Republicans. We’re supposed to call out the truth whether it fits the narrative or not. … And the truth is Blake Masters is a racist,” activist and former Arizona Teenage Republicans Chair Nico Delgado told NOTUS.

Hamadeh is not the first candidate to be attacked over religion in the state.

Former Rep. Matt Salmon, a co-founder of the Freedom Caucus and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also experienced religious discrimination while running for office. Salmon was attacked in ads by independent candidate Richard Mahoney while running for governor in 2002, a race that Democrat Janet Napolitano would ultimately win. The ad insinuated Salmon would not do anything about rape and other crimes among polygamous Mormons in Colorado City, Arizona, because he was Mormon. Signs also went up pointing to his own campaign signs, saying, “Don’t vote Mormon.”

“If somebody campaigns against another person’s religion, that’s off base. … The first amendment to the Constitution was instituted for a reason, and people in this country are protected to believe the way they want to believe,” Salmon, who has not endorsed Hamadeh, told NOTUS.

Tara Kavaler is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.