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The Nastiest Primary Race in America Is Happening in Arizona

Blake Masters and Abe Hamadeh are out to win, and maybe destroy one another. “Each of them wants to demonstrate their BDE,” said a consultant in the district.

Blake Masters
Blake Masters is going all out for a congressional nomination, even without Donald Trump’s endorsement. Matt York/AP

There is not an uglier, more personally bruising primary in America than the race for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District between Republicans Abe Hamadeh and Blake Masters.

Political sources closely following the race in the state say it is only likely to get worse.

“Dishonest Abe said America was founded on Islamic principles,” the narrator of Masters’ April ad says, with a picture of Hamadeh on a Hajj. In a debate, Masters suggested, unlike Hamadeh, he has “skin in the game” because Hamadeh doesn’t have children.

“Woke Leftist Blake ‘the snake’ Masters is a fake,” the narrator in Hamadeh’s June ad says, also mentioning that Masters lived in a “nudist vegan colony” and was a member of the Stanford women’s basketball team.

These attacks are just the start, the product of quickly built tension and resentment after a disappointing election last cycle. Masters and Hamadeh were once squarely on the same team, running together for statewide office just two years ago with endorsements from former President Donald Trump — Masters for Senate and Hamadeh for attorney general. But their relationship has completely collapsed in the aftermath: Hamadeh lost an extremely close race to Democrat Kris Mayes and persistently challenged the result, while Masters lost to Sen. Mark Kelly by five points and quickly conceded. When Masters considered running again for Senate this year, Trump reportedly waved him off.

Trump is now backing Hamadeh in the House race, a major boost to his chances over Masters and the other Republicans vying for the seat on July 30. This has not stopped Masters from playing up his ties to Trump, using images of him and the former president in campaign videos.

“I think Blake Masters has zero respect for Abe Hamadeh,” said Barrett Marson, a GOP consultant who lives in the district and worked for retiring Rep. Debbie Lesko’s campaign. “The undertones there are truly apparent. Each of them wants to demonstrate their BDE.”

The level of personal animus is palpable, with attacks where nothing is off-limits, including religion and family. For much of the primary, the attacks have generally been one-sided, coming from Masters. Recently, however, Hamadeh has started going on the offensive.

“There is no question that Masters and Hamadeh hate each other, and it’s a real personal and visceral hatred,” a Republican political consultant told NOTUS. “It seems right now that the priority for both of them is to destroy the other one. I don’t question Masters’ desire to win the race … but there is no doubt that Masters has an equal priority: the destruction of Hamadeh, both in this race and politically going forward.”

A website affiliated with the Masters campaign attacked Hamadeh’s parents, noting that at one point they were in the U.S. illegally. The campaign responded in April with a video of Hamadeh’s sister and mother, with the former saying the bashing is “coming from a desperate, weak man.”

Allies close to the Hamadeh campaign expect the attacks against Hamadeh’s family to worsen. A member of Trump’s orbit shared that it would not be surprising to see more attacks on the family, which is typically considered off-limits in campaigns. The source said the campaign should brace for an attack on Hamadeh’s father, who was accused of firebombing a Chicago synagogue, charges that were eventually dropped (the reporter spoke to one of the convicted perpetrators of the attack in 2022, who vehemently denied Hamadeh’s father was involved). Hamadeh has said his father’s experience inspired him to become a prosecutor to prevent more injustices from happening in the future.

Masters referred to Hamadeh in a June ad as a “terrorist sympathizer” and used Hamadeh’s quote as a teenager about Islamic principles and the more recently taken Mecca picture on road signs.

Marson describes the latter as “one of the nastiest signs I’ve ever seen in a political campaign.”

“That is brutal in this district,” he said, adding they play into “stereotypes and ‘sharia law.’”

On May 22, the Daily Mail published text exchanges between Hamadeh and Masters, with Hamadeh texting, “I’m not lumped in with crazies with election stuff because I’m so close at 280 but the crazies love me because they see me fighting. Win win,” referring to the vote differential between him and the now-Attorney General Kris Mayes, in what would be one of the closest statewide elections in Arizona history. Hamadeh is seemingly insinuating that the other people who dispute the election results are “crazies,” although Hamadeh said the text was taken out of context.

“It is certainly the nastiest primary I have ever seen for two people who occupy most of the same positions on issues. This race has gone to 11 on personal animosity,” Marson told NOTUS. He compared the personal attack level to the effort during the 2000 GOP presidential primary that pushed the notion that the late Arizona Sen. John McCain had a Black child out of wedlock. In actuality, McCain had adopted a child from Bangladesh. “For a congressional race, it’s pretty difficult to find something so personally nasty.”

The Masters campaign did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this story.

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Hamadeh said in a written statement: “We will continue to rise above lies and desperate attacks and fight for our great nation.”

Part of the vitriol comes from the fact that both are competing for the same MAGA voters.

“They’re basically fishing out of the same voter barrel, and they’re trying to gain advantage with the same voters,” Doug Cole, a longtime Republican political consultant in Phoenix, told NOTUS. “They are looking for wedge issues and statements that each other have made during their various campaigns to gain favor with this very defined group of voters that are ardent supporters of the former president.”

The level of contempt seems over the top for just political rivalry, but Cole said they are copying the behavior of their political hero.

“Their political patriarch is the master of personal attacks. They went to Trump University.”

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