WASHINGTON ― The Arizona Republican Party on Thursday targeted the re-election challenger of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) with a “wanted” poster that alludes to gun violence, drawing criticism from Democrats and gun-control advocates, including former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.).
The poster portrays Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) as an “absentee” politician and shows bullet holes around her picture.
Democrats, including state Democratic Party Chair Alexis Tameron, criticized the image and suggested it was insensitive to the 2011 Arizona mass shooting that nearly killed Giffords.
McCain’s 2008 vice presidential running mate, Sarah Palin, used similar imagery in 2010. During that year’s midterm elections, Palin’s PAC targeted vulnerable House Democrats who had voted for President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act on a map that marked the representatives’ districts with crosshairs.
Among those targeted were Giffords and Kirkpatrick.
Giffords’ gun-control advocacy group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, condemned the new anti-Kirkpatrick poster and asked for an apology from the Arizona GOP.
“In a state and country that know the toll of gun violence too well, there is no room for invoking the use of firearms in our politics,” Giffords said in a statement to The Huffington Post. “Our political leaders have the responsibility to avoid a descent into messages that might suggest that elections are settled anywhere else than at the ballot box. We urge Arizonans of every political stripe to join us in asking the Arizona Republican Party to refrain from using this irresponsible imagery and to apologize.”
A spokesperson for McCain’s campaign did not return a request for comment. The five-term incumbent is facing a surprisingly close race against Kirkpatrick.
The Arizona GOP has previously used gun-related images for campaign purposes. Just months after the shooting that gravely wounded Giffords, Republicans in Pima County, where the shooting took place, held a fundraiser that included a raffle for the same kind of handgun used in the shooting. The condemnation generated so much attention that organizers added a second gun to the raffle.