Arizona 8 Special: NRCC, DCCC Go on the Air

by Jessica Taylor April 26, 2012 · 12:00 PM EDT

The national parties are officially wading into the special election to succeed former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona’s 8th District.

On Thursday morning, the National Republican Congressional Committee purchased $150,000 of broadcast television in Tucson, beginning tomorrow through May 10, according to a GOP source familiar with the buy. According to a Democratic source Thursday, the Democratic Congressional Committee's independent expenditure arm is also placing a $150,000 buy to begin within the next 48 hours. 

Republicans just chose 2010 nominee Jesse Kelly to be their standard bearer in the general election. He faces Giffords’ former district director Ron Barber in the June 12 special election. Barber was shot in the face and leg in the January 2011 shooting that killed six people and injured more than a dozen, including the former congresswoman.

The four-way April 17 primary severely depleted Kelly’s bank account, leaving him with less than $50,000 cash on hand for the special election.

The GOP contest allowed Barber to conserve his cash, leaving him with over $460,000 in the bank at the end of March. The Democrat went on television (a $112,000 mix of cable and broadcast) the day after the Republican primary with a positive ad that touted his work for Giffords and with the mentally disabled.

The new NRCC ad has not been released, but Republicans haven’t hesitated in going after Barber, painting him as a rubber stamp for Democrats, even given the sensitive circumstances surrounding the vacancy.

The summer special election will be a key battleground for both parties, and both congressional committees are expected to invest heavily. The current district gave Arizona Sen. John McCain 52 percent in the 2008 presidential race, while Pres. George W. Bush (R) took 53 percent in 2004 re-election bid. The November general election will take place in a redrawn and renumbered 2nd District that is slightly more Democratic.

The Rothenberg Political Report currently rates this race a pure toss-up.  

This post was updated at 5:45 p.m.