PHOENIX — Seems like old times — Jay Leno cracking Quayle jokes on late night. But now the rising target of comics is Ben Quayle, son of the gaffe-prone former vice president, who is committing doozies of his own in his campaign for Congress.
Campaigning as a family-values conservative, Ben Quayle first denied then admitted that he wrote for a sex-steeped Arizona website.
The racy website’s founder, Nik Richie, said Quayle used the alias “Brock Landers,” the name of a character from the 1997 movie “Boogie Nights” about porn stars in California, and wrote lines such as: “my moral compass is so broken I can barely find the parking lot.” The website, now known as TheDirty.com, recently reposted the 2007 entries.
Quayle said he couldn’t recall what his posts involved or when he made them.
This came out just days after Quayle sent a campaign mailer showing his wife and two young girls, with the words, “We are going to raise our family here.” He and his wife have no children; the girls were his nieces. Campaign rival Vernon Parker accused Quayle of “renting a family.”
“Good way to start the campaign,” Leno cracked on the “Tonight Show,” reminding the audience of Quayle’s lineage.
The goofs revive memories of his dad’s missteps as vice president in President George H.W. Bush’s administration. Classroom stumbles in spelling, musings on how terrible it is not to have a mind and questions about his military service — or lack thereof — dogged the senior Quayle, whose political career ended with the GOP ticket’s one-term loss in 1992.
Arron Bradford, a 37-year-old Phoenix resident and independent voter, said there’s “a fairly heavy stigma to the whole Quayle name. I think that’s a detriment to him, unfortunately, at least as far as I’m concerned.”
Yet his name helped Quayle jump to the front of the pack of 10 candidates vying for the Republican nomination in GOP-leaning district that includes sections of Phoenix and Scottsdale. Eight-term Rep. John Shadegg is retiring. One of Quayle’s ads features Dan Quayle with his son saying: “I grew up watching my dad fight for conservative values.”
Quayle raised more than $1.1 million, with many of the contributions coming from one-time colleagues and friends of his father. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld contributed. In May, Bush and his wife Barbara raised money for Quayle at their home in Houston.
The primary is Aug. 24; early voting is under way.
The rapid rise of the 33-year-old Quayle, a lawyer and managing director of an investment firm who has never held elective office, angered several of his rivals.
“We need folks from Arizona who have done things here for Arizona, not people trying to come in and buy elections with famous last names and not having anything to show for it,” said Phoenix attorney Paulina Morris.
Says Quayle: “I know I have a big target on my back.”
In recent days, he’s handed his opponents more ammunition.
Quayle first denied then fessed up to writing for the website previously called DirtyScottsdale.com, which describes the city after hours. His contributions were first reported by Politico.
Richie said Quayle “was the guy, that you know, people would send pictures to of hot chicks, and he would put together who he thought was that hottest girl and why.” Richie’s legal name is Hooman Karamian.
In one entry from 2007, Richie said Quayle wrote: “Long story short, on a scale of 1-to-10, I’m awesome.” He boasted of his physique, comparing it to one of Michelangelo’s works in the Sistine Chapel, and his sexual appeal.
Asked about the site this week, Quayle said he “wrote a couple of satirical and fictional pieces for a satirical website” but that he quit doing so once the website shifted its editorial direction away from satire. Richie says the site’s content and tone have not changed from the days when Quayle was connected to it.
When asked if he wrote as Brock Landers, Quayle said: “There’s all sorts of posts under that alias and that’s not me. That’s really all I’ve got to say about that.”
Quayle has admitted that he knew Richie and once helped him find a lawyer.
Quayle also created waves this week with a campaign ad in which he called President Barack Obama “the worst president in history” and tells Arizona voters that he wants to “knock the hell” out of Washington.
But edgy ads are not unique to him. In June, rival Pamela Gorman of Anthem, a former state senator, released a viral Web video that showed her unloading a stream of bullets from automatic weapons, while the spot’s voiceover describes her as a “conservative Christian, and a pretty fair shot.”
Candidates in the crowded field acknowledge the challenge of running against the Quayle name.
“I like Ben, he’s a nice fella and everything, (but) I can’t make him un-rich and I can’t make him un-famous,” said rival Jim Waring, who resigned from his state senate seat to run for Congress. “So all I can do is work as hard as I can and try to overcome his natural advantages.”
Another famous name also is seeking a seat in the House this year. In New York, Richard Nixon’s grandson, 30-year-old Christopher Nixon Cox, is running for the Republican nomination to challenge four-term Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop on Long Island.
Meantime a political dynasty is stepping back. The retirement of Rep. Patrick Kennedy will mark the first time in six decades a Kennedy won’t be in office. Kennedy, an eight-term Democrat from Rhode Island, is the son of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy and nephew of President John F. Kennedy.
The Arizona winner will face Phoenix lawyer and businessman Jon Hulburd, the only Democrat seeking his party’s nomination.
Although Hulburd has raised $748,000, according to his latest campaign finance reports, whoever wins the Republican primary will have the edge.