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Aug 26, 2012 1:47 AM by Sam Salzwedel

Grijalva accuses primary opponent of foul play

TUCSON - Raul Grijalva is accusing one of his opponents of playing dirty politics.

"This is crass," Raul Grijalva said, "and this is beneath the level of discussion and dialogue we should be having."

Grijalva is running in the Democratic primary in the new Congressional District 3. He was elected to the US House of Representatives in District 7 in 2002.

A political action committee, called the Opportunity for All Committee, sent a mailer to voters criticizing Grijalva and endorsing his opponent Amanda Aguirre.

PACs and candidates are legally not allowed to coordinate.

"The fact that we have an endorsement and a hit on one piece of paper, paid by one company," Grijalva said, "I don't know how much you can wash your hands of the situation."

Aguirre denies working with the committee.

"Any group can come out, and they're welcome to support me." Aguirre said. "I need all the support I can get. I don't know much about this group. I don't know who they are."

Carlos Sierra organized the PAC. He also denies working with the candidate.

"I have never met or spoken to Amanda [Aguirre] or her staff," Sierra said. "I don't even know who's on her staff. There's zero, zero coordination."

Aguirre and Sierra have close ties to the GOP, according to Grijalva.

Republicans use tactics like this across the country, according to Grijalva.

"If Ms. Aguirre is a surrogate for the Republican Party, that's not being horribly honest with the voters," Grijalva said. "From the inception of the campaign, I felt that way. But we haven't said that, because it wasn't important at the time. It is now."

Grijalva thinks the Opportunity for All Committee is hiding its Republican supporters.

"It's a Republican operation sticking its nose in the Democratic primary," Grijalva said, "and using underhanded tactics and misinformation as the tool."

Sierra says he organized the PAC because he used to live in Tucson and wants to support moderate candidates.

"I'm not a partisan," Sierra said. "I'm not a right-winger. I just want the person who's going to do a better job, and I think that's Amanda Aguirre."

Sierra would not say where his PAC's money came from. He did say it is all from Arizona.

Sierra says he supported Democrat Ron Barber's campaign and will target Republican Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio next.

The committee's address is listed as 5717 Upper Valley Road in El Paso, Texas. The satellite images show a dirt lot.

"Why an empty lot in El Paso, Texas would want to endorse my opponent," Grijalva said, "continues to be a puzzle."

Sierra said he lives in the house just south of that lot.

Manny Arreguin is the third Democrat competing in the race. He is a doctor at El Rio Health Center in Tucson.

"There's nothing in this story that's about integrity, respect and trust," Arreguin said. "It just leaves you with a real sour taste, and I think that that's why we're running in this race."

The election is Tuesday.

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