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District 9 congressional race dominated by negative ads

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The race for Arizona's newly formed 9th Congressional District is a heated battle for an open seat that has brought heavy mudslinging and a score of negative campaign advertisements.

"The main function of a negative ad is getting people's attention," said ASU political science professor Bruce Merrill.

The ads running for this race would have you believe that Democrat Kyrsten Sinema doesn't support moms and that Republican Vernon Parker is anti-education and pro-life in every situation.

Not surprisingly, each of the candidates said those characterizations are not true. However, the barrage of negative ads are meant to stick in the minds of the undecided voter and Merrill said that's more effective than an ad touting a candidate's accomplishments.

In an election cycle where the economy is taking top billing, if you believe the negative ads, the race for District 9 is more focused on women than anything else.

"The strategy is to deflect people away from the economy," said Merrill.

CBS 5 asked each of the candidates to set the record straight about the negative ads airing against them.

"And Parker would make abortion illegal, even in cases of rape and incest," says the ominous voice behind one anti-Parker ad.

"I've always been pro-life," Parker told CBS 5 from his campaign office, "but I've always made the exception for rape, incest and life of the mother."

Another negative ad accuses Sinema of making disparaging remarks about stay-at-home mothers saying they are, "leeching off their husbands and boyfriends."

"In 2006, I did a satiric interview for a fashion magazine," Sinema told CBS 5. "Got all dressed up and it was satire, like (Comedy Central's) Stephen Colbert, where you play some who you're not. And they're trying to make it real."

In a district that's evenly split three ways between Republicans, Democrats and independents, the politician who is seen as independently minded is likely the one who will resonate the best with voters.

That's the message each candidate wanted to get across when asked about the number one thing they want voters to know about them.

"I'm a good listener who gets things done and I think that's what folks care about most," said Sinema.

"I will vote with my party, I will vote against my party, I will vote my conscious and that's the way it's going to be," said Parker

Merrill said turnout among independents will decide this race, but that as a group, they tend to not represent well at the polls.

"The key thing to look at in this race at who will win, is who has the better organized campaign in terms of who will get people to the polls," said Merrill.

Copyright 2012 CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.