Senate candidate uses graphic photo in mailer

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Republican Kelli Ward, a former state senator, sent out a letter with the infamous picture of comedienne Kathy Griffin holding a decapitated, bloody head, in the image of President Donald Trump. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Republican Kelli Ward, a former state senator, sent out a letter with the infamous picture of comedienne Kathy Griffin holding a decapitated, bloody head, in the image of President Donald Trump. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Ward's campaign confirmed they approved the mailer. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Ward's campaign confirmed they approved the mailer. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Political strategist Marcus Dell’Artino, of First Strategic Communications and Public Affairs, believes Ward was going for the shock factor. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Political strategist Marcus Dell’Artino, of First Strategic Communications and Public Affairs, believes Ward was going for the shock factor. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Ward is trying to unseat Sen. Jeff Flake. (Source: CNN) Ward is trying to unseat Sen. Jeff Flake. (Source: CNN)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

The woman trying to unseat Sen. Jeff Flake is using a disturbing image in her campaign material.

Republican Kelli Ward, a former state senator, sent out a letter with the infamous picture of comedienne Kathy Griffin holding a decapitated, bloody head, in the image of President Donald Trump. The image was plastered on the outside of the envelope for anyone to see.

[READ MORE: Kathy Griffin apologizes for Trump photo: 'I went too far']

It’s unclear how many households received the mailer but it is possible if you are a registered Republican or are on any conservative mailing lists, one could be coming to your home.

Pictures of the envelope were posted on Phoenix radio station KFYI’s website by radio talk show host Mike Broomhead. He indicated they were sent to him by a listener. Ward's campaign confirmed they approved the mailer.

Political strategist Marcus Dell’Artino, of First Strategic Communications and Public Affairs, believes Ward was going for the shock factor.

“Any time you see a bloody head on mail piece it's going to elicit a reaction and that's the purpose clearly of what they wanted to do. Today's fundraising is all about shock value. How can I just one up my competitors in the mailbox and I think this certainly achieves the goal,” said Dell’Artino.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona politics]

Inside the envelope is a fundraising letter. Ward begins the letter by apologizing for posting such a “vile photo.” She then goes on to acknowledge that she knew image upset the President’s 11-year-old son when it was first published. She writes, “as a mother, this makes me sick.”

“I'm a parent of three little girls and it does bring concern to me. I bring in the mail to the house and I drop it off and I wouldn't want my 3-year-old girl to see that image,” said Dell’Artino.

[RELATED: Jeff Flake primary challenger: McCain should step aside 'as quickly as possible' after cancer diagnosis]

Ward’s mailer makes it clear her attack is on the “liberals” who she indicates on the envelope have become “dangerously unhinged.”

When questioned about the tactic of using the image, Ward responded in an email saying: “Liberals and Hollywood elites will do almost anything to obstruct this President and stop the conservative agenda Americans voted for last year. To defeat them we must be strong and unafraid to expose their shameless tactics, which is exactly what this campaign letter does. Politics is a tough business and unlike Senator Jeff Flake, I will never waiver or bow to political pressure from the opposition. That’s the kind of representation Arizona deserves in Washington and that's what I’ll deliver once elected.”  

Dell’Artino believes the mailer points to the fact that Ward’s campaign is running on the “all news is good news” theory and he believes that is a dangerous strategy to follow.

“There is bad news and bad PR associated with some of these tactics and if you build a reputation of that, at the end of the day, it's going to be of little value to your campaign,” said Dell’Artino.

The mailer was paid for by the Ward campaign, as indicated on the bottom of the letter. The postmark indicates it was mailed from Washington, D.C., which, according to Dell’Artino, is not uncommon, but in this case ironic.  

“When you're running as an anti-establishment candidate, running against Washington, D.C. but you’re giving money to people that work in Washington, D.C., essentially propping up the establishment, the message doesn't come across correctly,” said Dell’Artino.

In the letter, Ward specifically refers to the D.C. Establishment being the most dangerous threat to President Trump.

There also is a messaging problem, according to Dell’Artino. For Ward to refer to the image as “vile” but send it out for all to see could backfire on her fundraising effort.

“She seems to be running the same campaign she ran before.  And that is, spending a lot of money on fundraising but not actually reaping any of the rewards and it's actually putting her further in debt,” said Dell’Artino.   

Will Allison, a spokesman for the Flake campaign, responded to our inquiry for comment by saying, ”We shouldn’t be surprised by this. It’s sadly in character for Kelli Ward.” 

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Donna RossiEmmy Award-winning reporter Donna Rossi joined CBS 5 News in September 1994.

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Donna Rossi

In that time, Donna has covered some of the most high-profile stories in the Valley and across the state. Donna's experience as a four-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department gives her a keen sense of crime and court stories. She offered gavel to gavel coverage of the 1999 sleepwalking murder trial of Scott Falater, and the trial and conviction of retired Catholic Bishop Thomas O'Brien for a fatal hit and run accident. She also spent 2 straight weeks in northeastern Arizona in the summer of 2011 covering the Wallow Fire, the largest wildfire in Arizona history.

Donna's reputation as a fair and accurate journalist has earned her the respect of her colleagues and community. Her talent as a reporter has earned her more than a dozen Arizona Associated Press Awards and five Emmy statue.

Donna previously worked as an anchor and reporter in Tucson and got her start in broadcast journalism in Flagstaff. Donna is a past president of the Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences and currently serves on the NATAS board. She is a member of IFP/Phoenix, a non-profit organization of local film and documentary makers.

Donna was born in New York and moved to the Valley with her family when she was 9 years old. She is a graduate of Maryvale High School and attended Arizona State University. She graduated cum laude from Northern Arizona University.

In her free time, Donna enjoys boating on Bartlett Lake, all forms of music and theatre. Donna frequently donates her time to speak to community organizations and emcee their events. She is a past board member of DUET, a non-profit which helps promote health and well-being for older adults. Donna also loves donating her time to youth organizations and groups who work to secure and safeguard human rights.

On Oct. 17, 2015, Donna was honored for her amazing work over the years. The Rocky Mountain Chapter of the National Academy of Televisions Arts and Sciences inducted her into its Silver Circle. It's one of the organization's most prestigious honors for which only a few candidates are selected each year.

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