Mark Kelly, the former astronaut running as a Democratic candidate for Senate in Arizona, appeared at a May 15 fundraiser hosted by a man who previously made headlines for being one of Ontario, Canada's "worst deadbeat parents."
Kelly's campaign sent out a fundraising invitation billing Blaine Tanner as a host at the Sedona reception along with his wife, Ellen Simon. The couple last made political news in 2006. Simon was running for Arizona's 1st Congressional District seat when Tanner's ex-wife revealed their domestic issues on Arizona political blogs, the Arizona Republic reported.
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According to Republic news stories published in 2006, Tanner's ex-wife accused him of breaching parts of a 2000 support agreement and portrayed him as uncaring toward a Tanner daughter with serious medical problems. The ex-wife, Pamela, wrote about her child-support battle with Tanner on Arizona political blogs.
Tanner and Simon denied all of the allegations at the time. Simon called Pamela a "vindictive ex-spouse who just won't give up." Simon and Tanner filed a libel suit that asked for an injunction to prevent the ex-wife from speaking publicly about them.
According to a September 2006 story in The Hill, a Canadian court ordered the ex-wife not to talk publicly about Tanner. In the end, Tanner lost the congressional race to Republican Rick Renzi.
The accusations against Tanner came after a 2000 story by the Toronto Star that said he had remarried and was living a posh lifestyle in the U.S. while owing hundreds of thousands of dollars in support to his three children. His ex-wife told the newspaper she and the kids were relying on food banks.
Kelly's spokesman, Jacob Peters, told the Republic that Tanner is not a donor to the campaign and was added to the invitation by Kelly's campaign last minute at the request of Tanner's wife, who previously donated $1,000 to the campaign.
Peters's claim on Tanner being added last minute is false. Toby Friedman, who is affiliated with the Sedona Action Network and the Women's March of Sedona chapter, posted the fundraiser invitation on the Sedona Action Network website on April 23, which included Tanner's name misspelled.
"We weren't aware of Mr. Tanner's history, if we had been aware he would not have been included," Peters wrote in an email to the Arizona Republic.
One of the other fundraiser hosts, Klaus von Stutterheim, used to work on Wall Street as a managing director at Deutsche Bank, but it does not appear he has donated to Kelly's campaign as of the end of March.
Kelly will try to unseat Sen. Martha McSally (R., Ariz.), who currently holds the seat vacated by the death of John McCain. McSally, who previously served as a representative, narrowly lost a bid for the seat vacated by former senator Jeff Flake in 2018. After the election, she was appointed to fill McCain's seat, which had been temporarily occupied by Jon Kyl.