Congressman Jeff Flake was heading to victory over Democrat Richard Carmona on Election Day, ensuring the retiring U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl’s seat would remain in the GOP column for another six years—even though Democrats kept control of the U.S. Senate and the presidency.
With the bulk of the vote counted, at 10 p.m., Flake had captured about 51 percent, while Carmona had only 44.7 percent.
The news was better for Congressman Ron Barber, although he was locked in a closer-than-expected battle with Republican Martha McSally, an Air Force veteran. He was trying to hold the seat he won in a special election to determine who would finish the term of Gabrielle Giffords, who resigned in January to focus on her recovery from a failed January 2011 assassination attempt.
As of 10 p.m., Barber led by about 2 percent, or about 3,500 votes.
McSally said she was humbled by the support she received.
“We can get up in the morning and look in the mirror,” she said at the Republican gathering at the Sheraton Tucson. “We ran with integrity, honor and authenticity.”
In Congressional District 1, Republican Jonathan Paton held an edge against Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick. As of 10 p.m., Paton was leading, 47.9 percent to 45.9 percent—a margin of about 3,500 votes.
Early in the night, as the first results started coming in and showing him with a lead, Paton said he felt good about the race.
“When we started out, we were the underdogs, and now we are coming out on top. I feel really good about it,” he said.
In Southern Arizona’s other congressional race, Congressman Raúl Grijalva easily dispatched his Republican opponent, Gabriela Saucedo Mercer, capturing more than 57 percent of the vote.
“We worked really hard to establish the fact that you cannot win in this district with anti-immigration rhetoric and right-wing craziness,” Grijalva said. “The people in the district I represent are looking for solutions.”
Saucedo Mercer spoke at the GOP gathering at 8 p.m. and called on the audience to stay involved and hold officials accountable.
“Don’t just get happy and celebrate and disappear,” Mercer said. “We need you.”
In the competitive campaigns for central Tucson legislative districts, it appeared as though Democrats did well.
Big cheers erupted at the Democratic gathering at the Marriott University Park as Pima County Democratic Party chairman Jeff Rogers read off some early results. Rogers reminded the crowd that he had promised on last week’s Political Roundtable on Arizona Illustrated to shave off his mustache if Republican Frank Antenori beat Democrat Dave Bradley in the Arizona Senate race in Legislative District 10.
He then announced the first vote count from that race: Bradley 25,631; Antenori 20,076. Bradley would hold the lead throughout the night and was heading toward a resounding victory against Antenori, an outspoken Republican conservative who was redistricted into the Democratic-leaning area. As of 10 p.m., Bradley had 56.9 percent of the vote.
“It’s good to win,” said Bradley, who stopped short of declaring victory. “It’s easy to gloat, but I won’t do it. We have more work to do.”
Early in the evening, Antenori seemed oblivious to the realities of what was happening to him and other prominent Republicans, including Mitt Romney.
“This is a great night to be a Republican. I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow morning knowing my kids have a brighter future with Mitt Romney as president,” he said.
In the LD 10 House race, Democrats Bruce Wheeler and Stefanie Mach were headed toward victory over Republicans Ted Vogt and Todd Clodfelter. Wheeler had 28.5 percent of the vote, while Mach had 26.9 percent; Vogt was in third place with 23.3 percent, and Clodfelter had 21.2 percent as of 10 p.m.
“It feels terrific,” Wheeler said about his lead. “I worked my ass off.”
In neighboring Legislative District 9, which is also a competitive district, State Rep. Steve Farley was headed to an easy victory over Republican Tyler Mott in the state Senate race. Farley received about 56 percent of the vote.
“Because I’ve been going around knocking on doors in my district since April, I expected my race, personally, to look like it does,” Farley said.
In the LD 9 House races, Democrat Victoria Steele had a lead over Republican Ethan Orr and Democrat Mohur Sarah Sidhwa. As of 10 p.m., the race between Orr and Sidhwa was too close to call, although Orr led Sidhwa by almost 900 votes.
When asked what she would do if she won, Steele replied that she would “take a break and be with my family—and actually clean my house.”
In Pima County races: The Democrats hung on to their majority on the Pima County Board of Supervisors, as District 3 incumbent Democrat Sharon Bronson beat back a challenge from Republican Tanner Bell. As of 10 p.m., Bronson was leading Bell, 53.6 percent to 46.3 percent.
“Sharon withstood the wrath of Arizonans for a Brighter Future,” said fellow Democratic Supervisor Richard Elías, in reference to the independent campaign committee that hammered away at Bronson in the final weeks of the campaign. (Elías cruised to victory in his race, as did fellow incumbent Ramón Valadez.)
In the race for an open seat created by Supervisor Ann Day’s retirement, Republican Ally Miller was outpacing Democrat Nancy Young Wright, 52.9 percent to 47 percent.
“It’s going to be close,” Wright said, refusing to immediately concede.
When asked if she’d run for something again in the future if she didn’t prevail, Wright said that campaigning had its upside.
“It’s a good way to lose weight,” she said. “I lost 18 pounds.”
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik was headed for another term, leading Republican challenger Mark Napier by more than 5 percentage points—although Napier gave Dupnik one of his closest races ever.
“We certainly ran a competitive campaign. We stayed positive. That’s how I’ve wanted it to be since I began this in March,” Napier said. “We didn’t want to go negative. I was not going to sling mud, because I think the voters are tired of that.”
Still, Napier did get a dig in at the eight-term sheriff.
“I just can’t wrap my brain around the thought of 50 percent plus one of the voters wanting Clarence Dupnik for another four years,” he said.
In the race for three seats on the board of the troubled Tucson Unified School District, the top vote-getters in a crowded field of 12 were Kristel Ann Foster and incumbent Mark Stegeman. Cam Juarez had a tenuous grasp on third place as of our press deadline.
“They’ve counted some votes; some still need to be counted,” Stegeman said. “I’m in second. They take the top three, so that’s promising. But we don’t really know. The other two have been endorsed by the teachers’ union, and that usually carries a lot of weight.”
Said Juarez about his hold on the third and final seat: “It’s too early to tell. I’m not going to count my chickens before they hatch.”
Jimmy Boegle, Mariana Dale, Mari Herreras, Jim Nintzel, Brian J. Pedersen, Inés Taracena and various UA journalism students contributed to this story.