In a surprise Election Day twist, GOP challenger Martha McSally held a narrow lead over Congressman Ron Barber in a race that remained too close to call on Wednesday.
McSally was ahead of Barber by 1,312 votes, according to the figures from the Arizona Secretary of State at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.
But Pima County officials reported on Wednesday morning that roughly 80,000 votes remained to be counted, giving Team Barber hope that they could still close the gap—especially since Barber was outpacing McSally in Pima County.
“While we don’t yet know the outcome of this election, I want to say how grateful I am to all those who have stood alongside me—and stood up for what’s important to Southern Arizona,” Barber said in a statement on Wednesday morning. “We’ll continue to watch the results over the next few days, and whatever happens, we will trust the people of Southern Arizona—as I always have, and always will.”
At a press conference Wednesday morning, McSally stopped short of declaring victory.
“We feel good. We’re optimistic; we’re a little sleep-deprived, but we’re going to let the process work itself out,” McSally said.
Congressman Jeff Flake defeated Democrat Richard Carmona, 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. Flake captured about 50.4 percent of the vote, while Carmona had only 45.2 percent on Wednesday.
In Congressional District 1, Republican Jonathan Paton—after leading as returns came in throughout much of election night—was losing to Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick. Shortly after 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Paton trailed Kirkpatrick by 3.5 percent, or more than 7,300 votes.
Early in the night, as those 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 at the GOP election-night gathering, at the Sheraton Tucson. However early Wednesday morning, late returns put Kirkpatrick ahead. On Wednesday, Kirkpatrick claimed she was never worried.
“The race turned out exactly as we thought it would,” said Kirkpatrick. “I got eight hours of sleep last night.”
In Southern Arizona’s other congressional race, Congressman Raúl Grijalva easily dispatched his Republican opponent, Gabriela Saucedo Mercer, capturing more than 56 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 election-night 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. On Wednesday afternoon, Bradley had 53.7 percent of the vote.
“It’s good to win,” said Bradley. “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 to 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 had leads over Republicans Ted Vogt, an incumbent, and Todd Clodfelter. Wheeler had 26.9 percent of the vote, while Mach had 25.4 percent; Vogt was in third place with 24.6 percent, and Clodfelter had 21.2 percent as of 1 p.m. on Wednesday. Less than 900 votes separated Mach and Vogt for the second seat.
“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 54.8 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. Orr led Sidhwa by more than 2,500 votes for the second seat.
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.”
As results came in on election night, Orr conceded the close race was somewhat nerve-racking.
“I’ve basically been up since 3:30 a.m. working, so everything I’m feeling is a bit subdued,” said Orr. “I spent the day at the polls, and it was actually a lot of fun. It felt almost like a party.
“It’s tense here tonight. There have been a lot of problems with the ballots, so no one knows what’s going to happen.”
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. On Wednesday, Bronson was leading, 53.7 percent to 46.2 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, 54.2 percent to 45.7 percent.
“Unfortunately, our efforts were not enough to prevail,” Wright said in an email sent late on election night. “I congratulate my opponent and wish her well in her tenure on the board.”
When asked if she’d run for something again in the future if she didn’t prevail, Wright said on Tuesday night 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 seemingly headed for another term, leading Republican challenger Mark Napier by more than 3 percentage points on Wednesday—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 on Wednesday.
“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.”