It was a jubilant night for Democrats. While Jim Pederson could not upset Jon Kyl, the Democrats were able to celebrate several possible upsets in Southern Arizona Legislature races, as well as the passage of Proposition 202, raising the minimum wage, and the apparent defeat of Proposition 107, which would have banned government recognition of domestic partnerships.
Giffords, who served five years in the Arizona Legislature before retiring last December to jump into the congressional race, defeated Graf by almost 13 percentage points with nearly 94 of precincts reporting.
Giffords attributed her margin of victory to the "thousands of people who have come forward to work on this campaign. Some people have had grassroots campaigns; we had a cactus roots campaign."
Giffords returned to the theme of her campaign in promising change in Washington. She called for a real plan in Iraq, raising the minimum wage, providing more Americans with health insurance and crafting a comprehensive border security plan.
At the Doubletree Hotel at Reid Park, Democrats were celebrating raucously as both national and local results came in. While the news was not all good for Democrats, most of it was--especially their capture of a majority in the U.S. House.
The mood was considerably more dour at the Radisson Hotel, where Republicans, including Graf supporters, had gathered. Supporters tried to stay upbeat as discouraging numbers started coming in.
Despite being behind by a large margin, Graf refused to concede the race before late-night. When asked whether he would consider running for Congress again, he said: "That's way too early to determine. I never charted a political career."
One of the strangest moments of the night came when Jim Kolbe--who went out of his way to refuse to endorse Graf, his opponent in the 2004 primary--congratulated Graf. The two men shook hands awkwardly, as Jim Kolbe said: "Hey, Randy, you ran a tough, issues-oriented campaign."
Kolbe later showed up to watch Giffords make her acceptance speech, saying he wanted to congratulate the person who is following in his footsteps.
"It went pretty much as I expected," Kolbe said. "It's not a big surprise. I am sure Gabby will do a good job."
When Giffords was asked whether she thought astronauts or cavemen would win in a fight, she said, "I am going with the astronauts." (Of course, Giffords famously has an astronaut for a boyfriend, something she endlessly pointed out while he was on a space shuttle mission during her primary race.)
In other races:
· U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl held off a challenge from Democrat Jim Pederson, the Maricopa County strip-mall tycoon. Kyl had more than 52 percent of the vote at press time, besting Pederson and his $12 million by about 8 percentage points.
· Congressman Raul Grijalva defeated Republican challenger Ron Drake by about 27 percentage points, capturing almost 62 percent of the vote.
· Gov. Janet Napolitano stomped Republican challenger Len Munsil, picking up 63 percent of the vote.
· Attorney General Terry Goddard defeated Republican Bill Montgomery, 60 percent to 40 percent.
· Secretary of State Jan Brewer defeated Democrat Israel Torres with more than 56 percent to Torres' 40 percent.
· Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne defeated Democrat Jason Williams, 53 percent to 47 percent, in a race that was closer than many anticipated.
· Republican Dean Martin defeated Democrat Rano Singh in the race for state treasurer, getting 56 percent of the vote.
· Republicans Kris Mayes and Gary Pierce apparently won the two Corporation Commission seats. They had 25.3 and 25.1 percent of the vote respectively, with Democrats Richard Boyer and Mark Manoil gaining 23.8 and 21.9 percent respectively, with 92.6 percent of precincts reporting.
· Legislative District 25 incumbent Rep. Manny Alvarez appeared safe, getting 26.9 percent of the vote with 92.6 percent of precincts reporting. Republican Rep. Jennifer Burns (24.3 percent) was barely fending off challengers Pat Fleming (Democrat, 23.3 percent) and Gail Griffin (Republican, 23.7 percent).
In heavily Republican House District 26, Lena Saradnik pulled off one of the night's biggest upsets, winning one of the district's two seats. She (33.5 percent) finished second behind incumbent Pete Hershberger (38.3 percent), beating Republican David Jorgenson (28.1 percent) with 93.1 percent of precincts reporting.
Saradnik credited her apparent victory to "hard work."
"People understand that we have to focus on the real issues," she said. "People are very tired of the extremism."
Senate candidate Charlene Pesquiera was hoping to join her District 26 mate Saradnik in the Legislature. With 93.1 percent of the vote in, she led Republican Al Melvin--who shocked incumbent Toni Hellon in the primary--by 478 votes.
Pesquiera credited her strong showing to her party's effort, and the fact that Melvin was so far to the right.
"The Democrats really pulled together, and I've been telling people it's a clear choice," said Pesquiera.
In midtown Legislative District 28, Democrat Steve Farley won the House seat that was vacated by Ted Downing, who lost the District 28 Senate Democratic primary to Paula Aboud. He and incumbent Democrat Dave Bradley defeated Republican Bill Phillips.
In the proposition campaigns:
· Prop 107, a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage as well as any government recognition of domestic partnerships or civil unions among both gay and straight couples, was failing in a close contest. With 92.6 percent of precincts reporting, 48.4 percent of voters said yea, with 51.6 saying nay.
· Prop 106, which would have set aside nearly 700,000 acres of state trust land and reformed the State Land Department's planning and auctioning methods, was losing in another close contest. The coalition effort was losing 48.5-51.5 percent. Voters overwhelming rejected the Legislature's alternative proposal, Prop 105, by an 29 to 71 percent margin.
· Prop 201, which bans smoking in bars, restaurants and other public places, passed with 54 percent of the vote. Prop 206, an alternative sponsored by the tobacco industry, failed, getting less than 43 percent.
· Prop 202, which would raise the minimum wage to $6.75 an hour, passed with about 66 percent of the vote.
· Prop 203, which increases the tax on a pack of cigarettes by 80 cents to fund day care and health screening for children younger than 5, seemingly passed with more than 52 percent of the vote. Because of a typo saying .8 cents instead of 80 cents, the initiative appeared headed for court.
· Prop 204, which bans the use of small crates for hogs and calves, passed with more than 61 percent of the vote.
· Prop 207, which limits the government's power of eminent domain and forces government to reimburse property owners for any regulations that reduce the value of their land, passed with more than 65 percent of the vote.
· All four propositions related to illegal immigrants passed by big margins. Prop 300, which blocks illegal immigrants from adult-ed courses, state-subsidized child care and in-state college tuition, passed with 71 percent of the vote.
· Prop 102, which blocks illegal immigrants from collecting punitive damages in lawsuits, passed with more than 73 percent of the vote.
· Prop 103, which makes English the official language of the state, passed with more than 73 percent of the vote.
· Prop 100, which denies bail to any illegal immigrant accused of a "serious felony," passed with almost 77 percent of the vote.
· Prop 200, which would have created a million-dollar lottery for one lucky voter in state elections, was rejected by 66 percent of the voters.
· Prop 205, which would established a new vote-by-mail system, was rejected by more than 72 percent of the voters.
· Prop 301, which would send first- and second-time meth offenders to jail rather than to treatment, was passed by more than 57 percent of the voters.
· Prop 302, which would have increased state lawmakers' pay to $36,000 a year, was rejected by 53 percent of the voters.
· Prop 400, which created a new Joint Technological Education District among local school districts, passed overwhelmingly in all of Pima County's school districts.