Red Tide

Southern Arizona’s congressional races are too close to call as Republicans sweep the statewide races, make gains in the Legislature

Southern Arizona's two Democratic incumbents held extremely narrow leads as of our press deadline on Election Night, as they hoped to avoid the fate of many of their congressional colleagues on a day that the Republicans took control of the House.

With 298 out of 352 precincts reporting in Congressional District 8 (as of 11:20 p.m. on Election Night), Giffords had the support of 48.55 percent of voters, while Kelly had the support of 47.49 percent—a difference of less than 2,500 votes.

Giffords, a two-term incumbent who had won by double-digit percentages in each of her previous races, said the race was too close to call when she addressed the Democratic crowd at the Marriott University Park before 10 p.m. She noted that Democrats had lost many seats in the election.

"This election is going to go down in history as one of the angriest, one of the most difficult, one of the most challenging and one of the most angry," Giffords said. "But while other campaigns across the country stooped to levels lower than we have ever seen before, our campaign stood up for the people. We based our campaign not on politics, but on solutions to real problems."

Kelly was in a joking mood early on Election Night, predicting at one point that he'd win by five points.

"I know a lot of you are nervous; you don't know what's going to happen in the election, but let me tell you something that will put all your minds at ease: I've never lost an election," he told attendees of the Republican Party's Election Night celebration at the Doubletree Hotel.

After 10 p.m., however, Kelly struck a more serious tone.

"It looks like it will be close, like we thought it was, but I think we're going to do it," he said.

He pointed to the numerous gains that voters had given Republicans across the country.

"They already chose liberty over tyranny. They chose freedom over big government, and God bless them for doing it," he said.

Meanwhile, Democratic Congressman Raúl Grijalva held a small lead against rookie Republican Ruth McClung in Congressional District 7. With 235 out of 261 precincts reporting, he had 48.4 percent of the vote, compared to 45.96 percent for McClung. About 3,000 votes separated the two.

"I feel good," he said. "We worked hard. We are basically running against John McCain and his infrastructure. If we win, it's a humiliation of him."

McClung tried to ease the crowd early in the night at the Doubletree, saying, "We really are neck-and-neck, so I'll admit I'm very nervous. We're all here biting our nails together, or pulling our hair out."

The CD 7 race became unexpectedly competitive in the final weeks as polls on both the Republican and Democratic sides showed McClung gaining on Grijalva, who faced criticism for calling for a boycott of the state in the wake of the passage of SB 1070.

McClung had picked up support from a variety of right-leaning groups, as well as from Sen. John McCain, who bought airtime with McClung and offered to share some of his Tucson campaign office space.

"Regardless of what happens tonight, I believe that we've shown America that there is not a safe district," she says.

In the biggest statewide race, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer was handily defeating Democrat Terry Goddard, capturing 55.3 percent of the vote to Goddard's 41.6 percent.

Democrats were also losing seats in the Arizona Legislature. In Legislative District 26, where Democrats had hoped to knock off a Republican incumbent, GOP Sen. Al Melvin was besting Democrat Cheryl Cage with 53.9 percent of vote, compared to her 46 percent.

The House race for two seats in LD 26 was too close to call. With 64 of 90 precincts reporting, Republican Terri Proud, a political newcomer, led the three-way House race with 34.6 percent. Republican incumbent Vic Williams was in second with 33.1 percent, and Democratic incumbent Nancy Young Wright was in third, with 32.1 percent—less than 900 votes behind Williams.

Earlier in the night, when Williams was in third place behind Proud and Wright, he predicted that he'd make a comeback.

"Right now, Terri's in first place," he said. "She will be there tomorrow morning ready to work for this district. ... Stick with me, folks. It's going to be Terri Proud and Vic Williams."

In Legislative District 25, Democratic Sen. Manny Alvarez was losing to Republican challenger Gail Griffin. In the House races, Republican Rep. David Stevens and newcomer Peggy Judd were beating Democratic incumbent Rep. Pat Fleming and former state lawmaker Ruben Ortega.

In Legislative District 28, state Sen. Paula Aboud won re-election easily, with 56.9 percent of the vote, easily dispatching Republican Greg Krino and his 34.2 percent, despite the presence of two left-leaning independents in the race: former state lawmaker Ted Downing, who captured 6 percent of the vote, and former Green Party activist Dave Ewoldt, who gained 2.8 percent.

In Legislative District 30, Republican incumbent Sen. Frank Antenori was cruising to an easy victory over Democratic challenger Todd Camenisch, while incumbent Republican Reps. David Gowan and Ted Vogt were outdoing Democratic challenger Andrea Dalessandro.

Republicans swept the other statewide races:

• Republican Tom Horne captured 52.5 percent of the vote to win the Attorney General's Office over Democrat Felecia Rotellini.

• Republican Ken Bennett won 58.7 percent of the vote to hang on to the Arizona Secretary of State's Office over Democrat Chris Deschene.

• Republican John Huppenthal won 56 percent of the vote to win the state superintendent of public instruction race over Democrat Penny Kotterman.

• Republican Doug Ducey won 52.5 percent of the vote to defeat Democratic challenger Andrei Cherny in the treasurer's race.

• Republicans Brenda Burns and Gary Pierce won seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission.

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