Record Turnout Despite Snafus in Arizona

TUCSON, Ariz. (CN) – Arizona voters are on track to elect their first woman senator in November, after a primary in which voters were turned away from numerous polling places in Phoenix because of problems with voting machines.

Congresswoman Martha McSally, the first American woman to fly in combat, clinched the Republican Party’s nomination Tuesday night to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake.

McSally defeated former state Senator Kelli Ward and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, taking 51 percent of the vote. All three are ardent supporters of President Donald Trump.

The retired Air Force colonel was heavily favored entering the race, and was the preferred candidate by the Republican establishment, which saw Ward and Arpaio as fringe right-wing candidates.

Until recently, McSally was considered a centrist Republican who supported pathways to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants. She has since embraced President Trump, including his plans for a border wall.

McSally will face Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema in November, who won the Democratic nomination with 81 percent of the vote.

The November race is expected to be a tight one, with one poll showing Sinema ahead of McSally by 7 percentage points. If she were to win, Sinema would become the first Democratic senator elected in Arizona since 1988.

In the race for governor, incumbent Gov. Doug Ducey is one step closer to re-election after handily winning the Republican nomination with 70 percent of the vote.

Ducey will have to fend off David Garcia, an education professor, who won the Democratic nomination with 49 percent of the vote. If he beats Ducey in November, he will become the first Hispanic governor in the state’s history.

Voters were turned away at numerous polling places in Maricopa County on Tuesday, as problems with voting machines kept some polling places closed until almost noon.

The county had arranged for contractors to set up voting machines on Monday but that didn’t happen as planned, according to Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, who sat down with reporters for a news conference shortly before 10 a.m. Fontes did not know how many polling places were affected.

“We want to make sure that people have access to the ballot, and their ballots are counted,” Fontes said. By 11:30 a.m., all issues had been resolved, and Fontes reminded voters that there are 40 polling places where any voter can vote throughout the day with a custom printed ballot.

The problems prompted Secretary of State Michelle Reagan to call for longer polling hours in a tweet.

“In light of today’s issues at Maricopa County polling places, they should seriously consider asking superior court to have selected locations open later than 7 p.m.,” Reagan said shortly before noon. By 3:30 p.m., there was no decision on keeping polls open, according to Reagan spokesman Matt Roberts.

Turnout appeared to be high, Roberts said.

“It appears to be trending up, but of course we won’t know until we see the vote totals,” he said. He expected more than 1 million voters, a record for an Arizona primary that would put turnout around 30 percent.

The Arizona primary gained national attention when Sen. Jeff Flake announced his retirement last year in protest over his colleagues’ inaction regarding President Donald Trump.

Tucsonan Ken Pitts, 70, pulled a Republican ballot in the primary. He has lived in southern Arizona for more than 40 years and voted for western Arizona physician and state Sen. Kelli Ward in the Republican primary to replace Flake.

Pitts likes the idea of a wall between Mexico and the U.S., something Ward has also backed. He said he isn’t against immigration, but thinks we need to stem the flow.

“The United States can’t support everyone coming here,” he said, adding that he thinks today’s immigrants don’t seem to assimilate as much as previous generations.

He votes Republican because he thinks Democrats will raise taxes and be weaker than Republicans on terrorism and immigration. He thinks we need more federal officers on the border, and he thinks Ward is the most likely to back that.

Jon Buck, 62, also voted Republican in Tucson. He describes himself as a fiscal conservative and a social centrist, and he voted for Congresswoman Martha McSally, who is stepping down from the House of Representatives to run for the Senate.

Buck voted for McSally when she ran for her House seat in Congressional District 2. But he also voted once for Democrat Gabrielle Giffords, who retired after being shot in the head at a Tucson political event in January 2011. Buck likes McSally because she has voted mostly with the president in her time in Congress.

“Most of what Trump has been doing, I agree with,” Buck said.

Angela Morgan, 41, voted in the Democratic primary. A legal document preparer who’s spent most of her life in Tucson and is on public health care assistance and food stamps, she voted for Kyrsten Sinema because she thinks Sinema, who was homeless for three years as a teen, understands low-income voters.

“People that are making six-figure salaries, they don’t know what I’ve been through,” Morgan said.

Cary Todd, 44, also chose frontrunner Sinema in the Democratic primary. Sinema represented him in the Legislature in Phoenix.

“From my experience, she has always stood up for people who don’t have a lot of political clout,” said Todd, who voted for Tucson state Sen. Steve Farley in the governor’s race for the same reason.

Farley, who hopes to unseat incumbent Gov. Doug Ducey, visited the Navajo Nation as a candidate.

“He stands up for people who no one stands up for. I teach in a Title 1 school, and my students deserve a voice as much as more affluent students,” Todd said.

(Courthouse News editor Jamie Ross in Phoenix contributed to this report.)


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