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TMCNet:  GOP control of Legislature weakens as Dems pick up seats

[November 07, 2012]

GOP control of Legislature weakens as Dems pick up seats

Nov 07, 2012 (The Arizona Daily Star - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Republicans will retain control of the state Legislature, but with slimmer margins over Democrats after Tuesday's election.

Southern Arizona's legislative districts will continue to be dominated by Democrats. Among all 24 state representatives and senators elected from Southern Arizona's eights districts, 17 will be Democrats and seven Republicans.

Several Republicans won races in battleground districts, but enough Democrats won in others to give their party 13 of the Senate's 30 seats, up from only nine now. That shrinks the Republicans' current majority from 21 seats to 17.

On Wednesday afternoon, state Senate Republicans met and ousted Sen. Steve Pierce as the body's president. By a 9-8 vote, they chose Sen. Andy Biggs, who is considered more conservative, to replace him.

Democrats also made up some of the margin in the state House. If current results hold, Republicans will have 34 seats to the Democrats' 26.

Here's a rundown of Southern Arizona's state Legislative races Legislative District 10 In one of Tucson's marquee legislative races, Democrat David Bradley handily defeated Republican state Sen. Frank Antenori in the legislative district that covers most of the east side of the metro area.

Although Antenori was an incumbent senator, he was drawn into a new district this year that made his race harder. In the new Legislative District 10, Democrats make up about 37 percent of registered voters, to 33 percent for Republicans, and 29 percent independents.

Bradley acknowledged Tuesday night that the new district helped him, but he also pointed to Antenori political style as helping him win.

In fact, Bradley made Antenori's temperament part of Bradley's own campaign.

"I said over and over again, we just have to stop screaming at each other, and Frank kept screaming," Bradley said Bradley was a state representative from 2003 to 2011, and Antenori's main argument against him was that Bradley voted for unbalanced budgets that plunged the state into a fiscal crisis. Antenori did not return a call seeking comment.

Legislative District 10 House In the House race, Democrats Bruce Wheeler and Stefanie Mach appear to have won, unseating incumbent Republican Rep. Ted Vogt. Wheeler had 26.9 percent of the vote, Mach had 25.4 percent, Vogt had 24.6 percent and Republican Todd Clodfelter had 23.1 percent.

Vogt was not conceding Wednesday afternoon.

"I think with 80,000 ballots yet to be counted county wide, it's not over yet," Vogt said. "Over next 24 hours, we'll have a better idea how many of the votes are from Legislative District 10." The district is a competitive one, with 37 percent registered as Democrats, 34 percent as Republicans and 29 percent as independents.

Legislative District 2 Senate Democrat Linda Lopez won a third term in the state Senate and her seventh term overall in the Legislature Tuesday night.

Lopez ran unopposed in the general election and will now serve as the first senator in the newly redrawn District 2.

Legislative District 2 House Democrats Andrea Dalessandro and Rosanna Gabaldon were top two vote-getters in newly redrawn Legislative District 2. Dalessandro finished with 35 percent, and Gabaldon received 33 percent of the vote with 90 percent of precincts reporting.

Republican John Christopher Ackerley, a public school teacher, finished third with 33 percent.

For Dalessandro, the third time running for office proved to be the charm.

She previously ran two unsuccessful campaigns in Legislative District 30, which was heavily Republican.

This will also be Gabaldon's first time holding a state elected office.

Legislative District 3 Senate Democrat Olivia Cajero Bedford ran unopposed.

Legislative District 3 House Democrats Sally Ann Gonzales and Macario Saldate were unopposed for the House seats.

Legislative District 4 Senate Lynne Pancrazi, a Democrat, ran unopposed.

Legislative District 4 House Democrats Juan Carlos Escamilla and Lisa Otondo were unopposed.

Legislative District 8 Senate Democratic former legislator Barbara McGuire won the state Senate seat in District 8 over Republican Joe Ortiz, a Casa Grande businessman.

The margin was 48.7 percent for McGuire to 46.3 percent for Ortiz and 4.9 percent for Libertarian Dean Dill.

District 8 includes much of Pinal County, primarily east of Interstate 10, stretching south to the Pima County line and east and north into Gila County to Globe.

McGuire served an earlier two terms in the Legislature and has for 25 years been a Salvation Army extension director overseeing southeast Pinal County.

Ortiz's arrest record may have been a factor in the race. Ortiz, who owns a trucking firm and tire business, says he has been honest with voters about his arrests after an altercation with his stepfather and a fight outside a bar, and he had labeled the state Democratic Party's blog post about his arrests "dirty politics." Legislative District 8 House Republican legislator Frank Pratt, owner of Pratt Pools in Casa Grande, appeared to win a House seat.

His Republican ticket-mate was ahead on the ballot with all precincts reporting Tuesday, but the result could change after an unknown number of provisional ballots are counted.

Republican Thomas "T.J." Shope, a Coolidge Unified School District board member, held a 1.5-percentage point lead over Mammoth Democrat Ernest Bustamante, an Asarco pipefitter and former small-business owner who previously served in the Legislature. Democrat Emily Verdugo trailed Bustamante by about a percentage point.

Pratt served two terms in the House representing Legislative District 23. He counts among his proudest legislative acts passage of a bill to allow small utilities to band together to do capital-intensive energy transfer projects.

Legislative District 9 Senate Voters promoted Democrat Steve Farley to the state Senate after he served three terms in the state House.

Farley won 55 percent of the votes, while Republican up-and-comer Tyler Mott won 45 percent.

"We need to find a way of keeping our kids from going off the cliff when the sales tax ends in May. We have to dedicate our funding to fund our education systems. We absolutely have to do that, and we have to get together to make it happen.

"I'm excited because I think we are going to have a much more moderate Legislature, especially in the Senate, because we've got closer numbers." Farley's comments echoed a theme Democratic candidates came back to during the campaign -- the desire to work with moderate Republicans in the Legislature.

Mott said he won't rule out politics but will focus on earning a master's degree for now.

Both candidates focused their campaigns on reaching independents, who make up 29 percent of the competitive district's registered voters.

Democrats make up 37 percent of voters and Republicans are 33 percent.

Legislative District 9 House This Catalina Foothills district was one of only two in the state to vote for a Democrat and a Republican to represent them in the state House.

Democrat Victoria Steele appears to have won one seat with 34.7 percent of the vote, and Republican Ethan Orr the other with 33.8 percent. Democrat Mohur Sidwa is in third with 31.2 percent.

Each of the candidates had said they would cut prison spending and use the money to better support public education. For Steele and Orr this was their first race for public office.

Legislative District 11 Senate State Sen. Al Melvin, a Republican, secured his third term by defeating first-time candidate Democrat Jo Holt 57 to 43 percent.

Melvin will serve as the first senator in the newly drawn Legislative District 11, which includes most of the northwest side of the During the campaign, Melvin said a vote for his opponent was tantamount to a vote for the policies of President Obama.

Holt countered by saying Melvin was too beholden to far-right wing ideology to adequately represent the district.

This was Holt's first attempt at elected office in Arizona.

Melvin is one of the Legislature's hard-line conservatives, and he freely expressed his disdain for Democrats during the campaign.

"I think the Democratic Party has evolved into a secular socialist organization," he said, a phrase he used repeatedly during the campaign.

He's even fought recently with the more moderate Republican leader of the Senate, Steve Pierce. Melvin accused Pierce of directing money from a Republican Victory Fund away from conservative Republicans and toward moderates.

Even while calling for the defeat of Democrats in every race from president to school board, Melvin also said he can work with both parties. He noted he worked with Democrats on bills to ban text messaging while driving and to protect animals.

Melvin lives in SaddleBrooke, a retirement community in Pinal County north of Marana.

Legislative District 11 House Republicans Steve Smith and Adam Kwasman won the two available state House seats in the newly drawn district.

Smith captured 37 percent and Kwasman received 34 percent.

Democrat David Joseph finished third with 29 percent with 83 percent of precincts reporting.

Smith is making the transition from the state Senate after redistricting placed him and state Sen. Al Melvin into the same district.

For Kwasman, this will be his first elected office.

Legislative District 14 Senate Incumbent Sen. Gail Griffin, a Republican, won re-election by a large margin in this broad southeastern Arizona district.

Griffin defeated Democrat Pat Fleming 63 percent to 37 percent.

The district includes Vail, Rita Ranch and Corona de Tucson in Pima County, all of Cochise County and parts of Graham and Greenlee counties.

Legislative District 14 House Incumbent Republicans David Gowan and David Stevens were re-elected as state representatives for the district, each capturing more than 31 percent of votes.

Democratic challengers Robert Leach and Mark Stonebraker each took less than 17 percent.

___ (c)2012 The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, Ariz.) Visit The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, Ariz.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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