Cassie Ronda

Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

McCain, Arpaio win Republican primary, head to tough November races

PHOENIX – Arizona Republicans want John McCain to serve a sixth term as their U.S. senator, handing him a comfortable victory in the Tuesday primary. With 20 percent of the vote reported, McCain held a 52.5 to 40.1 percent lead over challenger Kelli Ward.

McCain, who turned 80 on Monday, will face Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick as he wrestles with his public but tangled endorsement of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

With more than 50 years of political experience between them, McCain and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio defeated challengers, moving on to stiffer competition in the November general election. Democrat Paul Penzone is seeking to unseat Arpaio from an office he’s held since 1993.

Voting seemed to go smoothly with more than 700 polling places open in Maricopa County, according to the county’s elections website . That’s in contrast to March’s presidential preference election, when an effort to save money reduced the number of polling places and forced people in Maricopa County to wait in line for hours before being able to cast a vote. There were virtually no lines witnessed at polling places in the Valley.

Trump, who is scheduled to give a speech on immigration on Wednesday in Phoenix, once made light of McCain’s experience as a prisoner of war and McCain stayed away from the Republican National Convention that named Trump as the Republican nominee. McCain has said he “supports the party’s nominee,” and Trump offered a mild endorsement of McCain.

Ward, the veteran senator’s main Republican competitor, built her campaign on equating McCain with the “Washington Establishment.” At least on Twitter, McCain appeared unflappable, sharing news articles and posting a note of thanks to those who sent him birthday wishes.

With 31 percent of the precincts reporting, former Buckeye police chief Dan Saban gained only 25.7 percent of Republican votes to Arpaio’s 66.5 percent, even as a potential criminal contempt of court case shadows Arpaio’s run for a seventh term. Arpaio and three others await a decision from the U.S. Attorney’s Office on whether they will be prosecuted for allegedly flouting court orders in a lawsuit accusing him of racial profiling. A U.S. District Court judge referred the case to the Attorney’s Office just 10 days before the election.

Saban was not available for comment Tuesday night.

A slew of other state representative and senatorial races were decided as well, although 70 percent of incumbents seeking re-election in Arizona legislature ran unopposed, a significant increase from the last three primaries, according to an analysis by Ballotpedia.

Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell held a small lead, despite widespread criticism for her handling of the presidential preference election in March. Only 60 polling places were open then, leading to long lines and angry voters. She apologized and promised to ratchet up polling places for other elections.