The race to replace Sen. Jeff Flake in Arizona will produce a first this November no matter which party wins. Voters will almost certainly send the first woman to be elected to the upper chamber as both Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema won their respective primaries. Sinema was expected to cruise to victory, but McSally outperformed expectations in what was supposed to be a competitive three-way race:
The nation’s eyes are on Arizona and its hotly contested U.S. Senate race, seen as a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats fighting to retake control of the chamber and challenge President Donald Trump’s agenda on everything from illegal immigration to taxes and trade.
The open Senate race is among the nation’s most competitive, and is consequential for a state that is on the cusp of electing its first woman senator.
U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, a two-term congresswoman from Tucson, defeated her Republican rivals, former state Sen. Kelli Ward of Lake Havasu City and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Fountain Hills, according to unofficial results from the Secretary of State.
Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who has served three terms and is from Phoenix, also defeated her rival, Deedra Abboud, a progressive activist and attorney from Scottsdale.
Sinema’s competition was mainly pro forma. Abboud is a political neophyte, running mainly as an activist who barely got any attention at all. Arizona’s vote count is surprisingly slow, but with 59% of precincts reporting this morning, Sinema has slightly over 80% of the Democratic primary vote, and has won every county.
The Republican primary, however, featured three significant and well-known candidates. McSally was expected to win on the basis of Kelli Ward and Joe Arpaio splitting the anti-establishment vote, but at least for now it appears that McSally has blown both challengers out of the water even put together. Ward only has 28% of the vote, and Arpaio even less at 19.5%, while McSally has a solid majority at 52.2%. McSally is carrying every county except Yuma, where Arpaio holds a 35/32/32 lead.
That may have implications for the 2020 race and Doug Ducey’s appointment of a replacement for John McCain, too. A year ago, Ward demanded that McCain to resign and for Ducey to appoint her as his replacement. She’ll likely want Ducey to consider her for the position now, but this poor showing in the GOP primary will almost certainly put an end to that idea, if in fact Ducey ever considered it at all. Arpaio’s finish is even more embarrassing, especially with his third-place finish in Maricopa, where he served as sheriff for 24 years.
McSally will make a much more difficult candidate to attack for Democrats in November. She has a solid record in Congress, as does Sinema, and has already shown that she can fight back effectively. However, Democrats might have another worry in Arizona. Despite competitive primaries in both parties for the Senate races, the GOP outdrew Democrats 456K/361K, at least so far. In the gubernatorial primaries, the GOP outdrew Democrats by similar margins even though the GOP race incumbent Ducey cruising to victory. David Garcia won the Democratic primary with barely over half of the votes Ducey got in his primary.
If those margins hold up when the precincts fully report, it looks like Arizona will remain a red state in November — perhaps especially with McSally leading the ballot.