Republican Jan Brewer easily defeated Democrat Terry Goddard to win a full term as Arizona's governor Tuesday by avoiding potential fallout from the state's deep budget troubles and riding a wave of support for the state's controversial law on illegal immigration.
Brewer had nearly 56 percent of the vote and Goddard 41 percent with 65 percent of precincts reporting and hundreds of thousands of early ballots counted.
Brewer raised her right hand in triumph over her head while being introduced to a cheering crowd of Republicans in a Phoenix hotel ballroom.
"Tonight we see the fruits of a united party," Brewer said, exulting in her win and those of other Republicans both in Arizona and across the country. "Tonight the cavalry has just come riding over the hill."
In a nearby hotel, Goddard told his supporters that he ran with a message of trying to foster bipartisan cooperation to put Arizonans to work again. But he said the state was "distracted by division."
"We've made our Latino brothers and sisters, fellow citizens, feel like they are strangers in their own party," he said.
More than three-fourths of voters who strongly support the state's immigration law and feel that state governments should determine laws on illegal immigration cast a ballot for Brewer, according to an Associated Press analysis of preliminary exit poll results and pre-election polls.
Brewer was elevated from secretary of state in January 2009 when Democrat Janet Napolitano resigned to become federal Homeland Security secretary.
Goddard ran twice unsuccessfully for governor in the 1990s. The former Phoenix mayor is finishing his second term as state attorney general.
Goddard was unopposed in the Aug. 24 primary election, while Brewer easily won her party's nomination after being buoyed by her April signing of Arizona's law against illegal immigration, SB1070. Parts of the law have been put on hold by a federal judge pending the outcome of a legal challenge.
Critics denounced the law as promoting racial profiling, but Brewer denied that and said the state had to act because the federal government was not doing enough to stop illegal immigration.
And she was helped when voters on May 18 overwhelmingly approved a temporary sales tax increase she championed to help balance the state budget.
Brewer said Goddard was lax on illegal immigration because he said SB1070 was misguided. She also said she'd made tough decisions on Arizona's budget crisis, and she took advantage of every opportunity to trumpet economic development events bringing new jobs to the state.
Goddard said Brewer hadn't done enough to fix the state's budget troubles, and he said her administration went easy on private prisons like the one where three violent offenders escaped July 30.
Brewer, who confronted a growing budget crisis when she took office, still faces a grim fiscal picture, with sizable shortfalls projected for the current and next fiscal years.
The state has already laid off more than 2,000 state employees and reduced funding for services and programs across state government. Visible effects have been seen in slashed day care subsidies, cuts in health care for the poor and closed state parks and rest areas.
Brewer and Goddard debated only once, on Sept. 1. They had to because each accepted public campaign financing.
Brewer earlier said she wouldn't give Goddard additional face-to-face exposure, but her performance in the one debate solidified her decision.
It began with Brewer pausing for about 15 seconds during her opening statement and concluded with her bolting from reporters asking her after the debate about her claim of headless bodies being found in the desert. She later retracted the claim.
A swell of approval from voters who support the state's controversial new immigration law and feel that most illegal immigrants should be deported helped Republican Jan Brewer win the election for Arizona governor on Tuesday, according to an Associated Press analysis of preliminary exit poll results and pre-election polls.
More than three-fourths of people who strongly support the new law favored Brewer over Democratic opponent Terry Goddard.
Goddard won over nine out of 10 voters who strongly oppose the new law and most Latino voters.
Brewer signed the new law in April as she criticized what she called the federal government's inaction on illegal immigration. A judge blocked the law's most controversial portions, such as a requirement that police, while enforcing other laws, question people's immigration status if there is a reasonable suspicion they're in the country illegally.
Critics say the law would lead to rampant racial profiling, while supporters say the state has to do something to fight illegal immigration.
John Sigler, a 42-year-old business consultant who lives in Phoenix, said Brewer got his vote because of the law.
"That solidified it," he said. "It clearly signaled that she's serious about the issue."
He said he supports the new law because he feels that protections have been put in place to avoid racial profiling. "I don't want people to be hurt by any means, but I've traveled in Italy and forgotten my passport, and they wouldn't let me check into a hotel, and that was a hotel," he said.
Sean Bonnette, a 25-year-old social worker living in Phoenix, said he voted for Goddard because of his criticism of the immigration law.
"I don't think (Brewer) had any place to pass that law," he said. "I believe it's unconstitutional — there's no way to enforce that law without racial profiling people. Just saying you're not going to racially profile people doesn't mean you won't."
Bonnette said he thinks Brewer signed the law to boost her popularity. "This thing is what really made her career," he said.
About two-thirds of people who voted for Brewer said the candidate quality that mattered most in their decision was that Brewer understands the needs of the people. More than half who voted for Goddard said they felt he could bring needed change.
Meanwhile, Republican Sen. John McCain bested Democrat Rodney Glassman after winning widespread support, including six in 10 voters who said they were independent, and nine of 10 who described themselves as Republican. Glassman ran strong among voters who support President Barack Obama and feel satisfied about the way the federal government is working.
Most voters who support the tea party movement cast a ballot for McCain, while those opposed to the movement generally voted for Glassman.
Nearly two-thirds of voters who felt the economy was the most important issue facing the country favored McCain. Most who felt that way also voted for Brewer.
With her win, Brewer will serve her first full term as an elected governor. She was the elected secretary of state when she became governor in January 2009. Her predecessor, Democrat Janet Napolitano, resigned to become Homeland Security secretary.
Goddard, a former Phoenix mayor, unsuccessfully ran twice for governor in the early 1990s, losing a 1991 runoff to Republican Fife Symington and a 1994 primary race.
The survey of 2,499 Arizona voters was conducted for AP by Edison Research. This includes preliminary results from interviews with 1,799 voters from a random sample of 30 precincts statewide Tuesday; 700 who voted early or absentee were interviewed by landline or cellular telephone from Oct. 22 through Oct. 31. Results for the full sample were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.