The Republican primary race between two longtime political allies and personal friends for Gilbert's Senate seat was shaped, in large part, by a bitter dispute over a proposed theme park in Eloy.
Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, has accused Sen. Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert, of selling out his "conservative values" for sponsoring a bill allowing the use of taxpayer money to build a proposed $750 million amusement park.
On the other hand, Verschoor has portrayed Farnsworth as an obstacle to progress at the Legislature, saying the longtime lawmaker, and former car-pool buddy, is stubborn and hard to work with.
The race carries significant consequences not only for Gilbert, but also for the entire Legislature next year. Verschoor, who is the Senate majority leader, is planning to run for Senate president - a position that carries enormous influence and power at the Capitol.
Besides the two current lawmakers, Gilbert resident Joe Bedgood is also running for the GOP nomination. Bedgood, who ran unsuccessfully in 2006, thinks that Farnsworth and Verschoor cancel each other out, leaving him enough room to slip in and take the nomination.
Two years ago, few would have thought Farnsworth would challenge Verschoor.
The two had a long history, voted the same way on most bills and shared the political view that government should be as small as possible. But that political kinship quickly began to unravel.
Farnsworth's feelings that Verschoor had drifted away from the political principles they shared started festering at the end of the 2007 legislative session.
Verschoor, who was also elected Senate majority leader by other lawmakers in 2007, was instrumental in cutting a budget deal with Gov. Janet Napolitano.
At the time, Farnsworth and other Republicans accused the GOP leaders in the Senate of caving in to the Democratic governor. That budget eventually had to be reworked to plug a $1.2 billion deficit.
While Farnsworth's concerns started there, the theme park bill is what prompted his decision to challenge Verschoor.
For Farnsworth, who has served eight years in the Legislature and is forced to leave office because of term limits, passage of the theme park bill was the moment he decided he was going to run against his old friend. Until then, Farnsworth said he'd toyed with the idea, but wasn't going to run.
"This is a fascist bill," Farnsworth said. "Two years ago (Verschoor) would have been calling this a fascist bill as well. This is the government picking who the winners and losers in business are."
The theme park legislation created a special taxing district near Eloy that would be given the authority to charge 10 percent sales tax within its boundaries to pay for the proposed park. Known as Decades, supporters of the park argued that developers needed the bill in order to secure the massive amounts of cash required for construction.
Opponents worried that lenders could come back and sue the state if the park fails and investors are not repaid. The bill narrowly passed with the minimum 16 votes needed in the Senate.
Verschoor defended his decision to back the rock 'n' roll theme park, saying he is trying to spur economic development. He also said it highlights the fundamental difference between himself and Farnsworth.
"Eddie is simply going to say no," Verschoor said. "And I work with people to find a conservative solution."
Verschoor added that over Farnsworth's eight years in office, he had missed a total of 73 days and roughly 480 votes.
"That adds up to almost an entire session," Verschoor said. "I think the people want somebody who is going to show up to work."
Besides the small barbs, the two candidates said they remain friends and credited each other with running a fair and clean campaign - a far cry from the political brawl predicted by some political insiders.
Over the years, the two Gilbert leaders have enjoyed a strong political connection.
In past election cycles, they ran as a team with fellow Gilbert Republican Rep. Andy Biggs, sharing signs and sending out political pamphlets featuring all three of them.
This year, Biggs decided to support Farnsworth in his efforts, a move Verschoor said was tough for to accept, but something "you have to deal with." Biggs, who was unavailable for comment, has been running in tandem with Farnsworth this year.
At this point, it is unclear how the Sept. 2 primary will shake out. No polls have been publicized. However, it appears Farnsworth does hold the financial edge over Verschoor, according to state campaign financial records. But Verschoor has outspent his opponents.
Verschoor, who is running as a traditionally financed candidate, has raised about $44,000 from private donors and spent most of that.
Farnsworth, who is running with public funds, has received $60,000 and has spent about $10,000, according to state campaign records.
Bedgood, who is also running with public money, has received about $60,000 and spent about $31,000.