Sen. Thayer Verschoor held a slim lead in early election results Tuesday night over his longtime friend turned political rival, Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, in the District 22 Republican primary for the state Senate, according to the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office.
With just over half of the precincts reporting, Verschoor looked like he would successfully hold off a strong challenge from Farnsworth.
The district, which includes a large portion of Gilbert, leans heavily toward Republicans, giving the winner of the GOP primary a heavy advantage going into the November general election.
The campaign featured two longtime friends turned political rivals. Verschoor and Farnsworth have deep roots that go back years. Together, the pair ran for the Legislature as a team along with fellow lawmaker Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert. They had also worked closely on a number of bills, including a controversial mandate that Gilbert provide fire service to thousands of homeowners living on county land outside city limits.
But that kinship started to unravel a couple of years ago when Verschoor voted for a state budget that increased state spending. Although that budget also cut a menu of taxes — such as personal income tax rates — Farnsworth warned Verschoor that he was selling out his political ideals.
The dispute reached a climax earlier this year, Farnsworth said, when Verschoor, as senate majority leader, sponsored legislation calling for construction of a $750 million theme park, funded in part with taxpayer money. At that point, Farnsworth, who cannot run again for his House seat because of term limits, said he decided to run against Verschoor. Farnsworth called the theme park proposal a “fascist bill.” Verschoor defended the bill, which passed by a single vote in the Senate, by claiming it would spur economic development.
The measure, Verschoor said, also highlighted one of the major differences between the two candidates. Verschoor said his opponent has earned a reputation at the Legislature as someone who is hard to work with and is quick to shoot down proposals. In the case of the theme park, Verschoor said, he worked to ensure only taxpayers who attended the theme park would actually help pay for the project. While Farnsworth wouldn’t even consider the bill, Verschoor said he was working to find a “conservative” solution. While Farnsworth questioned Verschoor’s fiscal conservative credentials, Verschoor said he ran on his record and that he is expected to win the Senate presidency if he’s re-elected.