Playing with a lead suited the District 17 Democrats.
Riding a national pro-progressive wave and local surge of registrations, Sen. Meg Burton Cahill and Reps. Ed Ableser and David Schapira were re-elected to their offices, based on returns from nearly 80 percent of the polls.
This was the first time in recent memory the Democratic Party successfully defended an East Valley district’s three seats. District 17 takes in Tempe and south Scottsdale.
Burton Cahill beat Republican challenger Jesse Hernandez by 23 percent. The margin was almost identical to what she received two years ago in successfully making the jump from the House to the Senate.
In the House, Schapira collected 31 percent of the votes and Ableser took in 29 percent. Both are first-term incumbents.
Falling short were the GOP’s Mark Thompson (22 percent) and Wes Waddle (18 percent). Thompson was seeking to regain the seat he lost in the 2004 Republican primary.
A big factor in the race’s outcome was not the candidates, but the voters.
Until this election cycle, the Democrats had never held an edge in the district’s voter registration. According to the final figures released by the Secretary of State’s Office, the Democratic Party led the GOP by nearly 3,700 voters in the district, an advantage of 4.5 percentage points.
As for the campaign itself, the most notable issue was a series of signs attacking Ableser and Burton Cahill for stands perceived as too lenient on illegal immigration.
The signs were posted by the sign maker for Hernandez and Thompson.
The largest local issue was Gov. Janet Napolitano’s economic stimulus plan, which is centered on infrastructure improvements at the state’s three public universities.
District 17 takes in Arizona State University.
The Democratic incumbents, as could be expected, back the stimulus package. But the Republicans believe the state should save its money.