Veteran Republican lawmaker Russell Pearce solidly led his opponent, Democrat Judah Nativio, in the race for Senate District 18 Tuesday night. In unofficial returns, Pearce held nearly 60 percent of the vote in the Mesa district.
“I’m obviously pleased and grateful to the district for recognizing and appreciating my work,” Pearce said Tuesday night.
Calling Nativio a “good kid,” Pearce said his younger opponent “just wasn’t fit for the (conservative) district.”
Republicans also appeared to sweep the District 18 House contest, with Cecil Ash and Steve Court leading Democrat Tammie Pursley and Independent candidate Joe Brown.
Pearce has served eight years in the state House of Representatives. He was forced to give up his seat because of term limits and opted to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Karen Johnson.
Republicans hold a lopsided advantage in voter registrations in the district with more than 26,000, compared to less than 18,000 Democrats and about 17,000 independents. The predominantly conservative district comprises the city’s central and western parts.
The real battle for Pearce, running on Clean Elections money, took place against fellow Republican Kevin Gibbons in the primary. That contest was marred by personal allegations against Pearce, largely financed by independent expenditure groups.
In the general election, Pearce stuck to his message of keeping public safety a priority, keeping taxes low and limiting government.
Nativio, a neophyte legislative candidate, ran on a platform of focusing on improving the state’s education and dealing with the tough economic situation.
The District 18 House race featured two first-time candidates — Ash and Court, Democrat Pursley and Brown, who ran as an Independent. The state budget was the focus of this race. Ash and Court advocated balancing the state’s budget by looking into state spending and seeing where cuts were possible. Purlsey agreed with the idea of budget cuts, but not in education. Brown wanted to keep some agencies, such as the Department of Corrections and the state Veterans Hospital, protected from any budget cuts.
The two House seats were up for grabs, left open by Pearce and Mark Anderson. Anderson ran unsuccessfully in the primary for Congress.
Meanwhile, in the District 19 House race, Democrat Kathy Romano appears to have lost to incumbents Rich Crandall and Kirk Adams, based on early results. The district is located in northeast Mesa. Adams ran a campaign wanting to continue his push for making government more transparent. Improving education was the main focal point for both Crandall and Romano.
Sen. Chuck Gray ran unopposed in the Senate race.
In District 22, Sen. Thayer Verschoor ran unopposed after a hard-fought Republican primary against Eddie Farnsworth. The district covers parts of Gilbert, Chandler, Apache Junction and Queen Creek. Republicans Biggs and Hendrix faced Ray, the lone Democrat in the race for the two House seats.
In the District 23 Senate race Rebecca Rios led newcomer Andre Campos, a Republican living in Arizona City. Rios is the Democratic incumbent. District 23 covers much of Pinal County, including areas south of Queen Creek and Apache Junction and small parts of western Maricopa and eastern Gila counties.
District 23 is a traditionally Democratic district that featured two Republicans hoping to break into state politics.
In the District 23 House race, Rep. Barbara McGuire, a Democrat, was elected to a second term, while GOP candidate Frank Pratt took the second seat. Trailing by about 500 votes in third was Republican John Fillmore. Finishing last was Ernest Bustamente, a Democrat, who sought to return to state service after one term in the Arizona House from 2003 to 2005. One of the House seats opened because incumbent Pete Rios opted to step down and seek a Pinal County supervisor. Rios won that seat handily Tuesday..