Former governor’s aide Tim Nelson pulled out a dominant win over Gerald Richard in the Democratic primary to become the Valley’s top prosecutor.
With the majority of returns in on Tuesday evening, unofficial results showed Nelson had more than double the votes as the former high-ranking Phoenix police official. At about 9:30 p.m., Richard called Nelson to concede, wishing him well against Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, a Republican, in November.
“Gerald Richard ran a very clear, spirited, high-minded campaign,” Nelson said by phone after the results came in. “It’s been a pleasure to run against him.”
The race proved to be Maricopa County’s hottest of the primary season, with both Democrats raising loads of cash and picking up key endorsements along the way.
Combined, the two brought in nearly $400,000, contributing to it becoming the second-most expensive race in county history.
On the issues, each man struggled to distinguish himself from the other.
They spent most of their campaigns attacking the incumbent, Thomas, rather than setting themselves apart from each other.
Both men said the current county attorney had been misspending public money, taking too hard a stance on illegal immigration and damaging the reputation of the office.
Richard said he was proud to have run a “gentleman’s race” with Nelson. “I believe that Tim and I have had an opportunity to run a very professional race, one that has not been mudslinging and backstabbing.”
In the end, the race came down to voters choosing the man they felt was better suited to unseat Thomas in November.
Formerly the chief counsel to Gov. Janet Napolitano, Nelson put together the bigger political machine of the two.
He raised about $278,000, which was enough to hire a staff that included a campaign manager, fundraiser and public relations team.
Nelson, 44, boasted of his experience in Napolitano’s front office, which put him on cases taking on some of the best-funded defendants in the nation, including Big Tobacco and a worldwide accounting firm.
Richard, 53, brought to the forefront his experience as a gang prosecutor 20 years ago, as well as his rise through the civilian ranks of the Phoenix Police Department.
Though no scientific polls were taken early, the Nelson campaign predicted it would score victory even before the polls opened on Tuesday.
During the day, Nelson’s campaign manager said his candidate would even be rolling out a “Day One pledge” that included major policy changes for the office if the Democrat is elected.
Campaign manager Josh Kilroy also said the Democratic campaigns planned to hold a “unity event” today at state Democratic headquarters in Phoenix to bring together their supporters for the general election.
“I certainly welcome as much help as he wants to provide,” Nelson said.
Nelson will face Thomas and Libertarian candidate Michael Kielsky in the general election Nov. 4.