State Sen. Sylvia Allen saved her seat during Tuesday’s primary election against challenger and former Rep. Bill Konopnicki despite losing the race in Gila County.
District 5 voters kept Allen by about a 1,800-vote margin — about 55 percent of the vote — although she lost Gila County by 52 votes.
Now, the Snowflake resident must face Payson Democrat Elaine Bohlmeyer in the general election. Significant ideological differences already separate the two women in hot-button issues like immigration reform and health care.
In Tuesday’s election Konopnicki won vast swaths of southern Gila County and spots up north including Pine, Strawberry, Gisela and Tonto Basin. Allen won Payson, Star Valley, Whispering Pines, Young and San Carlos.
Konopnicki actually won more counties than Allen by taking Gila, Graham and Greenlee. Coconino County voters ended up tied, but Allen won Apache and Navajo counties.
“I was so nervous yesterday. I’m glad it’s over,” said Allen on Wednesday morning. “I’m just going to work hard again and be sure that I can win against the Democratic candidate.”
Konopnicki did not respond to a request for comment.
Bohlmeyer said Allen’s victory now affords voters a clear choice in the election since the two women take such different stances. Allen, Bohlmeyer said, has the support of the “real conservative, right-wing Republicans.” Bohlmeyer said she will try to swing independents and moderate Republicans who may have voted for Konopnicki.
As for the primary, Allen said, “I’m glad the voters came through for me.”
Konopnicki “ran such a nasty, mean-spirited campaign,” Allen added. “Those are very hard to fight — especially since he had three times the money I had.”
In Gila County, 29 percent of voters turned out for the primary, compared to 25 percent statewide.
Now, just about two months remain before November’s general election.
Allen will vie for her second term against Bohlmeyer, a Payson Democrat running for her first elected seat.
Where they stand
The two differ on most issues from immigration to health care, although both support harnessing the area’s natural resources.
Allen, for example, voted for the immigration bill that supporters hoped would temper the influx of illegal immigrants. She says that the state must close the border.
Bohlmeyer considers the bill a futile attempt at controlling the problem because it doesn’t address the drug cartels or a porous border. “We should be arresting people that are engaging in human trafficking,” said Bohlmeyer, adding that she would push the federal government to pass immigration reform because she doesn’t believe controlling the border is the state’s responsibility.
As for education, Bohlmeyer wants to increase funding and reinstate all-day kindergarten while Allen promotes local control and said that increasing funding wasn’t possible during the recession.
Both women said they wanted to revamp the state’s tax structure, which critics say leans too heavily on unreliable sales taxes.
Bohlmeyer said she wants to erase loopholes and remove tax breaks for people making over $150,000. “The middle class has been taxed to the point where we’re subsidizing some of the wealthy people as well as subsidizing low-income people.”
Allen opposes closing tax loopholes, which would effectively make people pay more taxes, and said the state needs to be more business friendly. She vowed to simplify the tax structure without overtaxing.
Bohlmeyer said she opposes tax breaks for corporations, instead favoring incentives for individuals wanting to start small businesses. However, she favors offering tax breaks to certain industries like wind and solar energy to attract new business.
As for health care, Bohlmeyer supports the recently passed federal legislation and opposed “wasting” money on lawsuits.
Allen has called the reform “devastating,” instead advocating for more competition among health insurance companies.
Both women spoke about the need for solving the state deficit. Allen promotes privatizing some areas of government, like the state parks and decreasing costs for expensive programs like health care.
Bohlmeyer said by closing tax loopholes, eliminating select tax breaks and going after what she said was $400 million in back taxes owed, the state could begin to climb out of debt.