Republicans Tuesday appeared to have swept the three state Legislative District 6 seats representing Rim Country with victories for Rep. Chester Crandell in the senate and both Rep. Brenda Barton and Bob Thorpe in the state house.
Northern Gila County provided the three Republicans with big margins, overcoming Flagstaff-based challenges from Rep. Tom Chabin in the Senate and Angela LeFevre and Doug Ballard in the house.
The newly drawn district boundaries provided the Republicans with a registration edge, but the population distribution would seem to have given the Flagstaff-based Democrats a fighting chance.
Northern Gila County voters also provided overwhelming support for Congressman Paul Gosar, who coasted to a big win over an almost invisible and unfunded Democratic opponent. With 79 percent of the vote counted, Gosar has amassed 67 percent of the vote in the safely Republican district.
Meanwhile, state represenative Jonathan Paton maintained a narrow lead over former congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick for Congressional District 1, with 63 percent of the vote counted. The district includes southern Gila County. Kirkpatrick handily won the vote in southern Gila County, which is mostly Democratic.
Meanwhile, Congressman Jeff Flake also ran up big Northern Gila County margins in his sometimes bitter, lavishly funded effort to take the US Senate seat here despite a strong challenge by former US Surgeon General Richard Carmona.
When it came to the state legislative races in the redrawn District 6, big margins in Gila County proved crucial for Crandell, Thorpe and Barton.
The three Republican candidates made support for Proposition 120 central to their campaigns, but voters statewide rejected the measure to attempt a state takeover of federal lands by a lopsided margin.
On the other hand, Crandell, Thorpe and Barton also strongly opposed Proposition 204, which would have imposed a one-cent sales tax to support education. On that issue, voters statewide agreed strongly with the Republican position.
Rep. Barton followed the returns in the Republican headquarters in Payson, where she moved to run in the redrawn district.
Crandell had about 54 percent of the vote compared to Chabin’s 46 percent, with about 96 percent of the precincts reporting on Tuesday night.
Thorpe and Barton both had 4-5 percent margins over Ballard and LeFevre in the house race.
Outside interests poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race, when Democrats saw a chance that a win by Chabin might contribute to an effort to make big gains in the lopsidedly Republican Senate.
Chabin mounted a strong challenge, based mostly on a plan to close loopholes and exemptions in the tax code to raise several billion in revenue to boost state spending on education from 50th to 25th nationally. He has served five years in the legislature representing Flagstaff and served on the Coconino County Board of Supervisors and Tuba City School Board.
Crandell, on the other hand, talked mostly about the need to take control of federal lands, revive logging, ranching and mining in rural Arizona and shift to a school financing system based on outcomes like graduation rates rather than on attendance. The Heber father of nine had worked for a regional vocational education district.
Thorpe, a Flagstaff businessman, consultant and Tea Party activist, had become political active as a constitutional activist, arguing in favor of things like the nullification of federal regulations and state’s rights.
Barton has represented Rim Country in the legislature for the past two years. She previously worked for the Town of Safford and became politically active as part of the Sagebrush Rebellion, a western movement that resisted federal resource policies and control of fast tracks of land.