Republican Congressman Paul Gosar proved the wisdom of his recent address change from Flagstaff to Prescott by cruising to an easy win in a redrawn Congressional District 4, making him Rim Country’s congressman for a second term.
Southern Gila County remains in his old Congressional District 1, where former Flagstaff prosecutor and congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick seems headed to a narrow win over former state lawmaker Jonathan Paton.
Gosar defeated the incumbent Kirkpatrick in District 1 two years ago, before the Independent Redistricting Commission scrambled the boundary lines. Rather than risk a rematch in a toss-up district, the Flagstaff dentist moved to Prescott to run in the redrawn District 4.
Kirkpatrick trailed Paton throughout election night as the vote tallies came in, but pulled ahead by Wednesday morning. With 99.7 percent of the precincts reporting, Kirkpatrick had 48.8 percent of the vote to Paton’s 45.3. The balance of the votes went to Libertarian Kim Allen.
Gosar, on the other hand, received 67 percent of the vote in a district anchored in Northern Gila County on the east but stretching through the Verde Valley and Prescott then on to include the whole stretch of the state bordering the Colorado River in the west. He crushed Democrat Johnnie Robinson, who basically made no appearances and raised no money. Libertarian Joe Pamelia picked up 3.67 percent of the vote.
In Gila County, Gosar did even better, picking up 72 percent of the vote cast.
The District 4 boundary split the Republican north from the Democratic south, which remained in Kirkpatrick’s District 1.
In the southern half of the county, Kirkpatrick picked up 54 percent of the Gila County vote, beating her percentage district-wide. Paton got 37 percent of the southern Gila County vote while libertarian Kim Allen amassed an impressive 9 percent.
The congressional races in the state featured at least one other nail-biting disappointment for Republicans in addition to Kirkpatrick’s apparent, narrow victory. In District 9, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema received 47.6 percent of the vote compared to Republican Vernon Parker’s 46 percent. Again, the 6.3 percent tally of Libertarian Powell Gammill may have made the difference.
On the other hand, Congressional District 2 remained virtually deadlocked on Wednesday, with Democrat Ron Barber just barely trailing Republican Martha McSally for the Tucson seat once held by Gabrielle Giffords.
The rest of the candidates won overwhelming victories in safe districts. On the Republican side that included David Schweikert in District 6, Matt Salmon in District 5 and Trent Franks in District 8.
On the Democratic side, Raul Grijalva in District 3 and Ed Pastor in District 7 scored near easy victories.
If provisional ballots don’t change any of the current leads, the Democrats would end up with four of the nine congressional seats in the state.
In District 4 representing Northern Gila County, Gosar won a lopsided victory in the Republican primary in the face of the aggressive and well-funded challenge by state lawmaker Ron Gould, a Lake Havasu City businessman who championed gun rights to the point that he introduced a bill that would have required universities to allow guns on campus. But Gosar coasted to victory in the general election, thanks to a heavy Republican registration advantage.
Gosar was one of the 2010 class of Tea Party supported freshmen who railed against the budget deficit and any compromise with the Democrats. He pushed hard for the House investigation of a bungled operation in which the U.S. Justice Department sold guns to Mexican drug cartels. The gunrunning operation was intended to disrupt cartel operations and weapons supply, but agents lost track of the guns. Some showed up at crime scenes, including the murder of a drug enforcement agent.
Gosar also won praise in his first term from Payson officials for moving through the House a measure to streamline construction of the Blue Ridge pipeline by making the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation the lead agency in overseeing the project.
He also pushed for a federal land exchange to clear the way for a massive copper mine near Superior, which county officials hope would help revive the long-suffering mining industry in south county.
He strongly supported laws to streamline approvals and waive environmental regulations to accelerate Forest Service efforts to thin choked forests in the wake of the Wallow Fire in the White Mountains, the largest in state history.