Marine veteran Jesse Kelly has pulled off an upset in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, thwarting off a known name and the Republican candidate who was presumed to be in the best position to defeat U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Paton has conceded to Jesse Kelly tonight.
“There is no time for hurt feelings, or egos or bickering. We must come together as Republicans, as Arizonans and as Americans,” Paton said. “We must stop this Congress and this President – and I am as committed now to that goal as ever. I encourage all of you to not give up.”
Kelly will square off with Giffords in November.
Giffords also sent out a statement congratulating Kelly.
“I look forward to a serious discussion about Southern Arizona’s future with Mr. Kelly over the next 10 weeks,” she said.
Kelly has so far captured 48 percent of more than 74,000 votes counted.
“The message is that the voters of southern Arizona want a businessman and a combat veteran to fight for practical conservative solutions,” said Kelly’s campaign manager, Adam Kwasman. “They are rejecting career politicians.”
Kelly has cornered more than 36,000 votes compared to Paton’s 31,000, according to unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s office.
Jay Quick, the third Republican candidate in the race, is a distant third with less than 2,000 votes.
Kelly and Paton fought a jagged, at times testy, election duel right to the finish line.
Paton initially trained his guns on Giffords, but shifted his focus to Kelly in August when it became clear that Kelly posed a serious challenge.
Kelly ran a spirited campaign against Paton, attacking him for voting for a budget that was backed by former Gov. Janet Napolitano and for getting a less-than-stellar rating from Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group that fights for lower taxes.
Kelly characterized Paton as the establishment candidate, a strategy that relies on voter frustration with incumbent politicians.
A pre-election poll showed Paton, 39, trailed Kelly by a significant margin.
The Republican will face a well-funded Giffords, who has built up an intimidating political machine in southern Arizona, in the Nov. 2 general election.