Republican challenger Steve Smith has defeated incumbent Sen. Rebecca Rios by nearly 5,000 votes to capture a seat in Legislative District 23 that has been held by the Rios family since the district was first created a decade ago.
Smith captured more than 29,000 votes, while Rios tallied less than 25,000 votes.
There are more than 150,000 voters in the district, but fewer than 60,000 people voted in the district’s state Senate election.
The Rios-Smith race was one of the most expensive legislative races in the state as independent groups invested heavily, spending more than $121,000 for or against the candidates.
Rios benefited the most from independent expenditures – groups spent $88,000 to get her elected.
About $18,000 was also spent by independent groups against her.
Smith, a 34-year-old director of a Phoenix-based talent agency, was endorsed by immigration hawks Sen. Russell Pearce and Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio, boosting his profile.
Smith, who will be a true freshman in the 50th Legislature, also received more votes than Rios – 11,719 compared to her 11,434 – in his party’s two-way contest in the primary election on Aug. 24.