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Incumbents win in Scottsdale legislative district

John Kavanagh

Incumbents carried the night in Scottsdale’s Legislative District 23 House race, with staunchly conservative Reps. Michelle Ugenti and John Kavanagh beating back a challenge from a more moderate Republican, former Scottsdale School Board president Jennifer Petersen.

Kavanagh led the pack with 41 percent of the vote, and Ugenti followed up with 35 percent.  Despite dropping $69,000 of her own money into her campaign, Petersen has only secured 23 percent of the vote.

Kavanagh said he was humbled that the voters decided to return him for a fourth term in office, and said his and Ugenti’s win is a victory for conservativism in the state. He also had some harsh words for his challenger.

“I think this election is a message to Jennifer Petersen, that you can’t by an election with your own money, and hit pieces don’t win elections either,” he said. “If I spent $70,000 on my own legislative race, I would commit myself to a mental hospital. And if lost, I’d request the suicide watch.”

Petersen did not immediately return a phone call for comment.

Kavanagh has been the House Appropriations chairman since 2009 and was first elected to the Legislature in 2006. Ugenti was first elected in 2010, and quickly rose within the Republican ranks, serving on the House Appropriations Committee and chairing the Government Committee. She said the people have seen what the Legislature has done in recent years, and they like the direction lawmakers are taking.

“It’s a big win for people who are tired of the reckless spending, who want the politicians to live up to their promises,” she said. “I made commitments in my last campaign and I delivered on them in my first term. I worked hard in my first term, and I’m going to work even harder in the next two years.”

Kavanagh raised more than $43,000 in his bid to keep the seat, but only spent $23,000 of that, according to the latest campaign finance reports. He was bolstered by more than $15,000 from independent expenditure groups. Ugenti raised more than $47,000 to hold on to her seat, but also spent conservatively – less than $30,000. She also received help from outside groups, to the tune of $33,000. Including her personal loans, Petersen raised $83,000 and spent about $79,000. Outside groups spent another $2,000 to help her campaign.

The district includes downtown Old Town Scottsdale, Fountain Hills and Rio Verde. The winners face no Democratic challenger in the general election.

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