A game of musical chairs in Legislative District 11 left three open seats at the Capitol.
Sen. Al Melvin, R-SaddleBrooke, didn’t seek re-election after a brief run for the GOP nomination in the governor’s race. Rep. Steve Smith is abandoned his seat in the House to run for the Senate. And Rep. Adam Kwasman left his seat after one term to run for Congress, leaving a wide open field and assurances of new lawmakers in the legislature next January.
In the House race, the conservative team of Vince Leach and Mark Finchem are beating out Jo Grant, the more moderate Republican who, like Senate candidate Scott Bartle, is backed by Gov. Jan Brewer.
Finchem and Leach, who are running as a slate with Smith, R-Maricopa, have 42 percent of the vote and 35 percent of the vote, respectively.
Grant is trailing by more than 3,000 votes, and has 22 percent of the votes from early ballots and 56 percent of precincts reporting.
Smith is leading so far in his attempt to move from the House to the Senate, with 69 percent of the vote. Bartle trails with 30 percent.
Bartle is losing badly, despite being one of the highest recipients of support from independent expenditures in the Senate primary field — political committees spent more than $77,000 to support his candidacy, and nearly $49,000 to defeat Smith.
Finchem spent $24,000 in public funding, while outside groups spent $10,000 to support him and another $5,000 to attack him. Leach spent $22,000, but was boosted by $31,000 in outside spending on his behalf.
Meanwhile, Grant spent less than $11,000, but she benefitted from $42,000 of spending on her behalf. Outside groups spent another $2,000 against her.
The two winning Republicans in the House primary will face Tucson Democrat Holly Lyon, while the victor in the Senate will face Oro Valley Democrat Joe Holt. Each Democrat would have to overcome the district’s roughly 13-point Republican voter registration advantage to take one of the House seats.