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Primary winners don’t fit nicely into overarching theme

Primary winners don’t fit nicely into overarching theme

If any theme emerged from the Aug. 24 primary, it’s that there wasn’t a single overarching theme.

Instead, there was a little bit of everything.

Some tea party candidates and “outsiders” won, which confirms that the anti-establishment sentiment directed at Washington, D.C. extends to Arizona.

But the sentiment’s reach wasn’t very deep – or it didn’t go deep enough.

Indeed, big names and well-oiled political machineries delivered in several races.

John McCain, the clear establishment candidate, trounced J.D. Hayworth in the Republican primary for the US Senate.

But it was also one of the most expensive U.S. Senate races in the country; McCain spent almost $25 million, according to, which tracks campaign spending.

Ben Quayle’s familiar name and flush war chest proved unbeatable in the 10-way Republican primary in Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District.

Rep. Adam Driggs, aided by about $57,000 in independent spending, defeated Rich Davis as the two vied for their party’s Senate nomination in Legislative District 11.

“All in all, it was a low turn out and I think voters went with who they know,” said political consultant Chad Willems.

But Willems said if you looked closely at the flavor of each race, it appears that the more conservative candidates won, with some exemptions.

Constantin Querard, the conservative Republican consultant, came to a similar conclusion.

“The tea party values had a great night. Candidates who espoused tea party values had a great night,” Querard said.

Outsider Jesse Kelly defeated the better- known Jonathan Paton, a former legislator, in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District.

Republican Congressional primaries other than in CD3 were won by the “most tea party candidate,” Querard said, referring to Kelly in CD8, Paul Gosar in CD1 and David Schweikert in CD5.

At the legislative level, Michelle Ugenti, who ran on a tea party platform, won in Legislative District 8’s House primary.

Sen. Frank Antenori, a very conservative lawmaker from Tucson, also easily trounced former lawmaker Marian McClure. The gap was significant between Sen. Sylvia Allen, who won the primary in Legislative District 5, and Rep. Bill Konopnicki, who is considered the more mainstream of the two.

True, Gov. Jan Brewer is the incumbent and a long-time policymaker, and while tea party folks might not like her sales-tax increase, she made many other decisions that appealed to them, such as standing for state rights and signing SB1070, according to Querard.

The business community, which supported pro-business, more mainstream Republicans, had a “very good” night, too, according to the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The chamber said initial results showed that about 80 percent of the candidates it backed won, including Corporation Commission candidates Gary Pierce and Brenda Burns.

For the chamber, that race’s results also indicated that the public has drawn a line on the issue of immigration, rejecting wilder ideas.

“You’ll recall that (Barry) Wong floated a proposal in his campaign that utility providers should deny service to illegal immigrants,” said the chamber’s Allison Bell. “Voters clearly want improved border security, but Wong’s defeat hopefully shows that there is a threshold for what’s considered a serious policy idea and what is simply beyond the pale.”

So what can be drawn from these primary results?

Well, you can’t really paint them with a broad brush.

But that’s Arizona. This is, after all, the state that elected a Democrat for governor and a Republican Legislature a few years back. It’s also the red state that initially rejected a more encompassing ban on same-sex marriage before approving a narrower version two years ago.

It looks like you can still draw a better picture by looking at each race, rather than find a common theme to explain the primary results.

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