For every Tom Horne, Felecia Rotellini and Jesse Kelly of the election cycle, there’s an Andrew Thomas, David Lujan and Jonathan Paton.
Although the primary winners (Horne, Rotellini and Kelly) move on to face another foe, the losers (Thomas, Lujan and Paton) still have the ability to affect the general election race, depending on how – or even if – they concede.
And there’s definitely a right way and a wrong way to do it.
“If you look at Jonathan Paton, and the way that he behaved when he conceded, it was brilliant,” said Kyler Moyer, a GOP political consultant and owner of Kyle Moyer & Company. “He did it with heartfelt thanks to his supporters, and encouraged all of them to get behind Jesse Kelly.”
Moyer, whose candidates went two-for-two this primary season, said concession speeches need to be sincere to bring the party back together. “We call it ‘coming home,’” he said. “After the primary, Republicans need to come home and support the nominee, whether they like the guy or not.”
This ‘coming home’ has definitely not happened in the primary for Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District, which Moyer said will be a problem for GOP primary winner Ben Quayle.
“Look at the CD3 race. That has not happened and that is going to hurt Quayle considerably. You don’t have Vernon (Parker) saying ‘Hey I’m out, everybody be excited about Ben.’ Same thing with (Jim) Waring and with Paulina Morris,” Moyer said. “It’s just the nature of campaigns. There’s a right way and a wrong way to concede.”
Moyer said he advises any candidates whose campaigns he runs to “concede with honor and integrity and when the time is right.”
Sometimes candidates aren’t sure what constitutes the right time to concede, or they will concede and then un-concede. Ultimately, whether a candidate concedes has no bearing on the actual results.
“It has no practical legal effect from our perspective. If a candidate like David Lujan concedes the race for attorney general, and then we complete the vote count and find that in fact, he had more votes than Felecia Rotellini, guess what, he wins the race, his concession notwithstanding,” said Matt Benson, director of communications for the Secretary of State’s Office.
Concession speeches may hold even more weight in primary elections because the speech tells a candidate’s supporters what to do next.
“When a candidate concedes, although not a legal concession, it is a personal concession,” Moyer said. “They’ve given up the fight. It clears a path for their supporters, who may be hanging on to hope, to move on.”
This year’s primary concession speeches featured a bit of everything.
J.D. Hayworth conceded his race, which was a blowout, to John McCain around 9:30 p.m. on primary night with a speech urging his supporters to “continue the fight for conservative principles,” but he stopped far short of throwing his support behind Arizona’s senior senator.
David Lujan conceded the Democratic primary for attorney general to Felecia Rotellini with a phone call and a pledge of support, as did Jim Ward to David Schweikert in the Republican primary for Arizona’s 5th Congressional District.
In Arizona’s most heated and closely contested primary – the Republican nomination for attorney general – concessions are like an Arizona monsoon. It could look like one is coming all day, but then when the time comes, nothing.
However, it seems Tom Horne and Andrew Thomas, the two seasoned politicians who spent a large part of their campaigns attacking each other in “he’s-worse-than-I-am-mode,” still observe the golden rule of primaries.
Early in the primary evening, Horne was down and said he’d support Thomas. Later in the evening, Thomas was trailing and said he’d support Horne. Thomas’ chief campaign adviser Jason Rose even tweeted that the race was over. But it wasn’t – at least not to Thomas.
As the night wore on and the race stayed close, neither conceded. Then as Wednesday and Thursday and most of Friday passed with Horne holding steady margins of 400 to 1,000 votes, a concession was expected Friday evening, but it never came. Then Monday rolls around, and Horne was told to expect a concession call from Thomas.
It would take another day for Thomas to realize the race was over. His concession today (Aug. 31) and an accompanying endorsement of Horne was clearly an attempt at gracefulness by a politician who exemplifies anything but that.
The tardiness reveals Thomas’ stubbornness, and the endorsement is likely to ring hollow in the ears of anyone who heard Thomas trash-talk Horne on the campaign trail.
But the whole situation is probably most awkward for Thomas, who is now supposedly supporting a candidate whom he had accused of being a con artist and a fraud.