Coleman, Townsend cruise to victory in LD16

Hank Stephenson//August 30, 2016

Coleman, Townsend cruise to victory in LD16

Hank Stephenson//August 30, 2016

A red and blue button that reads Vote with stars and ribbon laying below it

Republicans Rep. Kelly Townsend and Rep. Doug Coleman coasted to easy victories in the Legislative District 16 House GOP primary.

Townsend received 34 percent of the vote, while Coleman had 30 percent. Former legislator John Fillmore received 19 percent and Adam Stevens got  17 percent.

Coleman received the most help from outside groups of any legislative candidate in the primary, and was backed by more than $67,000 in outside spending. Their spending on his campaign dwarfed his own: Coleman spent only $13,000 from his campaign account.

Townsend spent $25,000 but was also attacked by $4,000 worth of advertising from outside groups.

Stevens raised more than $47,000 for his campaign, but reported spending only $2,000 on his entire campaign. Outside groups reported spending $10,000 on his behalf. Fillmore spent $24,000 in public money from the Clean Elections system for his campaign.

The race was marked by bizarre turns of events, and kicked off with Coleman deciding not to seek re-election, endorsing two candidates, and then changing his mind and forcing the candidates out of the race.

Republicans Mara Benson and Judah Nativio both received Coleman’s endorsement, then dropped out of the race. Benson did so of her own accord after Coleman changed his mind, but Nativio was forced out after Coleman brought a lawsuit challenging his nominating signatures.

The district also made headlines when Stevens’ house was vandalized with anti-Semitic messages. Stevens, who is Jewish, said he believed it was related to the campaign.

The winners of the GOP primary will face Democrats Cara Prior and Sharon Stinard in the general election. The district, which covers Apache Junction and parts of Mesa and Pinal County, heavily favors Republicans.