Retired Marine JoAnna Mendoza is winning the chance to take on Sen. Vince Leach, R-Oro Valley.
Mendoza has a lead of nearly 14 percentage points in early voting results over retired teacher Linda Patterson. It’s an uphill fight to November, as Legislative District 11 is dominated by Republicans.
Mendoza told the Arizona Capitol Times she caught election results at home, while watching cartoons and eating takeout with her young son — a very different environment than what she would have expected in a pre-COVID-19 election cycle. Her campaign will continue as is despite the tough odds of winning a race as a Democrat in LD11.
“Our campaign has always been about people and our communities,” she said. “Those were always my intentions for running, and we’re still keeping that message. People in our district deserve elected leadership who care about them, who are going to take the time to listen.”
Mendoza grew up in an impoverished family of farmworkers in Eloy, enlisted in the U.S. Navy at 17 and then served in the Marine Corps for the remainder of her 20 years in the military, including two deployments to Iraq and one to Afghanistan.
Patterson, a retired high school principal from Oregon who moved to Tucson in 2004, contracted COVID-19 during a mid-March campaign event and spent nearly a month sidelined by the illness.
The two candidates clashed during their primary campaign, with Patterson criticizing Mendoza for running with traditional financing and Mendoza accusing Patterson of racism after Patterson referred to undocumented immigrants as “those people.” Patterson said in a now-deleted Facebook post Mendoza “pulled the race card on me by taking a remark out of context” when she spoke up about it during a Zoom meeting.
Editor’s note: This story has been revised to include additional remarks in which Patterson defended herself against accusations of racism.