In the heavily crowded Legislative District 22 Senate race, a Democrat has taken the lead.
As of 1:45 am on Wednesday, Democrat Eva Diaz had 44.1% of the vote. Republican Steve Robinson had 19.8%, the next closest percentage.
More Maricopa County results will come later Wednesday night.
The Avondale-Glendale district has historically voted blue, but after a last-minute drop-out of the Democrat Senate candidate Rep. Diego Espinoza, D-Tolleson; the race turned into a free for all with eleven write-in candidates.
After redistricting, most consulting groups and news organizations predicted that there were only five competitive districts going into the election: District 2, 4, 9, 13 and 16. Legislative District 22 was safely in Democrat hands.
Apart from Espinoza, six Democrats filed to run – and one later dropped out. Seven Republicans filed to run, but two withdrew. There was also an independent write-in candidate.
Republicans pushed their candidate, Robinson, heavily and poured $15,973 into his campaign. Robinson also benefitted from $105,127 in independent expenditures from the conservative Arizona Free Enterprise Club.
Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake asked Republicans to vote for him, as well as other lawmakers and politicos. Robinson’s campaign went all out even through election day. He had food trucks giving out free meals to voters at the polls in his district.
Democrats also selected newcomer Diaz in the melee and put $94,437 into her campaign. Diaz also benefitted from $47,459 in independent expenditures.
LD22 Democrat precinct committeemen held a meeting after Espinoza’s resignation to determine who they would support as the Democrat nominee and selected Diaz, but only one Democrat- Bryan Kilgore – dropped out to make way for Diaz as a result of the vote. Other Democrats decided to run anyways and compete with her.
Even though the district is made up mainly of blue voters, write-in candidates don’t have to disclose their party affiliation. Robinson and his Republican supporters omitted his party affiliation from the website and messages to voters, much to the frustration of Democrats.
In 2020, 69% of constituents in Legislative District 22 voted Democrat compared with 31% Republicans.
“We are very happy with the results so far. I mean I know there’s still a lot of ballots to be counted, but I don’t know what we were expecting because it was a hard fought race, especially since we had the Republican hiding the fact that he was a Republican,” District 22 Democrat chair Tina Gamez said on Wednesday. “We are just elated so far at the results, and I hope it keeps trending that way.”