Republicans appear to have swept Arizona’s Legislative District 26 in the Nov. 2 election.
First-time candidate Republican Terri Proud led the three-way race for two House seats with 39,712 votes, 34.64 percent of the total.
As of Tuesday morning, incumbent Republican Rep. Vic Williams held a 748-vote lead over fellow incumbent Democratic Rep. Nancy Young Wright, who has represented the district for three years. Young Wright completed the final year of Democratic Rep. Lena Saradnik and later won the seat in 2008.
Williams had 37,717 votes, 32.9 percent, to Young Wright’s 36,969 votes, 32.25 percent.
In the Senate race, Republican incumbent Al Melvin was re-elected over Cheryl Cage (see page 7).
“I worked really hard to get myself in front of the people and to speak to the people,” Proud said. The electorate responded to that hard work by voting for her, she said.
“People saw the passion and they saw the heart,” Proud said.
With a new job ahead of her, Proud intends to make good on campaign pledges to improve the quality of education in the state.
“My focus will be on K-12 education,” Proud said. “It’s time we start listening to the people who are actually running the schools.”
She didn’t rule out the possibility that more cuts to education spending would occur. To avoid that, Proud said schools and lawmakers would have to work together to find solutions.
“Schools need to look at ways they can help,” Proud said. “There’s a lot on the payroll and a lot of six-figure salaries in schools.”
“I knew it would be a very contentious race,” Williams said Monday.
Much of that contentiousness was directed at Williams through a series of mailers that attempted to tie the Republican to the private prison industry and a high-profile escape earlier this year. Williams said the move had a negative impact on the campaign.
“It took a toll on our campaign and on hers,” he said.
Williams said he chose to run his campaign on three main issues: fiscal responsibility, protecting education through the voter-approved Prop 100, and immigration control as enacted in SB 1070.
For the lone Democrat in the race, the outcome signifies something different.
“It’s not a good year to be running as a Democrat,” Young Wright said. Republicans attempted to nationalize the race and connect local candidates with national Democratic Party, she said.
“They ran a very effective campaign to tie us to national level politicians,” Young Wright said. “They tried to tie me to (outgoing Democratic Speaker of the U.S. House) Nancy Pelosi.”
Young Wright was proud that the campaign was so close even while the national climate against the Democratic Party permeated state and local races.
Throughout, Young Wright said she stayed true to her beliefs and continued to stand up for the causes she believes in.
“The people I care about, the people that I stand up for — children and animals — they don’t have a lot of money,” Young Wright said.
County elections officials across Arizona continue to count the votes. A final result may not be available until Wednesday or Thursday.
“I think it is important to count every vote,” Williams said. “It’s fair to give the candidate with the lowest vote count to opportunity to concede.”