Untested legislative district turns blue
Democrats swept Tempe-area elections Tuesday, sending Kyrsten Sinema to the U.S. House of Representatives and three other Democrats to the Arizona Legislature.
The race took nearly one week of counting provisional and early ballots before Sinema pulled ahead of opponent Vernon Parker, R-Paradise Valley, by nearly 6,000 votes. Parker conceded Monday afternoon.
The 9th Congressional District was one of the most contested in the state because of redistricting.
Sinema said her campaign was successful because she focused on the needs of the middle class.
“I think what people realized is what really mattered are the issues that are important to middle class families, like jobs, veterans and seniors, and that’s what we focused on,” Sinema said.
She said in a statement released after her victory that she is ready to get to work.
“I intend to team up with anyone of any party who is willing to help change Congress and move our country forward,” Sinema said.
The 26th Legislative District formed during the redistricting process this year to include parts of Tempe, Mesa and Fountain Hills.
In the Arizona Senate race, Ed Ableser, D-Tempe, won against Jerry Lewis, R-Tempe, by 11 percent.
Democrats Juan Mendez and Andrew Sherwood clinched the two Arizona House seats, both beating Republican opponents Mary Lou Taylor and Ray Speakman by 7 percent.
The results demonstrate that people resonated with the Democratic message presented by Sherwood, Mendez and Ableser, who ran under a united ticket, Ableser said.
He said their policies on immigration, education and health care appealed to the diverse demographic of the 26th District, which has a majority of minorities and the largest population of student voters.
“This is definitely a Democratic district,” Ableser said.
Lewis said now that the campaign has ended, he will focus on his position as CEO of Sequoia Charter school.
He said he does not have plans to run for office again, but will not rule the option out.
Speakman said the Republican Party in the 26th District needs to take a step back and assess its strengths and weaknesses within the district.
“We may have targeted (groups) incorrectly,” Speakman said.
He said he was disappointed at how polarized the race became.
Speakman said he will continue to be involved in the legislative district as a precinct committeeman.
“The campaign wasn’t just a political desire of mine (to hold office),” Speakman said.
Ableser said implementing health care under the Affordable Care Act is the biggest challenge the legislature is going to face.
“The first big hurdle is dealing with health care,” he said.
Ableser will fight for full implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the funding of health care for children through programs like KidsCare, he said.
“I think that is essential for the people in my district,” Ableser said.
He plans to advocate for more education funding, but said he doubts how much progress can be made with a Republican majority in the legislature.
Mendez said he plans to focus in the next two months on building relationships and getting to know the other legislators.
“I’ve been doing a lot of research about areas I want to focus on,” Mendez said.
He said he wants to serve on the Health and Human Services Committee and work with educational issues.
Mendez said he would support education funding.
“I’m going to be your advocate. … Our voices are going to be organized and magnified,” Mendez said.
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