One of the biggest battlegrounds in this year’s legislative races saw a major shakeup in Tuesday’s primary election as retired Air Force pilot Wendy Rogers ousted longtime incumbent Sen. Sylvia Allen.
Rogers trounced Allen, a Republican from the town of Snowflake, winning 59% of the vote in the closely watched GOP primary for District 6, which stretches from Flagstaff to Payson and also includes parts of Apache and Navajo counties.
Democrats have targeted the district as a prime pickup opportunity, and it’s expected to be one of the most hotly contested legislative races of the general election, potentially determining whether Democrats take control of the Senate for the first time since 1991.
Rogers, who has lost bids for Congress in each of the past four election cycles, brought a tremendous amount of money to bear in the race, raising about $551,000 to Allen’s $127,000. According to the most recent campaign finance reports, Rogers outspent Allen by about $341,000, while outside groups spent nearly a quarter million on her behalf as well.
Felicia French, who narrowly lost her bid for a seat in the House of Representatives in 2018, ran uncontested in the Democratic primary for the Senate seat.
District 6 was among the hottest primary election races of the 2020 cycle, perhaps second only to the blockbuster race for District 15 in north Phoenix, which pitted conservative Rep. Nancy Barto against moderate Sen. Heather Carter.
Barto led Carter by 935 votes when counting stopped Tuesday night. As results were posted in the hours after polling places closed, Barto’s lead nearly tripled, making it nearly impossible that Carter will come from behind. Carter has riled Republicans for years with defections on key votes. In 2019, she joined forces with fellow Republican Sen. Paul Boyer to withhold their votes on the budget, denying Republicans the majority they needed, until lawmakers passed legislation giving victims of childhood sexual abuse more time to sue in civil court.
Scandal doesn’t appear to have stopped Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, who has a 600-vote lead in the Republican primary for the House in District 8, which covers parts of Gila and Pinal County. Cook leads the three-way primary, despite allegations that he had an extramarital affair with a lobbyist and asked Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb to halt the seizure of a property she owned over unpaid taxes.
An investigation by the House Ethics Committee was inconclusive on both allegations. But a report issued by the committee accused Cook of being uncooperative and of problems with alcohol.
Sen. Frank Pratt, R-Casa Grande, who is running for the District 8 House seat being vacated by term-limited Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, is narrowly losing to newcomer Neal Carter, who holds a 30-vote lead.
Allen may not be the only incumbent to lose her re-election. In District 23, which covers most of Scottsdale and Fountain Hills, challenger Joseph Chaplik leads Rep. Jay Lawrence by more than 600 votes in the GOP primary, while incumbent Rep. John Kavanagh easily took first place.
A pair of moderate Democratic House members with backing from the business community fended off challenges from progressives. Reps. Alma and Daniel Hernandez, who represent Tucson-based districts, easily won their primaries, despite vigorous campaigns against them, in races that featured hundreds of thousands of dollars in outside money.
In other races, a pair of prominent former lawmakers were coming up short in their comeback bids, though one is too close to call.
Steve Montenegro, who resigned to run in the 2018 special election to replace U.S. Rep. Trent Franks in the 8th Congressional District, sought his old House seat in District 13, which stretches from the northern half of Yuma to Phoenix’s southwestern suburbs. But Montenegro, who was hampered by a sexting scandal that rocked his campaign in the waning days of the congressional election, trails incumbent Joanne Osborne by less than 500 votes for the district’s second seat, with incumbent Rep. Tim Dunn holding a commanding lead for the first.
On the Democratic side, incumbent Reps. Reginald Bolding and Diego Rodriguez easily dispatched former lawmaker Catherine Miranda in south Phoenix-based District 27. Miranda, a member of the prominent Miranda political family who angered Democrats in 2014 by endorsing Republican Doug Ducey in the governor’s race, gave up her seat to mount an unsuccessful challenge to Congressman Ruben Gallego in 2018.
Former lawmaker Judy Burges fared better in her comeback campaign. Burges took second place in the five-way GOP primary for Yavapai County-based District 1’s two House seats, both of which were open. Newcomer Quang Nguyen cruised to a first-place finish in the race.
Kathy Pearce, the sister of polarizing former Senate President Russell Pearce, fell short in her challenge to incumbent Reps. Michelle Udall and House Speaker Rusty Bowers in Mesa-based District 25.
***UPDATE: This story was updated with late-counted vote tallies and the headline was changed to reflect those changes