Legislative District 18 appeared to be turning all blue in early election returns Tuesday night early unofficial returns showed voters were returning State Sen. Sean Bowie and Rep. Mitzi Epstein to a second term and sending incumbent two-term Republican Rep. Jill Norgaard to defeat.
Unofficial returns showed Bowie building an early lead of 56 percent of the vote to Tempe commercial pilot Frank Schmuck’s 44 percent, posing the possibility of a repeat of the outcome of the 2016 race between the two candidates.
In the race for the two House seats, Epstein, of Tempe, and Chandler nonprofit consultant Jennifer Jermaine took an early lead of Republicans Norgaard of Ahwatukee and Tempe attorney Greg Patterson.
With only 17 percent of precincts reporting, the Arizona Secretary of State’s tabulations showed Epstein with 28 percent of the vote; Jermaine, 26.5 percent, Norgaard, 22.2 percent and Patterson with 20 percent.
In the four-way race for two Kyrene school board seats, Chandler attorney Kevin Walsh and Ahwatukee community volunteer Margaret Pratt took the lead over former journalist and teacher David Hoye and Realtor Mike Middleton, both of Ahwatukee. Early returns showed Pratt leading with 31 percent of the vote, followed by Walsh with 27 percent, Hoye with 25 percent and Middleton with 17 percent.
In the three-way race for two Tempe Union High School District Governing board positions, a tight race has emerged with ASU law student Brian Garcia leading with 38 percent of the vote and Tempe coffee importer Andres Barraza and Ahwatukee attorney Don Fletcher tied at 31 percent.
And in the Phoenix mayoral race, Republican Ahwatukee businessman and educator Moses Sanchez was losing his bid to qualify for the two-way runoff in March as the two former Democratic City Couincil members held commanding positions.
It showed Kate Gallego with 45 percent of the vote and Daniel Valenzuela with 26 percent to Sanchez’ 19 percent and Libertarian Nicholas Sarwark’s 11 percent.
Virtually none of the results late Tuesday night could be counted as a trend with any certainty since hundreds of thousands of ballots had yet to be counted by the Maricopa County Recorder’s office. Instead of counting votes at polling places, workers were bringing data packs to the Recorder’s main office for counting, slowing down the process by hours and counting was likely to be halted for the night before midnight.
The early overall LD18 results positioned the district, which includes Ahwatukee and parts of Mesa, Chandler and Tempe, as a possible anomaly in Arizona.
For the most part, teachers and candidates who had strong teacher support failed to make a dent in the State Legislature as they were losing by significant margins.
The early results for the LD18 Senate seat – considered one of the seats Democrats had to retain if they hope to grab control of the State Senate – came at the end of one of the most expensive legislative races in Arizona.
Reports filed with the state Secretary of State show Schmuck has raised $260,890 – much of it his own money – to Bowie’s nearly $230,000. Of that, Bowie has spent $132,209 while Schmuck reported expenditures totaling $105,000.
But Data Orbital cited a higher rate of Republican returns in early balloting and said the LD 18 Senate race “is becoming tighter.”
“In addition to what appears to be a turnout shift, Schmuck has about a $30,000 advantage in total funds raised and a little over $50,000 cash on hand advantage based off the latest campaign finance reports,” it said. “We are also seeing positive polling numbers for Schmuck, who was consistently down in 2016. We believe this race is now a true toss-up.”
Republicans were trying to not only keep Norgaard for a third term but also to wrest full control of the district as Patterson sought to return to the Legislature, where he served two terms in the 1990s.
The Kyrene candidates were competing to replace Bernadette Coggins and Middleton’s daughter, Kristin, who decided not to see re-election.
Though school board races are nonpartisan, Republicans and Democrats clearly rallied for their choices with Democrats urging votes for Hoye, a former journalist and teacher, and Walsh, a lawyer who has been active in his two children’s Kyrene elementary school. Republicans have been actively campaigning on behalf of Pratt, a former school speech therapist and businessowner and Middleton, a longtime Realtor.
Supporters have made the election to some degree a referendum on Superintendent Jan Vesely, an Ahwatukee resident who became the Kyrene leader in July 2016 – though none of the candidates have openly criticized her.
Below the surface, some political activists are upset with some of Vesely’s actions, particularly her transfer of some administrators out of district headquarters and back into the classroom.
So many supporters for some Kyrene candidates were so aggressive in their support that at least one social media site banned all campaigning.
The two vacancies on the Tempe Union board were created after DeeAnn McClehanan of Tempe and Brandon Schmoll of Ahwatukee decided not to see another term.
Like Fletcher, Barraza is running a second time for a seat on the board. Both ran unsuccessfully in 2016.
Barraza, a former firefighter, is a graduate of Marcos deNiza High School and his son will graduate from there next May. He is running “to strengthen student programs and services in our schools, grow post‐graduate opportunities for students after graduation from colleges to trade schools to job placement.”
Garcia, also a product of the Tempe Union District whose brother is a senior at Corona del Sol High, has also advocated more attention to preparing students who are not going to college for success in the job market after they graduate.
Early returns also showed Schmoll might lose his other public position as constable since he was trailing Democrat Kent Rini, who had 56 percent of the vote to Schmoll’s 44 percent.
Republican former legislator Rob Robson of Ahwatukee also was trailing in the race of Kyrene Justice of the Peace with 43 percent of the vote to 57 percent for housing attorney Sharon Sauls.