Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton won Arizona’s presidential preference elections in an early call Tuesday, giving distinctive momentum to the two leading candidates.
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This was after a day that saw last-minute Arizona voters standing in long lines to make their selections.
With half of the vote counted, Trump had 46 percent to Ted Cruz’s 23 percent. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the race a week ago was third at 16 percent and Ohio Gov. John Kasich was fourth with 10 percent.
On the Democratic side, Clinton had 60 percent of the vote with 30 percent of the vote counted. Her challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders, had 37 percent.
“I’m very proud to have won Arizona,” Clinton said to loud cheers at a televised campaign stop in Seattle. “It’s exciting to see that result come in, because Arizona and states like Washington and a lot of the states that are going to be expressing their views and counting their votes in the weeks ahead understand that this is not just a contest between different candidates, this is a contest of fundamentally different views of our country, our values and our future.”
Trump had yet to address the public as of 10 p.m. He wrote to his 7.14 million Twitter followers:
Much bigger win than anticipated in Arizona. Thank you, I will never forget!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 23, 2016
Trump gained 58 delegates in Arizona’s winner-take-all election. Going into Tuesday’s Arizona and Utah contests, Trump led Cruz 681 delegates to 425. Trump’s GOP win was predicted in the weeks leading up to the election, with state polls showing a 95 percent chance of him winning Tuesday morning, according to the FiveThirtyEight website.
The state’s 75 Democratic delegates up for grabs will be split proportionally. Going into the night, Clinton led Sanders 1,630 delegates to 870.
‘Donald just ran the table’
Doug Cole, a local Republican strategist, noted this was one of the only large-margin wins Trump has received in a closed primary.
“In the primary states where Donald has won big, they tend to be states that have open primaries,” Cole said. “This was the first state that this was a closed primary … that Donald just ran the table.”
Ballots that were physically dropped at polls Tuesday will be counted well through the rest of the work week, he said.
“It’s going to be a long dribble out. It’s going to be interesting to see how numbers move, if they do,” Cole said. “It’s statistically impossible for Trump not to win this.”
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was present at a small Trump event at a downtown Phoenix bar. He cheered with the more than 50 supporters once it was announced Trump won the GOP election.
“He’s got great support,” Arpaio said. “This proves it again right here in Arizona, which is well known for the immigration problem.”
Congrats to @realDonaldTrump for his victory against illegal immigration and border issues today.
— Joe Arpaio (@RealSheriffJoe) March 23, 2016
Emily Parry of Flagstaff attended a separate Republican watch party in the Sheraton hotel in Phoenix. She was expecting a much closer Republican race and was surprised at the early win announcement.
“I did cast my vote for Ted Cruz today, but … I’m not very shocked to see Trump leading in the polls,” she said.
‘The Clintons have a history in Arizona
The Clinton name has been favorable in Arizona since former President Bill Clinton won the state for re-election in 1996, Democratic strategist Carlos Diaz said. Hillary won the state back in 2008 against eventual Democratic nominee Barack Obama, and she continued that streak Tuesday.
“The Clintons have a history in Arizona,” Diaz said. “Hillary’s messages resonate with all people.”
Diaz noted that even though Sanders visited the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales last week, poll results showed Clinton winning Santa Cruz County by more than a 2-to-1 margin. (Santa Cruz County is 83 percent Hispanic.)
“Sanders can get his thousands of individuals in a room and rile them up, … but that energy hasn’t translated into a victory for Sanders,” he said.
At a Clinton watch party in downtown Phoenix, people started cheering once they heard of the first voting results. Some started leaving less than an hour after the first results were announced.
The crowd at the Sanders watch party at a downtown bar, with more than 150 people, looked concerned once votes showed Clinton leading Sanders.
“I’m pretty disappointed, I really thought he’d do better,” said Justin Dahl, 34, of Phoenix. “I never really looked at the polls, I guess I was just expecting something closer to a coin toss”
There were more than 3.25 million registered voters in Arizona as of January, according to the Arizona Secretary of State. About 60 percent of those voters are in Maricopa County, the state’s largest. registered voters in the state did not designate a political party and thus were unable to vote in Tuesday’s closed primary.
The line to vote in downtown Phoenix stretches around the block!! #AZPrimary @cronkitenews pic.twitter.com/q1uHo0HViE
— Miguel Otárola (@motarola123) March 22, 2016
Fewer polling stations lead to long lines
The Secretary of State’s office started releasing results about an hour after polls were scheduled to close — even though several polling places still had long lines of voters waiting to cast a ballot.
Throughout the day, lengthy wait times at some polling stations in Maricopa County frustrated voters. There were only 60 stations open in the county and some citizens waited in line to vote for two hours or more. Lines to enter polling areas stretched around a block.
Although county officials attributed the lengthy lines to the number of independent voters who showed up to vote even though they weren’t eligible in the closed primary, some election attorneys and voting advocates said it was because of a dramatic decrease in the number of polling locations.
“When normally they would have 200 polling locations open, today they had 60,” said Shuya Ohno, the campaign director for the national Right to Vote Initiative. Large amounts of independent voters “wasn’t what we observed on the ground at all,” he added.
People stayed in line at some polling locations well after 7 p.m., when doors were originally supposed to close.
People have waited for hours and are ordering food as the line to #VoteAZ slowly moves @dtphx @cronkitenews @azpbs pic.twitter.com/b8ZM5STpYY
— Ben Brown (@bdbrown473) March 23, 2016
Ohno and attorneys from local law firm Coppersmith Brockelman are investigating the changes to polling locations as part of a partnership with immigrant-rights coalition One Arizona. One of the attorneys, Roopali Desai, said they may take “legal action” if necessary.
“At a minimum, voters should be concerned,” Desai said, encouraging people to reach out to the county recorder’s office.
Arizona’s closed primary came after a weeklong rallying effort that started with a Phoenix event by Bernie Sanders. One by one, candidates and high-profile endorsements visited Arizona to gather supporters (as well as protesters, in some instances). Sanders was the only candidate left in Arizona by Tuesday morning, seen rallying around Flagstaff.
Utah also was holding its caucuses Tuesday night for both parties and Idaho held its Democratic caucus.
The next primaries are on March 26, in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington. These are only for the Democratic race. The next bi-party primary is in Wisconsin, on April 5.
Cronkite News reporters Audrey Weil, Ty Scholes and Kaitlyn Thompson contributed to this report.