PHOENIX – Republican Martha McSally claimed victory Tuesday night and immediately called out general election opponent Democrat Kyrsten Sinema as a fake centrist.
The two will face off in November to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican.
“The contrast couldn’t be more clear,” McSally told supporters. “I’ve spent my life in service to our great country.”
Sinema, who was considered a frontrunner for the democratic nomination from the start, highlighted her campaign’s “fight for our shared Arizona values.”
“Today we won the primary election and took one step closer to victory,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “I’m grateful for all your support and ready for the road ahead. Let’s go win this thing.”
The primary was considered one of the most closely watched races in the state – and across the nation.
Democrats cited the race as one of the best opportunities to shift the balance in Congress, while Republicans were split in a three-way race for the Republican nomination.
McSally, a two-term congresswoman, had faced former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Kelli Ward, a former state senator from Lake Havasu City.
Arpaio conceded defeat and thanked his supporters, telling them he would never forget their support.
“I don’t think I let you down,” he said. “I won’t forget you. This is a tough race, we know it. But you stood by me.”
Ward also conceded defeat, but she stopped short of endorsing her former rival.
“Sadly … money triumphed over message,” she said at her election watch party. “Tonight, electoral victory goes to a different Republican. I’m going to trust that the Republican campaign going into November will be firmly behind the president.”
Flake, the two-term Arizona senator who made headlines sparring with President Donald Trump, announced his retirement in October, setting off a three-way Republican primary to replace him.
McSally was the frontrunner heading into election night. The 26-year Air Force veteran announced her candidacy in January. She was elected to Congress in 2014.
Ward, who announced she was running for Flake’s seat before he announced he was retiring, trailed McSally in polls throughout the year, despite the endorsement of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky. She ran against Sen. John McCain in the 2016 GOP primary.
Sinema faced Deedra Abboud, an attorney from Scottsdale.
Sinema, who raised more than $9 million for her campaign, was first elected to the U.S. House in 2012.
Arizona, which has not had a Democratic senator since Dennis DeConcini retired in 1995, is considered a key state in determining the power balance of the Senate until 2020.
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