A political sea change appeared to be in the offing last night in one East Valley legislative district as Democrats were leading in two of three races, including a Senate race with potential statewide implications.
With 85 percent of the vote counted in Legislative District 18, Democrat Sean Bowie was leading Republican Frank Schmuck in the State Senate race 51.5 to 48.5 percent, while incumbent Republican Rep. Bob Robson of Chandler was trailing incumbent Republican Jill Norgaard and Democratic newcomer Mitzi Epstein in the race for two House seats.
Bowie, an Ahwatukee resident who works as a senior analyst for the provost's office at Arizona State University, said late last night he was cautiously optimistic but not declaring victory. Schmuck, a commercial airline pilot, went to sleep early because he had to get up early to go to work. He had to do the same thing in the primary, when he defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Jeff Dial.
"We're feeling good and I'm cautiously optimistic," Bowie said. "But there's still 20,000 or 30,000 votes to be counted. We're in a good position and we've been leading by about 3,000 votes throughout the night, so I'm feeling good."
Schmuck's campaign manager did not return a call seeking comment.
The 18th district has been identified as one of two districts in Arizona where Democrats felt they could win and gain control of the State Senate. The district covers all of Ahwatukee and parts of Mesa, Tempe and Chandler.
The stunner in that district appeared to be developing in the House race.
While Ahwatukee resident Norgaard appeared likely to get a second term, Epstein, a computer analyst and former Kyrene School Board member from Tempe, appeared to be edging out Robson, a Chandler resident who has been in the Legislature for 12 years.
Unofficial results showed Epstein the top vote getter with 30 percent, followed by Norgaard with just over 29 percent of the vote and Robson with just under 28 percent. Green Party candidate Linda Macias of Tempe was trailing with only 12 percent of the vote.
In other East Valley legislative districts, Republicans appeared to be sailing toward predictable victories except in LD 26, which covers much of Tempe and west Mesa. There, Democrat Juan Mendez had no Republican challenger for the Senate seat, and Democrats Athena Salmon and Isela Blanc appeared to be the likely winners in a four-way race for the two House seats.
With 82 percent of the vote counted, both Salmon and Blanc were each garnering over 31 percent of the vote to 23 percent for Republican Steven Adkins and 12 percent for Green Party hopeful Cara Trujillo.
In District 16, which covers parts of Mesa and Gilbert, Republican David Farnsworth captured two-thirds of the vote and appeared headed to another term in the State Senate after beating Democrat Scott Prior. Republicans Kelly Townsend and Doug Coleman were holding a 2-to-1 lead over Democrats Cara Prior and Sharon Stinard with 100 percent of the votes counted.
In District 17, which covers parts of Chandler and Gilbert, incumbent Republican Steve Yarbrough appears to have handily won another Senate term over Democrat Dr. Steve Weichert, a physician. Jennifer Pawlik, the only Democrat running for the two House seats, was trailing both Republicans—incumbent J.D. Mesnard and former Chandler Councilman Jeff Weninger.
Only one Democrat, Kathleen Rahn, was running for the two House seats in District 25, which covers a large part of Mesa. She was trailing well behind incumbent Republican Russell "Rusty" Bowers and newcomer Michelle Udall, also a Republican, with 78 percent of the vote counted.