Republicans will retain control of Arizona Senate for next 2 years after winning majority – The Arizona Republic

Republicans will maintain their control of the Arizona Senate for the next two years, election results showed Monday.
GOP candidates stayed ahead of their Democratic opponents in critical Senate districts in the last large release of counted ballots.
The Associated Press has called 28 of 30 Senate races, including 16 races — the majority needed for control — for Republicans.
The two Senate races still not called would only increase Republicans’ lead in the chamber.
As it stands, Republicans will have the same 16-14 majority in 2023 that they had this year. Turning GOP-backed bills into law became much more difficult, however, with Democrat Katie Hobbs’ election as governor.
An estimated five to 15,000 ballots remained to be counted in Maricopa County after Monday’s final drop of counted votes. Remaining vote counts in other counties weren’t immediately available.
Democrats had rocketed ahead in the first batch of votes released last week and were leading initially in a majority of state Senate seats, but their early gains soon disappeared.
Sens. Steve Kaiser, R-Phoenix, J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, and T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, stayed ahead of Democratic challengers Jeanne Casteen, Cindy Hans and Taylor Kerby, respectively.
Kaiser came the closest of the three to losing to his Democratic opponent. On Wednesday he was ahead of teacher Jeanne Casteen by only by 13 votes; by Monday that margin climbed to nearly 3,000 votes.
Mesnard, who had seen his lead shrink last week, bounced back in the weekend’s tally and soared ahead of Hans.
Only a handful of 30 state Senate races were key to determining control of the chamber.
Thirteen Senate seats are in Republican-heavy districts, and 12 are in Democrat-heavy districts. Of the five remaining districts, each designed to be competitive between the parties by last year’s redistricting process, Democrats won only two.
Legislative District 17, which runs from Marana to parts of west Tucson and has a GOP registration advantage, became key to the balance of power and looked like it possibly could hold a surprise Democratic victory.
But retired United Methodist Church pastor Mike Nickerson, a Democrat, saw his chance of beating Republican Justine Wadsack fall too far behind in Monday’s updates.
Wadsack, who beat conservative incumbent Sen. Vince Leach in the August primary election, gained negative headlines for posting a Qanon slogan on social media and for a court case after her primary win to decide if she really lived in the district. That made her more vulnerable with the all-important independent voters, but Wadsack enjoyed a lead in the two counties covered by the district, Pima and Pinal.
Election Day coverage: Arizona election results
In Legislative District 4, which includes Paradise Valley and parts of north Phoenix and north Scottsdale, Republican Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, narrowed her margin with Democratic Sen. Christine Marsh. That was the only Senate race still close enough to flip.
Barto sponsored the new law signed by Gov. Doug Ducey this year that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy except to save the life of the mother, with no exceptions for survivors of rape or incest. The issue placed a clear demarcation for voters between her and Marsh, a teacher who supports legal abortions and rejects the private school vouchers that Barto champions.
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Another district where voters faced a stark choice for a state Senate seat was Legislative District 9 in west Mesa, where the only Trump-supported legislative candidate in a competitive district was on the ticket.
Robert Scantlebury, a retired Mesa police officer, trailed well behind nurse Eva Burch on Monday when AP called the race.
The issue of abortion — Scantlebury supports government restrictions on the procedure and Burch doesn’t — loomed large in the race. So did former President Donald Trump’s politics, which Scantlebury represents.
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In the West Valley’s Legislative District 22, a Democratic candidate for the Senate seat was in the lead out of 11 write-ins.
Incumbent Rep. Diego Espinoza, D-Tolleson, won the Democratic primary election for the seat in the district against incumbent Rep. Richard Andrade but then announced his resignation from office to take a job at Salt River Project.
That led to a storm of write-in candidates entering the race. The Arizona Democratic Party threw its weight behind one of the candidates, Eva Diaz.
The race wasn’t yet called because election officials still need to pore through thousands of write-in ballots that needed to be examined. But in the most recent unofficial tally, Diaz had about twice as many votes as her closest Republican competitor, Steve Robinson.
Reach the reporter at or 480-276-3237. Follow him on Twitter @raystern.
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