Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake defeated wealthy businessman Wil Cardon on Tuesday in an unexpectedly feisty Republican U.S. Senate primary race marked by accusations of hypocrisy, broken promises and flip-flopping.
The six-term congressman had 70 percent of the vote in early returns. He will face Democrat Richard Carmona, who was surgeon general under President George W. Bush, in the November general election to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Jon Kyl.
Arizona voters were also ousting of one of two Republican House members, both freshmen pitted against each other by redistricting. Five other House incumbents, including former Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' hand-picked successor, faced challengers.
Voters in Alaska, Oklahoma and Vermont also were deciding House races.
In Arizona, Democrats were hoping the surprisingly aggressive — and expensive — challenge from Cardon to Flake, who was widely seen as the favorite in the race, will give them their best shot in years at taking one of the state's two Senate seats.
The push by Carmona comes as the GOP is fighting to pick up four more seats to wrest control of the chamber in advance of votes on key policy issues such as the possible repeal of President Barack Obama's health care law and changes to the tax code.
"The stakes couldn't be higher and the choice before Arizonans couldn't be clearer," Flake said in a statement. "I can't wait to debate the issues."
Arizona hasn't elected a Democrat to the Senate since Dennis DeConcini won his third term in 1988, but Democrats are hoping the primary attacks on Flake have weakened his standing and his bank account.
"Jeff Flake has been a little wounded by the primary," said Jim Pederson, a former Democratic Party chairman who lost an expensive race to Kyl six years ago. "I think a lot of the issues that Wil brought up will kind of resonate with people. I think (the general election) is going to be very close."
Cardon spent $6 million of his own money trying to paint Flake as a Washington insider who reneged on past promises to limit his terms in office. Opponents pointed to Flake's little-known past as a Washington lobbyist for a uranium mine that was minority-owned by Iran. He also criticized Flake, saying he made a dramatic change on immigration, going from a supporter of comprehensive reform to backing policies that would first secure the border.
For his part, Cardon was accused of painting himself as tough on immigration, while a company he partly owned was fined for faulty paperwork in hiring workers with questionable legal status.
Cardon was widely seen as having begun to cede the race in the past month, turning positive in his campaign messages and ending months of expensive television ads.
In Oklahoma, Westville plumbing company owner Markwayne Mullin defeated three-term state Rep. George Faught in a runoff for the Republican nomination for the seat being vacated by Democratic Rep. Dan Boren. And longtime state and federal prosecutor Rob Wallace, of Fort Gibson, beat Muskogee seed company owner Wayne Herriman in the Democratic runoff.
Windsor businessman John MacGovern handily defeated a Republican primary opponent in the Vermont race to challenge independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in November.
And five Democrats in Alaska were vying for the chance to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young, who has held his seat for 40 years. Young had two challengers but was expected to easily win his primary.
One or both major parties had primary races in all nine of Arizona's U.S. House districts, including the two-incumbent rivalry between freshman Republican Reps. Ben Quayle and David Schweikert in the 6th Congressional District centered on the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale. Quayle moved into the district — the bulk of which he previously represented — after redistricting put him in a neighboring district considered more competitive with Democrats. Schweikert was leading 54 percent to 46 percent in early returns.
Barber, a former aide to Giffords, was elected in June to serve out her term after she resigned to concentrate on her recovery from being shot in the head during a January 2011 mass shooting in Tucson. He was leading challenger Matt Heinz, a former state representative, in the Democratic
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