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Kelly wins GOP nomination in CD8 special election
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Kelly wins GOP nomination in CD8 special election

  • Jesse Kelly gives his victory speech Tuesday.
    Will Seberger/TucsonSentinel.comJesse Kelly gives his victory speech Tuesday.
  • 'We're very humbled by the support we've received, and confident we'll go on to victory,' Jesse Kelly said after the polls closed.
    Omer Wazir/TucsonSentinel.com'We're very humbled by the support we've received, and confident we'll go on to victory,' Jesse Kelly said after the polls closed.
  • Dave Sitton reacts to the vote tally Tuesday night.
    Will Seberger/TucsonSentinel.comDave Sitton reacts to the vote tally Tuesday night.
  • Dave Sitton hugs a supporter Tuesday night.
    Will Seberger/TucsonSentinel.comDave Sitton hugs a supporter Tuesday night.
  • Frank Antenori speaks to member of the press after conceding.
    Joshua Pearson/TucsonSentinel.comFrank Antenori speaks to member of the press after conceding.
  • Republican candidate state Sen. Frank Antenori arrives at his campaign's party at El Parador on Tuesday night.
    Joshua Pearson/TucsonSentinel.comRepublican candidate state Sen. Frank Antenori arrives at his campaign's party at El Parador on Tuesday night.
  • Frank Antenori speaks with the press after the polls closed Tuesday night.
    Joshua Pearson/TucsonSentinel.comFrank Antenori speaks with the press after the polls closed Tuesday night.
  • Retired Air Force Col. Martha McSally.
    Kevin Asher/TucsonSentinel.comRetired Air Force Col. Martha McSally.
  • Martha McSally greets supporters Tuesday night.
    Kevin Asher/Tucson Sentinel.comMartha McSally greets supporters Tuesday night.
  • Martha McSally's dog was on hand to celebrate in the event of a win.
    Kevin Asher/Tucson Sentinel.comMartha McSally's dog was on hand to celebrate in the event of a win.
  • Kevin Asher/TucsonSentinel.com
  • Ron Barber speaks with Sarah Sandlaufer, an intern for the campaign Tuesday evening. She made phone calls with more than 40 other volunteers at Barber's headquarters on Speedway.
    Mariana Dale/TucsonSentinel.comRon Barber speaks with Sarah Sandlaufer, an intern for the campaign Tuesday evening. She made phone calls with more than 40 other volunteers at Barber's headquarters on Speedway.
  • Jerry Sormani, 72, and Ray Gamache, 75, make phone calls in support of Barber's campaign on Tuesday night. Sormani was a lifelong Republican before moving to Tucson and joining the Democratic Party.
    Mariana Dale/TucsonSentinel.comJerry Sormani, 72, and Ray Gamache, 75, make phone calls in support of Barber's campaign on Tuesday night. Sormani was a lifelong Republican before moving to Tucson and joining the Democratic Party.
  • Mariana Dale/TucsonSentinel.com

Republican Jesse Kelly pulled off the primary election win he confidently predicted Tuesday, cruising with 36 percent of the vote.

The four-way race determined who will face off with Democrat Ron Barber in a June special election to fill the seat vacated by Gabrielle Giffords.

Kelly led the pack with 36 percent of the vote, with 100 percent of precincts reporting.

He stuck to his mantra of crediting his "message of lower taxes, more jobs, and lower gas prices by using American energy" for his win.

Earlier, Kelly predicted victory to supporters gathered at the midtown Viscount Suites. Kelly, who narrowly lost to Giffords in 2010, gladhanded with about 25 supporters just after the polls closed.

"We're very humbled by the support we've received, and confident we'll go on to victory - not only tonight but in June," he said when asked to forecast the night's events.

Just before 10 p.m., Kelly declared victory, telling 50-some supporters that "we're going to share a cold one," but not to celebrate too much.

"We've won a primary before," he said, in reference to the 2010 race that saw the Tea Party-backed candidate lose by 4,000 votes in the general election.

While a recent poll showed Kelly 4 points up on his Democratic opponent, "we're going to work like we're down 10," he said.

Also in the running Tuesday on the GOP side: state Sen. Frank Antenori, retired Air Force Col. Martha McSally and broadcaster/marketing man Dave Sitton.

Kelly told his supporters that his Republican opponents had all called to concede the race, and to offer their support.

Sitton, who pulled in the most campaign money, couldn't ride that to a win. He trailed with 17 percent, coming in last in votes.

Sitton wouldn't rule out a run in CD2 in the fall, but it's unlikely he'd "challenge a quasi-incumbent Kelly," he said.

Retired Air Force pilot Martha McSally made an initial splash in the campaign, gaining national media attention. But the combat veteran didn't seem to get enough traction to pull off a victory as a political novice. She had support from 25 percent of Republican voters in the primary.

About 50 supporters turned out at the Radisson Hotel to await the vote count with McSally, who said she now would seek the GOP nomination in the fall race in CD2.

"It is time to come together to support our nominee in the special election on June 12, we need to do that. However, I will continue my campaign for the second congressional district of Southern Arizona," she told a crowd of about 30 at the end of the evening.

Earlier, she said she was proud of her supporters and staff.

"It's been an extraordinary experience, it has only been 68 days and we've accomplished so much in so little time with so much energy and resources," she said.

State Sen. Frank Antenori, who was badly beaten in the fundraising sprint, fared better than expected at the ballot box but still came up short. He had 22 percent of the vote.

He conceded the race just after 8:30 p.m.

"Always in true Special Forces fashion, I'll live to fight another day," the ex-Green Beret told supporters.

Antenori told the crowd that what's important now is to get behind Kelly and win the seat from the Democrats.

Antenori said that Ron Barber would just be another rubber stamp for President Barack Obama's policies.

Earlier, at El Parador Mexican Restaurant, about 50 people had arrived by 7:30 p.m. to show their support for the conservative legislator.

As is Antenori's style, the Republican conjured a combat phrase when asked about his chances for a win and his place in the polls..

"I've been out-manned, out-gunned before. ... We're feeling confident," he said.

Barber and the Green Party's Charlie Manolakis ran unopposed in their primaries.

More than 50 volunteers, interns and staff filled the Barber headquarters behind Ike’s Coffee on Speedway.

Barber reiterated his desire to work across party lines to solve issues that affect middle class Americans.  Barber agreed that he hopes to work with Republicans to improve U.S. energy production. He said we need to increase domestic oil energy production and lessen our foreign dependence Barber said.

Above all, Barber hopes to bolster the middle class.

“We cannot have a thriving America without a thriving middle class,” Barber said.

"They want a high road campaign that is a civil campaign. A campaign respectful of my opponent while we still have a robust debate about the issues," Barber said of Southern Arizona voters.

Many had already turned in their ballots. More than 72,000 ballots were turned in to the Pima County Elections Department by Monday. Nearly 137,000 early ballots were sent out.

Turnout in the race was 28 percent. 72,000 cast Republican ballots in the election, while 43,000 cast a vote for Barber, even though he ran uncontested.

CD8 covers eastern Pima County, all of Cochise and parts of Pinal and Santa Cruz counties. After redistricting, November will see an election to pick a representative for the new Congressional District 2, which covers much of the same territory.

Primary special election results

  • Voter turnout: 27.92 %
  • Precincts reporting: 100%

Republicans

Frank Antenori 21.88% 15,732
Jesse Kelly 35.71% 25,679
Martha McSally 24.95% 17,943
Dave Sitton 17.05% 12,261
Write-in 0.41% 297

Democrats

Ron Barber 98.51% 42,801
Write-in 1.49% 646

Greens

Charlie Manolakis 85.61% 113
Write-in 14.39% 19

Janet Rose Jackman, Will Seberger, Joshua Pearson, Kevin Asher, Mariana Dale, Rachel Cabakoff and Omer Wazir contributed to this story.


Barber statement on Kelly's primary win

Democratic candidate Ron Barber emailed the following press release after Kelly's victory became apparent:

I am running for Congress to help rebuild Southern Arizona’s middle class. I am committed to solutions that create jobs, and balance the budget the right way—not on the backs of our seniors.  Creating good middle-class jobs, looking out for our military and their families and veterans, protecting Social Security and Medicare, and securing our border---those will be my main priorities in Congress.

Unfortunately, Jesse Kelly’s agenda would put the rich first and leave middle class families last. He supports a radical tax plan that would increase taxes by 23% for middle class families while lowering them for millionaires and billionaires. When it comes to benefits that seniors have spent a lifetime to earn, Jesse Kelly said that Medicare should be eliminated – seniors need to ‘get off the public dole’—and Social Security should be ‘phased out.’ Jesse Kelly would even abolish the minimum wage. Kelly’s priorities are the wrong priorities for Southern Arizona’s middle class families and seniors.

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