With all the more than 2 million votes cast Nov. 3 in Maricopa County, a final stunning surprise was saved until the end.
After trailing Democratic opponent Jevin Hodge almost all week following the election, Republican incumbent Maricopa County Supervisor Jack Sellers, whose district includes Gilbert, eked out a 403-vote victory, according to final unofficial results.
Sellers, a former Chandler City Council and State Transportation Board member, was appointed to the post by the board in January 2018 to fill the seat vacated by Denny Barney, who resigned to become president/CEO of the PHX East Valley Partnership.
Hodge, the son of Tempe Union Governing Board President Berdetta Hodge – who easily won her reelection bid – had declared victory on his Facebook site two days after the election, telling supporters itt was time to get to work.
But while Hodge had jumped to a big lead on Election Night and held it for a few days, Sellers began chipping away at it until he took a slim lead over the weekend.
Hodge posted a video on his Facebook site on Saturday conceding.
“Today is very very hard,” he said. “But I am thankful and very proud….This is not the end of this movement.”
Sellers on his Facebook page thanked voters and congratulated Hodge “for running a very competitive campaign.”
“This was a very close race and the voters came out in record numbers,” Sellers wrote. “It is now incumbent upon me to ensure all residents feel included in decisions made by the Board of Supervisors.
“We have many issues to work on, most importantly our response to the COVID 19 pandemic and the economic vitality of our county. Working together, we can protect public health while ensuring our business community can survive the crisis and prepare for an even stronger future.”
Sellers also noted that the campaign was fought on issues “without attacking each other.”
He said Hodge called him and “we had a very cordial and productive conversation. We agreed to get together soon to start an open dialog on issues that are important for our district.”
Sellers’ victory clinched all county offices for Republicans as well as retained the 4-1 control they have on the Board of Supervisors.
The only Democrat who held a county office the last four years was County recorder Adrian Fontes, who conceded late last week to Republican challenger Stephen Richer.
The GOP’s across-the-board victory in county offices included former Gilbert Council member Eddie Cook.
Meanwhile, final unofficial tallies showed state Sen. J.D. Mesnard easily overcoming a hugely financed effort to deny him a second term – his sixth as a lawmaker for a district that includes South Chandler, Sun Lakes and part of Gilbert.
Mesnard garnered a 52.5 percent vote margin over Democrat Ajlan AJ Kurdoglu in a race where nearly two-thirds of the $3.2 million spent in the Legislative District 17 battles were spent on the Senate race alone.
In the three-way race for the two LD17 House seats, Democratic Rep. Jennifer Pawlik repeated her 2018 election debut by garnering the most votes with 33.7 percent, or 65,172, according to final unofficial results.
Second was Republican Rep. Jeff Weninger, with 33.4 percent, while Chandler Realtor Liz Harris captured 32.8 percent in her failed bid to return the LD17 delegation to all-Republican.
No other legislative district in Arizona saw the kind of campaign cash that was spent in LD17, records show.
Of the $3,265,895 that was spent by and for all five candidates, $2,389,270 was spent in the Mesnard-Kurdoglu race.
Of that, the candidates’ own campaigns spent $441,268 while independent organizations – many from outside Arizona – spent another $1,948,002. That include a stunning $1,331,430 spent by groups advocating for Mesnard’s defeat.
Mesnard last month said he was mystified as to why independent organizations targeted him so heavily, though he suggested they felt that the Republican voter registration edge in LD17 could be surmounted because his victory in 2018 was in the single-digits.
Regardless of the reasons, the five candidates themselves spent $775,046 combined on their campaigns.
Among the three House candidates in LD17, independent groups’ spending totaled the most for and against Pawlik.
Independent groups spent a total $154,386 advocating for her election and $120,900 against.
Independent groups’ spending was second highest in Harris’ campaign, with groups opposed to her election pouring $147,817 to advocate for her defeat while only $19,991 was spent by other groups on her behalf.
Hodge, who faced an uphill battle in a district where Republicans hold a 20,000 registration lead, also ran second to Sellers in the race for cash.
The latest filings in the county supervisor race showed that Sellers raised $118,570 while his opponent has raised $104,030. Sellers also out-spent Hodge $118,570 to $104,030, according to third quarter campaign finance filings.