McCain defeats Republican challengers to win Arizona primary

PHOENIX (AP) " Sen. John McCain beat back a primary challenge Tuesday from a Republican tea party activist to win the right to seek a sixth term in November in a race that has been inundated with questions about GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.

The 2008 GOP presidential nominee easily defeated former state Sen. Kelli Ward and two other Republicans.

He faces a tough Democratic challenge in the November general election from U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick. She advanced Tuesday after facing only a write-in opponent in the primary.

McCain vowed to not take the primary for granted, and he campaigned hard until the end. But the contest between Ward and McCain was often overshadowed by Trump and his outspoken comments.

Trump had attacked many issues dear to the Arizona senator, including the family of a fallen soldier, NATO and even McCain's own military service and time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Yet McCain stuck by his support for Trump, at times seemingly through gritted teeth. He repeatedly avoided calling Trump by name, instead saying he'll support his party's nominee.

Trump is set to roll out his plan to handle immigration in Phoenix on Wednesday, with Republican Gov. Doug Ducey making his first appearance with the GOP nominee. Ducey, like McCain, has said he supports his party's nominee but avoided Trump in his previous four campaign stops in Arizona.

There's no word if McCain will appear at the event.

McCain made no mention of Trump or his many divisive comments in his victory speech Tuesday night, but he sought to strike an inclusive tone as he praised his Latino, Asian-American and Middle Eastern supporters.

"There is a lot at stake in this election, no matter who wins the presidency," McCain said. "Most of all, it's important that Republicans can fight for the resources our military needs."

Ward had been mainly ignored by McCain, but she got national attention by saying in recent interviews that the 80-year-old senator would be unable to complete another six-year term because of his age. Ward also cast the race as a David and Goliath battle, but could not overcome his huge spending advantage and name recognition.

"I thought we ran an amazing race like had never been seen against an entrenched career politician," Ward told The Associated Press after the results were announced.

McCain is one of two longtime politicians in their 80s who easily won primaries Tuesday in Arizona.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio won the Republican primary despite a cloud of legal troubles hanging over him. He trounced his three opponents after raising $11.3 million " a staggering sum for a sheriff's race. He will face retired Phoenix police Officer Paul Penzone, the same opponent who took on Arpaio in 2012.

Arpaio also plans to appear with Trump Wednesday, as he has throughout the billionaire businessman's campaign.

Ryan Lukens, a deliveryman, stopped by a central Phoenix polling site after work. The Republican cast a vote against Arpaio, citing his litany of legal problems. But he said McCain continues to have his support.

"He has the influence that is needed to keep Arizona great," he said.

All nine U.S. House seats were also on the primary ballot, though just a few are tight races.

A heavily GOP district in the eastern Phoenix suburbs, for instance, featured a four-way race among Republicans who want to replace retiring Rep. Matt Salmon. Senate President Andy Biggs and former dot-com executive Christine Jones led the field and gave an upbeat speech to supporters, but the race remained too close to call late Tuesday.

"Enough of these same old career politicians in Washington," Jones said to cheers from the crowd as results were being tallied.

And in a sweeping district that includes much of eastern Arizona outside the Tucson and Phoenix metro areas, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu defeated four other Republicans vying for the chance to advance to November. He'll face the Democrat seeking Kirkpatrick's seat, Tom O'Halleran.

Babeu was attacked by one of his opponent for the "baggage" he would hand to a Democratic opponent in the general election. He was forced to publicly acknowledge his homosexuality and drop a congressional bid in 2012 after a story published that featured pictures of him in his underwear that he had posted on a dating website and allegations that he threatened a former lover.

Babeu called his victory "historic" and said it showed that while Republicans are often portrayed as intolerant they were willing to look past his sexual orientation.

"I want to be judged on my merit, on my performance and my contributions to my community and my nation," he said.

And Rep. Paul Gosar won his primary in a heavily Republican district that stretches from Phoenix suburbs to the California border.

Two Democrats battled for the right to take on first-term GOP Rep. Martha McSally in the district once held by Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head in 2011 and resigned a year later.

Tucson physician and former state lawmaker Matt Heinz bested former state Rep. Victoria Steele.

The other statewide contest featured a five-way race among Republicans seeking three seats on the state's utility regulation panel, the Arizona Corporation Commission.

Incumbents Andy Tobin, Bob Burns and retired Superior Court Judge Boyd Dunn won the Republican nominations and will face Democrats Bill Mundell and Tom Chabin in the Nov. 8 general election. Mundell and Chabin automatically advanced to the general election.


Associated Press writers Astrid Galvan, Jacques Billeaud and Terry Tang contributed to this story.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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