September 13, 2006 - In a huge win for conservative republicans, State Senate candidate Al Melvin and his teammate, House of Representatives candidate David Jorgenson, picked up surprising wins in Tuesday's primary election.
Melvin appeared to have beaten three-term incumbent Toni Hellon, who had endorsements from business, police, and medical organizations across the state.
"We're taking the party back from the RINOS - republicans in name only," Melvin said at a Randy Graf results party at the Doubletree Hotel. "The only way we can take the party back is by replacing the RINOS."
Hellon is pro choice and widely viewed as moderate. Melvin is opposed to abortion and received a great deal of support from social conservative and Christian organizations.
Melvin will face Democrat Charlene Pesquiera in the November general election. She was unopposed in her primary.
Incumbent Republican Pete Hershberger picked up the other party nomination in District 26. If elected he will serve his fourth term in office.
Melvin said he and Jorgenson awoke the conservative party in District 26.
"It's a conservative sleeping giant that believes in the true republican platform," Melvin said. "Every single plank of the republican platform.
Jorgenson said the people in his district haven't had a conservative choice in 20 years, but when they have a choice, they pick conservatives.
District 26 takes in most of the Northwest and Foothills and all of SaddleBrooke in Pinal County.
Getting a late start in the race and running as a clean elections candidate, Jorgenson received few endorsements in the House race. "I worked harder, I guess," Jorgenson said. "It's about mobilizing your base. I've been living here for 20 years. It's a conservative district."
Three republican challengers vied for an open seat after Republican State Rep. Steve Huffman, who held the seat since 1999, ran for Congress in District 8. He was losing Tuesday night to Republican Randy Graf, who has hosted wine and cheese parties with Melvin and Jorgenson.
Graf, also viewed as a staunch conservative, said he hopes to show the state party that Southern Arizona is a republican area that elects people with a conservative message.
"And good bless Al and David for getting in this race," Graf said. "They helped me on the northwest side, and I hope I helped them."
House candidate Lisa Lovallo, who was third in the four person primary race for two nomination, said the victory of Melvin and Jorgenson doesn't speak as much about the political ideology of the district as much it does about the people who voted in Tuesday's primary.
"That's the thing campaigns worry about - voter turnout," Lovallo said. "People probably were voting for one issue more than for the whole candidate."
The issue Lovallo referenced is border security.
Melvin and Jorgenson advocate building a powerful fence along the border, similar to one separating Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Melvin said he thinks his supporters appreciated his tough stance on securing the border, but said he thinks he won because of his fundamentally conservative values.
"We got out to the churches," Melvin said. "There are 25,000 Mormons in Tucson and some of them live in my district. They are fundamentally conservative and liked our message."
Jorgenson and Hershberger will face off against Democratic nominee Lena Saradnik, who also automatically advanced in an uncontested primary.