Newly re-elected Republican Sen. Al Melvin drove south from the Arizona Capitol on Monday, talking on his hands-free device — he’s an advocate of legislation to ban texting while driving — about his victory over Democrat Cheryl Cage in last Tuesday’s District 26 Senate election.

“I was pleased with the results,” Melvin said. “We worked real hard, I was in pretty heavy campaign mode from May until October, six months. We create our own luck in life, the harder you work, the luckier you get, and I won.”

The results from the secretary of state’s office indicate Melvin defeated Cage by 6,193 votes, 42,146-35,953. On a percentage basis, Melvin prevailed by 53.89-45.97 percent.

“People say I was the No. 1 legislative target in the state for the Democrat Party, and I increased my margin to 8 percent from roughly 2 percent” when he beat Cage in 2008, Melvin said.

“Of course, I’m disappointed,” Cage said Monday from Patagonia, where she went to “detox” from campaign rigors.

“I am not in any way deterred, in any way,” the Marana resident said. “If anything, I am more energized to work for Arizona. I have a lot to offer to this state, a lot to offer progressives in every party, to people who are forward thinking. I’ll find my niche, and I’ll be effective.

“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, continuing to fight the good fight for public education, state parks, all the things we fought for during the campaign,” Cage said.

Why the outcome?

“The Republican Party, the members of our party, and I think 2- and 3-1 of independents were extremely concerned with the direction the Obama Administration has been taking us,” Melvin said, mentioning spending, health care changes and more.

“We need to be getting our people employed. We need to be focusing on jobs. It’s absolutely critical,” the SaddleBrooke resident said. “We don’t want any more tax increases in the recession. We need more taxpayers and not more taxes.”

“It was just a really bad time to run as a Democrat,” Cage said. The district has 10,000 more registered Republicans than it does Democrats. Throw in the Tea Party sentiment, and “it just wasn’t level,” Cage said. “I’m nothing if not a realist.”

Her two defeats in successive elections are “nothing. It’s just a part of the process. It’s a very tough district, this was a very tough time. … I don’t think there was one thing I could have done differently,” Cage said. “I’m very, very proud of the work that I did. I don’t feel bad for one second about the last year, 18 months.”

Melvin said there’s at least $500 million that must be cut from the budget because the voters rejected Propositions 301 and 302, which would have swept funds from land conservation and children’s programs into the state’s general fund.

“I think there are many, many things we can do to balance the budget,” said Melvin, among them a co-pay for people using Arizona’s Medicaid program, AHCCCS, and the use of ankle bracelets on inmates to save the $60 a day incarceration expense for those “trustworthy enough to be released back into society with an ankle bracelet.” He said the technology can detect drugs and alcohol in an inmate’s bloodstream.

Over the next several years, Cage expects “really a devastation of Arizona, of public education, of universities. It’s been tough to this point. People will look back and realize they were just mildly inconvenienced when they see what’s coming down the road. That’s one of the reasons I won’t give up.

“People didn’t understand how bad these plans can be,” Cage said. “They’re going to look up and say ‘wait a minute, what did we do, what did we do?’”

Melvin is emboldened by the Republican majorities in the Legislature. They are “record numbers,” 21 of 30 senators and 40 of 60 representatives. “There’s many things we can do with that,” Melvin said. “It makes both chambers veto-proof.”

“You can already see … they’re gleeful about the cuts they’re going to be making,” Cage said. “It’s clear what the majority believes in.

“It is going to be very hard to watch, it’s going to be very hard to be a part of this,” Cage said. “That’s why I’m going to work as hard as I can to make sure people understand it doesn’t have to be this way. We have other options, other ways to go about building a community.”

Melvin wants legislation requiring all federal money flowing into the state, about $18 billion, go to the Legislature for appropriation instead of the governor. “We’re one of about four states, where it goes to the governor.” Of that sum, Melvin said, about 10 percent is earmarked for the administration of the money. “That’s almost $2 billion.”

He wants to make Arizona “the most business-friendly state we possibly can,” Melvin said. “When California voted for Jerry Brown, Barbara Boxer, and voted down a proposition that would have curtailed cap and trade, their loss is our gain. I’m hoping we can start sending delegations to California, a senator, a representative, someone from the governor’s staff, the chamber, and invite companies to move here. I can’t wait to go there myself and invite them.”

Cage may run yet again.

“I just never say never,” she said. “I take it one step at a time. The first time, I absolutely said I would never run again. We’ve got redistricting, that’s going to make a big impact. I have a lot of ideas, a lot of energy.”

District 26 Senate

Cheryl Cage, D 45.97 percent 35,953 votes

Sen. Al Melvin, R 53.89 percent 42,146 votes

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