Defeated Arizona Rep. Tom O'Halleran reflects on election

Defeated Arizona Rep. Tom O’Halleran reflects on election

PHOENIX (AP) — His Democratic-leaning district was reconfigured into a heavily Republican district, U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran could have retired and ceded the sprawling Arizona district he was virtually certain to lose to of the Republican who won Tuesday’s victory. election. He did not do it.

“It’s not who I am,” the three-term Democrat said Friday from his home in Sedona. “I could have said no. I felt we had to try to defend it because of the needs of not just the state but the country. Sometimes you win some, sometimes you lose some. At least you get in the game.

O’Halleran was the most vulnerable starter in Arizona’s nine-member congressional delegation and lost to businessman and former Navy Seal Eli Crane, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump. The Associated Press called the race late Thursday after the extra votes were tallied.

Crane bets on redistricting which makes it easier to eliminate O’Halleran. His victory helps Republicans as they plan to take control of the US House as more votes are counted from the election that ended on Tuesday.

Late Friday, Democratic Representative Greg Stanton defeated Republican Kelly Cooper to win a third term representing the 4th District which includes parts of Tempe, Mesa, Phoenix and Chandler. The district has been held by Democrats since its inception a decade ago, but Stanton faced a tougher fight after redistricting added more GOP voters to what had been a solidly Democratic district. Cooper is a restaurant owner and a Navy veteran. He is a political newcomer who has won the support of former President Donald Trump.

Two other Arizona districts remain too early to call, with Republican Rep. David Schweikert trying to hold onto his Phoenix-area seat against Democratic challenger Jevin Hodge and Republican Juan Ciscomani and Democrat Kirsten Engel locked in a tight race for a southeastern Arizona district now held by retired Democratic Representative Ann Kirkpatrick. Arizona’s other five seats were held by incumbents who met little or no opposition.

Crane will now represent the sprawling 2nd congressional district, which covers much of northeastern Arizona and dips south to the northern suburbs of Tucson. The redistricting made it one that strongly favors the GOP drawing in the Prescott area.

Crane did not return messages requesting an interview, but his campaign issued a statement in which he thanked his wife, Jen, and two daughters, and said he was proud of the campaign, the volunteers and the personal.

“In Congress, I will never forget who I serve or why people sent me to represent them,” Crane’s statement said. “I will always be your voice.”

He said his victory was a message from the “America First” movement pushed by Trump.

“Now begins the real work of getting the country we love back on track,” he wrote.

O’Halleran won the election for the first time in 2016 and relied on his moderate voting record, name identity and consistent work throughout the district that includes the Navajo Nation to retain the seat. But the redistricting made it virtually unwinnable, which he fully understood.

“Obviously the recording was not where it needed to be,” he told the AP. “But I also felt that if we could get our message across to people that our country is too big for us to be torn apart, it was worth moving forward.

“And I still believe in it,” he continued. “I think we have to find common ground. And you can’t find it by running away and saying, “Oh, that’s just too hard. You will only find it by working there.

O’Halleran said he will spend his last two months in Congress continuing to work on issues close to Arizona, such as water, state forests and border security. And he said his last speech on the ground would be about the nation and the need to come together.

“We have to be able to get over what people are saying off the cuff, whether it’s true or not, and start working on the fact that we’re neighbors, we’re Americans,” he said. “And we have a responsibility to listen to the factual discussion and try to find a middle ground based on the facts.”

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