PHOENIX (AP) — The incumbent Republican governor and a Democratic Latino education professor won their parties' respective nods in Tuesday's primary election for Arizona's top office.
Gov. Doug Ducey bested former Secretary of State Ken Bennett, a more conservative GOP candidate who had little funding and campaign resources. Education professor and military veteran David Garcia beat fellow Democrats state Sen. Steve Farley and Kelly Fryer, a former CEO of the YWCA Southern Arizona.
A huge whoop erupted from several hundred supporters packed inside a central Phoenix restaurant when the race was called for Garcia.
"The insiders who have been running the show for decades are running scared because they know their days are numbered," Garcia said. "We are one step away from changing Arizona."
Much of the crowd was comprised of teachers who applauded when he vowed to "build a first-class education system."
Ducey and Garcia both said they are suspending campaign gatherings later in the week to honor the late Sen. John McCain. Ducey, who has the responsibility of naming a replacement for McCain — and said he will do so after his funeral — held no public events on Tuesday.
Ducey has focused his re-election bid on border security and job creation, promoting a new law enforcement collaboration effort called the Border Strike Force. In a statement, Ducey touted increases to public education funding and job increases from his first term in office.
"We've delivered substantive reforms and made real progress these last three years in order to improve our state," he said.
Garcia emerged over the summer in the three-way Democratic race. The fourth-generation Arizona resident is a professor at the education school at Arizona State University.
He supports the Invest in Education Act, a proposal that would increase income taxes on Arizona's wealthiest residents to provide more money for schools.
He also has promised to pull back the National Guard troops Ducey sent to the southern border at President Donald Trump's request. Ducey has argued their presence combats drug smuggling and other illegal activity along the international boundary.
Now that the primary is over, both parties are poised to funnel millions into November's general election.
The Republican Governors Association over the summer broadcast attack ads against Garcia, linking him to calls to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Association spokesman Jon Thompson said the group had planned to buy more ad time this week, but decided to hold off after McCain's death.
Some Democrats see Ducey as vulnerable after an unprecedented statewide teacher strike to demand increased school funding. Although Ducey's proposal to give teachers a 20-percent raise over three years passed in the state budget, teachers had demanded $1 billion in new money for schools.
Josh Meyer, a 27-year-old Phoenix movie theater manager, said he voted Tuesday for Democratic candidates.
"It's now or never for a blue wave by the Democrats," said Meyer. "If not, democracy will be in question in our country."
Eduardo Haramina, a naturalized U.S. citizen who sells hot dogs from a cart outside the Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix, said he was thankful for the right to vote in the homeland he adopted after arriving from Argentina in 1971.
"It's good to be able to choose our leaders, but sometimes it's hard to know who is the best," said Haramina, who declined to reveal how he voted. "I was sick and tired of the corruption back home. We have to make sure we keep the corrupt ones here out of office."
Associated Press writer Melissa Daniels contributed to this report.