Be careful what you wish for.
That’s the lesson emerging from the GOP primary in Legislative District 17.
Sen. Vince Leach, an incumbent from a different district, worked behind the scenes to ensure his home area of Saddlebrooke was included in the new LD 17, a Republican-dominated district wrapping around Tucson from the northwest side to the southeast.
He got what he wanted — Saddlebrooke became part of the district that is otherwise almost completely in Pima County.
Republican candidates for Arizona Senate, LD17: Vince Leach and Justine Wadsack.
And now he’s on the verge of losing. With almost all the votes counted, Justine Wadsack was leading Leach by 1,493 votes — a margin of 4.75 percentage points.
And all the votes from Pinal County, Leach’s stronghold, have already been counted.
Research by a Democratic-aligned firm last year showed that in October 2021, Leach’s senate staff began working on a letter to the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, arguing in favor of a Republican-leaning district that wrapped around Tucson and included Saddlebrooke.
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The letter went out on the letterhead of the mayor of Marana, Ed Honea, and was signed by Honea, Leach and four others. The Southern Arizona Leadership Council also weighed in with their support.
Before long, LD 17 became the most overtly gerrymandered district in Arizona.
The chair of the redistricting commission, Erika Neuberg, even acknowledged out loud she was trying to draw a district for Southern Arizona Republicans, although partisan groups are not supposed to be considered “communities of interest” under the law.
“I am focused on ensuring some accountability in the Tucson area for right-of-center folks, a community of interest, to not be neglected,” she said.
It wasn’t just Leach who got what he wanted, but the Southern Arizona Leadership Council as well. They had claimed that they needed more Republican representation in the Tucson area so that they could get proposals more easily considered in the Republican-controlled chambers at the Capitol.
Of course, they already had Republican representation — Rep. Mark Finchem, for one, and Leach for another. It just wasn’t representation that would carry their water.
Now they could find themselves in a similar situation. The three winners of the GOP primaries for House and Senate in LD 17 were part of a slate that called themselves …….