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Arizona Campaigns Suspend Activity Following McCain's Death

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

Three Arizona Republicans are vying to compete for the Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake just days after the death of the state's longtime senator, John McCain.

The GOP winner will likely face Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, the front-runner in the Democratic primary.

Noting McCain's death, several candidates - including Sinema and Republican Rep. Martha McSally, who is expected to win the GOP primary - said they would suspend their campaigns on Wednesday and Thursday.

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, whose office is coordinating services at the Arizona State Capitol for McCain, will not attend any campaign events between now and when McCain is buried.

McCain was just one of 11 U.S. senators in the state's 116-year history. He died Saturday at 81 from an aggressive form of brain cancer.

On Tuesday, voters will decide the nominees in races across all levels of government.

As of Friday, around 800,000 early ballots were already cast, according to state election officials. They expect more than 1.1 million ballots cast overall in the primary — a possible record-breaker of political participation for an August primary, according to a tweet from elections official Garrett Archer. Over the weekend, some candidates and political organizations led get-out-the-vote efforts.

Arizona elections have seen a flurry of interest. California billionaire Tom Steyer has funneled money into clean energy ballot initiative campaigns plus voter registration efforts. Republicans have poured money into television ads to support Ducey and oppose his possible Democratic challengers.

In this Republican-dominant state where Democrats seek to capture a state legislative chamber or a U.S. seat, a hot, dusty summer bore witness to mounting campaigns. Yard signs for political candidates across all levels of government popped up at busy intersections in Phoenix, its suburbs and Tucson and at highway junctions in rural areas like Cochise County.

Democratic voters have a heightened sense of engagement, fueled by the anti-Trump resistance campaigns that have cropped up in pockets throughout the country. But Republicans continue their own mobilization, with get-out-the-vote efforts and a rumored visit from President Donald Trump, who is popular among many Republican voters.

Arizona has one of the latest primaries in the nation. Primary campaigns stretch through the summer, then a nominee has about 10 weeks to reach out to voters before the general election. But with some candidates seeking voters across the aisle, voters could be forgiven for thinking that the die was already cast.

Sinema, who represents a congressional district representing part of Maricopa County, has aired television ads for weeks. Then last week, McSally launched a new attack ad against Sinema. McSally is running in a three-way primary with former state Sen. Kelli Ward and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. With some polls showing McSally has a comfortable lead, she blasted out the anti-Sinema ad as "gearing up for the general election."

Sinema, for her part, released a Spanish-language ad several days before the primary. On Sunday, she tweeted that she would step off the campaign trail Wednesday and Thursday to pay respects to McCain — a nod to her expected victory on Tuesday against grassroots challenger Deedra Abboud.

In the gubernatorial primary, Democratic candidates have long campaigned on the ways they're different from Ducey. State Sen. Steve Farley, Kelly Fryer and David Garcia have all criticized Ducey for not putting more money into public education than his proposal to give teachers a 20 percent pay raise over three years. They've all also spoke to boosting renewable energy in the state, and pulling National Guard troops from the U.S.-Mexico border.

Garcia, an education professor and Army veteran, has been considered the front-runner in the Democratic race for several weeks. If elected, he'd be the first Latino to hold statewide office since Gov. Raul Castro in the early 1970s. Though Garcia is not yet the Democratic nominee, the Republican Governors Association has already spent millions opposing him. Rhetorical campaign battles have broken out. But in the wake of McCain's death, Garcia said he would suspend campaign activity Wednesday and Thursday except for attending a Democratic dinner where a memorial to McCain is expected.

Ducey's top challenger in the GOP primary is former Secretary of State Ken Bennett, a more conservative Republican with little funding and campaign resources.

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