McSally wins Arizona Senate GOP primary over Arpaio and Ward, NBC projects

WASHINGTON — Rep. Martha McSally defeated former Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Kelli Ward in the Arizona Republican Senate primary on Tuesday night, NBC News projects.

McSally, a former fighter pilot, had been favored to prevail over the two conservatives, who split the anti-establishment vote. But McSally tacked far to the right in the primary, which could cause problems for her in what is expected to be a tough race against Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in November.

McSally had 51.4 percent, or 196,452 votes, to Ward's 28.6 percent, or 109,105 votes, and Arpaio's 20 percent, or 76,517 votes, with 58 percent of precincts reporting.

Ward lost a nasty primary against Sen. John McCain in 2016, and returned this year to challenge Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. But when Flake decided not to run for reelection and Arpaio got in, Ward had a tougher time consolidating the pro-Trump conservative vote. President Donald Trump did not endorse in the race.

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In the final days of her campaign, Ward launched a bus tour with Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich, and wondered aloud on Facebook if McCain's family timed their decision to announce the senator had stopped medical treatment for cancer in order to overshadow her campaign.

Arpaio, meanwhile, has been struggling to gain traction, despite tying himself closely to Trump, who pardoned the former Maricopa County Sheriff after he was convicted of criminal contempt.

The margin of the outcome could influence Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who is also up for reelection this year, as he decides whom to appoint to fill McCain's seat. The appointee will not face voters until 2020.

Meanwhile, Sinema, a Democratic congresswoman from the Phoenix suburbs, ran essentially unopposed for her party's nomination.

Democrats are worried, however, about a nasty congressional primary in a district that could be a top pickup opportunity for them.

Former Arizona Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick is running to make it back to the Congress, and has the backing of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. But her opponent, Matt Heinz, a doctor who ran for the seat before, has not made it easy, comparing Kirkpatrick's political ambition to a "meth addiction."