Originally Published: August 27, 2014 12:26 a.m.
The third time was a charm Tuesday for Noel Campbell.
The 72-year-old Prescottonian ran unsuccessfully four years ago and eight years ago for one of the two Legislative District 1 seats.
But Tuesday, he won the LD1 Republican primary alongside incumbent Rep. Karen Fann of Prescott.
"It's a long journey and I ran a long race," Campbell said. An earlier start to his campaign helped a lot this time around, he said.
Campbell said he's a Tea Party member for fiscal reasons, and a common sense Republican in general.
"We have real divisions between all these Republican groups, and I'll be a real bridge between them," he said.
A retired U.S. Customs agent, he hopes to be involved in resolving border issues. He said he's against amnesty but Republicans must make peace with the Latino community.
Fann and Campbell face off against Democrat Frank Cuccia in November, but since only one Democrat has taken an LD1 seat in the last few decades, it's likely Campbell will become a member of the Arizona House of Representatives.
When Yavapai County elections officials first posted results saying 97 percent of the polls had reported alongside most of the early voters, Fann had 39 percent of the votes in the Republican race compared to 30 percent for Campbell, 24 percent for Linda Gray of Prescott and 8 percent for Sean Englund of Cave Creek.
Yavapai's results didn't go online until about 9:10 p.m., about an hour later than usual. Recorder Leslie Hoffman said elections officials were having trouble with new equipment, but couldn't elaborate by press time.
While county elections officials were able to get numbers on their county website, by midnight they still had not been able to transmit those numbers to the Secretary of State website so they could be combined with the Maricopa County precincts in LD1.
Gray, who served eight years in the House and eight more in the Senate through 2013 while living in Maricopa County, was at the head of the pack in Maricopa results with 13 of 14 precincts reporting. She had 30 percent of the Maricopa vote compared to 29 percent for Campbell, 25 percent for Fann and 15 percent for Englund.
But 68 percent of the registered voters in LD1 hail from Yavapai County, so Fann and Campbell came out on top.
Campbell called Gray a carpetbagger and argued she had served enough time in the Legislature.
But Sen. Steve Pierce said he and others asked Gray to run for the seat left open when House Speaker Andy Tobin reached term limits and ran for a congressional seat. Gray said she had owned a Prescott home for nine years, although she didn't register to vote here until January.
Gray and Pierce, who is running unopposed for another Senate term, said Campbell crossed the line in campaign mailers and radio ads by saying things about Gray's record that weren't true.
Campbell said he was just trying to point out differences between himself and Gray. "It was nothing personal against her," he said.
But Gray said it felt personal. "He ran as a Clean Elections candidate and used it to throw mud," she said. "I ran a clean race with the money I had."
While Campbell credited campaign advisor Constantin Querard for helping him win, Gray noted that Querard also worked for former House member Lori Klein. One of the main reasons she agreed to run was because she was concerned Klein would try to run for an LD1 House seat again, Gray said.
Fann tried to stay out of the fray. "I think Noel had a little more name recognition from running before," Fann said. While both Campbell and Gray are conservative Republicans, Campbell repeatedly pointed out that he opposed the state's Medicaid expansion last year while Gray supported it, Fann added.
Fann says she wants to become Majority Whip to keep rural Arizona's voice in House leadership and to help freshmen legislators like Campbell learn the ropes.
Englund, who said Cave Creek has more in common with Yavapai than Maricopa County, said he'll be back in two years to try again.
He joined the other LD1 Republican candidates at the Palace Restaurant and Saloon on Prescott's Whiskey Row on election night, and congratulated the winners.
Englund said he learned a lot in his first campaign and he will start his campaign earlier next time so he can get the required $5 donations for Clean Elections money.
Still, he remains concerned that some Yavapai residents will just see him as someone from Maricopa County instead of someone who identifies with rural Arizona.
Follow Joanna Dodder on Twitter @joannadodder.