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Mon, March 18

Binder's in, but Blewster, Mason only 6 votes apart

PRESCOTT – Supporters finally left Lucy Mason's home in Prescott about 1:30 a.m. today, when it became apparent they wouldn't know whether she won the Republican District 1 state House primary race or not.

Two Republican candidates will go on to face Democrat Henry Camarot in the November general election for District 1, which has two seats. While it appears clear that Rep. Linda Binder, R-Lake Havasu City, will be one of those Republicans, the other is still up in the air.

"I'm thrilled," said Binder, who garnered about 2,200 votes more than any other candidate in preliminary results. "I think it shows that integrity and character does count with voters, after all."

Mason, a former Prescott City Council member, right now is six votes behind Rep. Barbara Blewster, R-Dewey, who is seeking her second term in the House.

"It's absolutely amazing," Mason said of the six-vote spread. When she saw the numbers on the Secretary of State's website about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, "For the first time in seven months, I was speechless," she joked.

With hundreds of early ballots still left to be counted because voters returned them Tuesday, the vote could go either way for Blewster and Mason.

Binder is rooting for Mason.

"Our working relationship was practically non-existent before, and totally now," Binder said of Blewster. "I would much prefer Lucy wins, because she's got basic common sense, she knows the issues, and she can work with other legislators."

Blewster didn't answer phone calls early this morning.

Binder calls herself a Republican with a conscience, while Blewster is among the most conservative members of the House. This election race has sharpened their differences, and Binder has accused Blewster of conspiring with candidate Caleb Soptelean, a newspaper reporter from Yarnell, to attack Binder.

Soptelean received $45,000 in state Clean Elections money in the waning weeks of the primary battle and immediately spent it on mailers, phone messages and radio ads attacking Binder's record.

"I think he came across as an extremely rude, arrogant and disruptive young man who couldn't have worked with other legislators," Binder, 52, said of Soptelean, 30.

Soptelean said he's not sure if the Binder attacks helped or hindered him, but "It definitely got me a lot of free media coverage the last few weeks," including Arizona Republic columns and a front-page Daily Courier story.

Soptelean ended up last in the four-way Republican race.

"I didn't have the campaign organizations the other three candidates had," Soptelean said. Plus, he entered the race late, and didn't have any money to spend until the last few weeks of the campaign, he added.

Yavapai County results came in hours earlier than Mohave County results for District 1, thanks to more advanced computer technology.

Yavapai gave more votes to Mason than anyone else (9,320), with Binder a close second (8,967), then Blewster (7,803) and Soptelean (4,994).

"That was wonderful to see that kind of support," said Mason, who spent much less on her campaign than her Republican competitors. "That's really what carries me right now, until the final results come in."

Mohave voters, however, preferred Binder (4,433) and Blewster (3,382) over Mason (1,859) and Soptelean (1,201).

"I have never taken for granted the power of the Mohave County vote, because of what happened two years ago," Mason said.

Two years ago, former Prescott Valley Mayor Harvey Skoog had a strong lead when Yavapai results came in first, but then he came in last in Mohave and eventually lost.

The fact that Blewster came in behind Mohave County's Binder in her home county didn't escape election onlookers at the Yavapai County administration building Tuesday night.

"Blewster's in third place in this county, which tells you the people aren't buying it any more," Prescott attorney Kenton Jones commented. Jones and Prescott Valley Council Member Mike Flannery both said 13 percent of this county's vote was too much for Soptelean.

Prescott voter Charlie Vaughn said he single-shot Soptelean's name, however, because the other three candidates were women.

"Women in general operate on emotions and feelings, and emotion and feelings cloud common sense," Vaughn said.

None of the handful of Republican voters contacted by The Daily Courier at the Prescott polls Tuesday read Soptelean's mailings. Lori Brimhall said she already had her mind made up by the time the mailings arrived.

Herald Stogner said he picked Blewster for a simple reason: "I vote conservative."


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