Originally Published: January 1, 2001 9 a.m.
PRESCOTT – It's a well-known fact that Democrats don't have much of a chance getting elected in Legislative District 1.
The district covers most of Yavapai and part of Mohave counties, traditionally conservative areas even by Arizona standards.
So when voters chose Prescott attorney Henry Camarot on Nov. 7 to be the district's first Democratic state legislator in a quarter century, it came as a shock to many. Camarot came in second behind incumbent Rep. Linda Binder, R-Lake Havasu, to snare one of the two LD1 seats.
"A miracle has happened in District 1. I thought I was a long shot," Camarot said on election night.
Camarot, a Prescott attorney with state government experience in Alaska, did what Republican Lucy Mason, a former Prescott City Council member, couldn't do in the primary. Mason got more votes in Yavapai than Blewster, but then Blewster came on strong when Mohave results arrived, and she took second place behind Binder in the Republican primary race.
Camarot was the only Democrat that Yavapai County voters chose in any national, state or local partisan general election race, except the Legislative District 5 Senate seat, where Democrat Herb Guenther had no competition. The Bagdad area is the only part of LD5 in Yavapai County.
Binder got 41 percent of the vote, compared to 31 percent for Camarot and 28 percent for Blewster.
How did it happen? Seasoned onlookers said one of his two Republican opponents in the general election, incumbent Rep. Barbara Blewster, R-Dewey, made it possible.
The ultraconservative Blewster had made headlines all over Arizona during her first and only two-year term. She was accused of insulting Jews, blacks, native people and homosexuals at various times during her first legislative session, but denied insulting all but the latter. She wrote in an e-mail that homosexuality leads to cannibalism and bestiality.
A loose-knit group that called itself Republicans for Camarot published advertisements in support of Camarot. The group included former LD1 legislators John Hays and Jerry Everall.
The "Republicans for Camarot" contacted by The Daily Courier said they didn't have a problem with Binder – it was Blewster they wanted to see lose.
Everall, a life-long Republican, said he personally contacted Camarot after Mason lost in the primary.
"With Blewster as a representative, I just couldn't sit still without doing something," said Everall, a Prescott-area resident who served in the House from 1978 to 1984. "Her performance for the past few years has left a great deal to be desired."
On the other hand, Camarot is a gentleman, mature, well-educated, and willing to compromise with others, Everall said.
Even Binder, known as a moderate Republican, was glad to see Blewster lose.
"I think there were so many Republicans sick and tired of this extremism," Binder said of Blewster. "They went across party lines."
Binder surmised that a higher Democrat turnout for the general election, combined with numerous Republicans who crossed party lines, also helped get Camarot elected.
Yavapai County Democratic Party Chairman Stan Turner said the election probably included an element of anti-Blewster sentiment, but said Camarot earned his votes.
"I think it's directly attributable to a perfect candidate, and a strong, united, energetic Democratic Party organization," Turner said.
But Blewster's husband Bill surmised that people were voting against his wife more than they were voting for Camarot.
"With the repeated lies and distortions about what Barbara said a year ago…you tell a lie often enough, it becomes a fact in the public mind," Bill Blewster said.
The Sept. 11 primary election had a milestone of its own: it was the first time Clean Elections candidates were on the slate, after voters approved the statewide proposition. Camarot was among the Clean Elections candidates, agreeing not to accept any political action committee (PAC) money in exchange for campaign money from a state fund.
One of the few Republican Clean Elections candidates was conservative Legislative District 1 candidate Caleb Soptelean of Yarnell, who used much of his state windfall to wage an advertising attack against Binder. His tactics led some prominent Republicans to call for an end to the Clean Elections Act.