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Trump, Clinton win Arizona presidential primaries; Yavapai County mirrors state

Voters wait in line to cast their ballot in Arizona's presidential primary election, Tuesday, March 22, in Phoenix.
Photo by Associated Press.

Voters wait in line to cast their ballot in Arizona's presidential primary election, Tuesday, March 22, in Phoenix.

PHOENIX — Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton rolled to primary victories Tuesday in Arizona on a day that saw enthusiastic voters standing in line for several hours for the opportunity to weigh in on the divisive presidential race.

Cruz needs to win more, Dems in ‘horserace’

In Yavapai County, Donald Trump won handily, besting Ted Cruz and trouncing John Kasich.

“It’s kind of surprising, actually,” Yavapai County Republican Committee Chairman Mark Sensmeier said, adding that polls had the race between Trump and Cruz much closer.

“It looks pretty challenging for (Cruz) at this point,” Sensmeier said. “He’s got to start winning some of these winner-take-all states,” if he wants any chance at the GOP nomination.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders in the county, as she did statewide; however, Sanders may not be done yet.

“I don’t think so, I think he still has a path to the nomination,” Yavapai County Democratic Party Chairwoman Lindsay Bell said. “He definitely needs to get a lot of wins between now and the convention.”

Bell said that the two candidates are still in “a horserace.”

“I can’t believe that Donald Trump is still holding such a strong lead across the country,” she added.

- Scott Orr, The Daily Courier

Trump won on the Republican side, capitalizing on his harsh border rhetoric and endorsement of immigration hard-liners to secure the state's rich delegate prize. On the Democratic side, Clinton fended off an aggressive challenge by Bernie Sanders, who went all out to turn around his campaign in Arizona after getting swept a week ago by the former first lady and secretary of state.

Trump was leading Ted Cruz by a wide margin in tallied early ballots, far too much for any shift among late voters to make up. Clinton also opened up an insurmountable double-digit lead.

When the polls closed at 7 p.m., hundreds of people were still lined up after Maricopa County — home to metro Phoenix and 4 million people — decided to open just 60 polling sites. That compares with 200 in the 2012 White House primary and 700 in the 2014 general election.

The move was designed to save money and in response to the popularity of early mail-in ballots. In addition, independents who can't vote in the primaries make up more than one-third of the electorate.

Keith Clausen, who waited nearly five hours to vote at a Presbyterian church in Phoenix, said he witnessed people who spent long stretches in the line walk away without voting. They either had to return to work or be somewhere else.

"Just the amount of people waiting in line is absurd," Clausen said. "I feel that whoever made this cut (of polling places) deserves to hear from voters who had to wait in line."

Trump's victory was fueled by three campaign appearances before raucous crowds in Arizona, where GOP primaries have long been dominated by the immigration debate. The debate peaked in 2010 with the state's passage of the anti-immigration law known as SB1070 but waned in recent years after business leaders tired of the backlash and series of legal challenges.

Trump revived the debate nationally after declaring he would build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and make Mexico pay for it. He called Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers and vowed to forcibly deport the 11 million people living in the country illegally. He sought the endorsement of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who made a name for himself as an immigration fighter but was forced by a federal judge to quit enforcing immigration laws after being found to have violated people's constitutional rights.

Gov. Jan Brewer also endorsed Trump.

Supporters gravitated to the New York businessman.

Presidential Preference Election results

Results from the Yavapai County and statewide Presidential Preference Election on March 22.

"Just the way, you know, you think you could have a beer with him," voter Don Rock said outside a Phoenix polling place. "Of course, I wouldn't mind going on one of his yachts partying with him, but he just talks normal. All the other ones, politicians, they just say what they want you to hear, and they just don't do anything."

In the Democratic race, Sanders courted Latinos, tribal members and young voters in a series of Arizona appearances and drew 7,000 supporters to a Phoenix event.

He boldly took on Arpaio over his immigration crackdowns in an attempt to win over Latinos who have years of frustration over the lawman's policies. He made an appearance on the Navajo Nation — a rarity in presidential politics — and his wife toured a sacred Apache site at the center of a bitter fight over a copper mine.

But Clinton had the strong backing of the Democratic political establishment and aired TV ads touting the support of former Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head five years ago at a Tucson political event. Former President Bill Clinton also came to the state to campaign for his wife.

Marie Howard, 57, of Tonalea, Arizona, keeps postcards, an autographed photo and newspaper clippings that remind her of when Clinton visited the Navajo Nation and the Grand Canyon long before she became a presidential contender. She backed Clinton in Tuesday's election.

"She's the only one who's been out here trying to make a difference," Howard said.

Trump lands 58 delegates for his win, while Clinton wins 75 pledged delegates. Ten Democratic superdelegates can vote for the candidate of their choice.

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