Photo by Les Stukenberg.
Originally Published: November 8, 2016 9:47 p.m.
Updated as of Tuesday, November 8, 2016 10:44 PM
PRESCOTT – In an expected win, incumbent District 1 State Rep. Noel Campbell won a return trip to his seat in the Legislature for another two years.
The true campaign race ended up between conservative Republican David Stringer, who defeated popular veteran county Supervisor Chip Davis in the Republican primary, and Democrat Peter Pierson.
The unofficial tally of both Yavapai and Maricopa counties had Campbell winning with 42,926 votes, or over 38 percent of the vote; Stringer 39,828 votes, 35 percent; and Pierson with 21,974 votes, less than 20 percent. Green Party candidate Haryaksha Knauer received 7,672 votes, just under 7 percent.
At about 8:15 p.m., Pierson reviewed the district results from both Maricopa and Yavapai counties and conceded defeat. Surrounded by family and friends, Pierson appeared both tired and tense, but was clearly proud of his campaign that he said was carried out with “remarkable dignity.”
“We lost,” Pierson quietly announced as he looked at the figures for the three candidates before the final results were tallied. He, though, was behind enough that he did not see that there would be enough additional ballots to propel him to victory. “Well, we gave it a shot.”
Several of his supporters quickly bolstered his spirits with their confidence in him and his campaign, with all using the word “dignity” to describe their issue-oriented effort.
“We were received very well across the board, and I’m proud of what we did,” Pierson said.
Stringer did not quickly leap to celebration, suggesting he wanted to be certain of all the results before he jumped to the conclusion that he was the victor in the race. After Pierson conceded his apparent loss, though, Stringer said things looked optimistic but he wanted to wait to be sure.
Just before 9 p.m., Stringer made his way to the Prescott Resort and Conference Center where a large group of Republicans were celebrating both state and national victories; there was a feeling of great confidence that Donald Trump would become the nation’s next leader after a beyond contentious campaign that has pitted neighbor against neighbor in unprecedented ways over who should emerge the rule of the free world.
Though he was still awaiting final results, the 69-year-old who admits he came to politics late in life acknowledged that he appears to have won a seat in the Legislature, and values the confidence of all voters, including those who supported his opponent.
After a “cliffhanger” of a primary that he was not predicted to win, Stringer said he and his supporters hit the campaign trail with vigor, and he found it to be a “unique experience” that he intends to use to benefit the people of the district, particularly those who favor more public school choice.
He had kind words for Pierson, stating that though they may have shared different viewpoints on issues, including public education, he is an “honorable man and I have lots of respect for him.”
Stringer said he intends to reach out to Pierson’s supporters because he wants to assure them that though he viewed this election as a “referendum” for school choice that does not mean he aims to diminish public education.
“I want to take education up a notch,” Pierson said.
From inside the Republican victory station, Campbell attributed his strong showing in part to his past record in the State Legislature.
“I think people realized I was trying to do something,” Campbell said late Tuesday, noting he worked throughout his first term on legislation for stricter regulation of structured sober living homes.
“Our community was being overrun by drug houses, and nobody was doing anything about it,” Campbell said. In early 2016, he introduced House Bill 2107, which ultimately was approved by the House and Senate, and became law this past August. The new law gives cities and counties the authority to more strictly regulate structured sober living homes.
Along with his record on the group home issue, Campbell, a Republican from Prescott, said, “I think people trust me; I’m not in this to feather my own nest. I just do the best I can.”
New State Sen. Karen Fann of Prescott, who relinquished her state representative seat to run unopposed for the Senate, said all three candidates were quality individuals who ran strong campaigns. Early in the evening when no results were yet known, Fann said she felt all of them had things to contribute, and clearly there will be plenty to do when the legislative session resumes.
Of the coming term, the now senior state representative, Campbell said, “I’m very excited about serving the next two years. I think between David Stringer and I, we’ll be able to do something good for Yavapai County.”
Reporter Cindy Barks contributed to this story.
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