PHOENIX (AP) — U.S. Sen. John McCain beat back a primary challenge Tuesday from a Republican tea party activist to win the right to seek a sixth Senate term in November in a race that has been inundated with questions about GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.
The 2008 GOP presidential nominee easily defeated former state Sen. Kelli Ward and two other Republicans.
He faces a tough Democratic challenge in the November general election from U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick. She advanced Tuesday after facing only a write-in opponent in the primary.
McCain, who turned 80 on Monday, had been campaigning hard, rallying campaign workers and making get-out-the-vote stops in keeping his vow not to take the primary for granted.
“I’m humbled by and grateful for our success tonight and for the honor to be the Arizona Republican Party’s nominee for election to the United States Senate,” McCain said in prepared remarks.
Ward had been mainly ignored by McCain, but she got national attention by saying in recent interviews that the senator would be unable to complete another six-year term because of his age.
Ward cast the race as a David and Goliath battle.
“I thought we ran an amazing race like had never been seen against an entrenched career politician,” Ward told The Associated Press. “Of course I would have rather we won. I think it would have been better for Arizona, better for America and better for the world. But we did what we could with very limited resources and it’s been amazing.”
The contest between Ward and McCain was often overshadowed by Trump and his outspoken comments.
Trump had attacked many issues dear to the Arizona senator, including the family of a fallen soldier, NATO and even McCain’s own military service.
Yet McCain has stuck by his support for Trump, at times seemingly through gritted teeth. He has repeatedly avoided calling Trump by name, instead saying he’ll support his party’s nominee.
McCain is one of two longtime politicians in their 80s who easily won primaries.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio won the Republican primary despite a cloud of legal troubles hanging over him. He trounced three opponents with little money after raising $11.3 million — a staggering sum for a sheriff’s race. He will face retired Phoenix police Officer Paul Penzone, who is the same opponent who took him on in 2012.
Ryan Lukens, a deliveryman, stopped by a central Phoenix polling site after work. The Republican said McCain continues to have his support.
“He has the influence that is needed to keep Arizona great,” he said
Kim Martinetti, a real estate broker, said she voted for someone other than McCain for the first time. She thinks McCain acts more like a Democrat and wants to grant amnesty.
“I don’t believe in what Trump says about sending them all home — all the illegal immigrants — but I don’t think an open border is the answer,” Martinetti said. “McCain believes in that.”
All nine U.S. House seats also are on the primary ballot, though just a few are tight races.
A heavily GOP district in the eastern Phoenix suburbs, for instance, features a four-way race among Republicans who want to replace retiring Rep. Matt Salmon.
And in a sweeping district that includes much of Arizona outside the Tucson and Phoenix metro areas, five Republicans are vying for the chance to advance to November and face the Democrat seeking Kirkpatrick’s seat.
Rep. Paul Gosar won his primary in a heavily Republican district that stretches from the Phoenix suburbs all the way to the California border.
The other statewide contest features a five-way race among Republicans seeking three seats on the state’s utility regulation panel, the Arizona Corporation Commission.
AP reporter Terry Tang contributed to this story.