Defeated Arizona Rep. Tom O’Halleran reflects on elections

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PHOENIX (TBEN) — His democratically-oriented district was reclassified into one heavily republican-leaning. election. He didn’t.

“That’s not who I am,” the three-year-old Democrat said Friday from his home in Sedona. “I could have said no. I felt that we should try to defend it because of the needs of not only the state, but also the country. Sometimes you win some, sometimes you lose some. At least then you get into the game.”

O’Halleran was the most vulnerable incumbent in Arizona’s nine-member congressional delegation, losing to businessman and former Navy Seal Eli Crane, who was backed by former President Donald Trump. The The Bharat Express News called the race late Thursday after additional votes were tallied.

Crane counted on reclassification, which made it easy to oust O’Halleran. His victory helps Republicans seeking control of the U.S. House as more votes are counted from the election that closed on Tuesday.

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Three other Arizona districts remain too early to call, with Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton and Republican Rep. David Schweikert trying to keep their Phoenix-area seats against challengers and Republican Juan Ciscomani and Democrat Kirsten Engel locked in a tight race for a district in southeastern Arizona now held by outgoing Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick. Arizona’s other five seats were occupied by incumbents who encountered little or no opposition.

Crane will now represent the sprawling 2nd congressional district, which covers much of northeastern Arizona and descends south into Tucson’s northern suburbs. Redistricting made one that greatly favors the GOP by moving into the Prescott area.

Crane did not return messages seeking an interview, but his campaign released a statement thanking his wife, Jen, and two daughters, and saying he was proud of the campaign and volunteers and staff.

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“In Congress, I will never forget who I serve or why the people sent me to represent them,” Crane’s statement said. “I will always be your voice.”

He said his victory was a message from the “America First” movement pushed by Trump.

“Now the real work begins to get the country we love back on track,” he wrote.

O’Halleran first won the 2016 election and relied on his moderate voting record, name ID and consistent work across the district, including the Navajo Nation, to hold the seat. But reclassification made it virtually invincible, something he fully understood.

“Clearly the registration was not where it was supposed to be,” he told the TBEN. “But I also felt that if we could get our message across to people that our country is too big a country for us to tear apart, it was worth moving on.

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“And I still believe that,” he continued. “I think we need to find common ground. And you can’t find it by running from it and saying, “Oh, that’s just too hard.” You can only find that by working towards it.”

O’Halleran said he will spend his final two months in Congress continuing to work on issues close to Arizona, such as water, the state’s forests and border security. And he said his final speech will be about the nation and the need to reunite.

“We need to be able to overcome what people say by heart, whether it’s true or not, and start working back to the fact that we’re neighbors, we’re Americans,” he said. “And we have a responsibility to listen to the factual discussion and try to find a compromise based on the facts.”