Brewer's allies in Legislature survive challenges

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX (AP) -- All nine Republicans in the Arizona Legislature who were targeted in the primary elections because of their support of Gov. Jan Brewer's Medicaid expansion plan survived their primary challenges.

The nine were dubbed "Legis-traitors" by conservative Republicans who said they abandoned the party's small government platform by joining with Democrats to approve the Medicaid plan in 2013.

They include Sen. Michele Reagan, who won a three-way GOP primary Tuesday in the race for secretary of state, and Rep. Bob Robson of Chandler, who fended off a challenge in his primary.

"The communities that we represent obviously felt that these are important issues and continue to feel that way," Robson said Wednesday. "And that's what we try to explain down there to members at times - that what may play well in one part of the state might not play well in others."

A group led by former state Sen. Frank Antenori targeted the lawmakers. Antenori says while they didn't oust any incumbents, 21 candidates they supported are moving on to the general election.

"She only won 9 races and we won 21," Antenori said of Brewer. "So the way I look it at it was a good night for us. Now, we didn't get the incumbents, but we won every single open seat and defeated every single one of her open-seat candidates."

The Medicaid expansion proposal paralyzed the Legislature after Brewer proposed it at the start of the 2013 legislative session, and most Republicans in the House and Senate strongly opposed it because it is a key feature of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law.

But Brewer and her supporters said agreeing to the expansion was the only way to restore coverage to childless adults earning less than 100 percent of the poverty line that Arizona voters have twice approved. And hospitals were strongly behind the plan, even though it included a new assessment to pay state costs, because caring for the uninsured was costing millions.

Besides Robson and Reagan, the others who survived primary challenges include Sen. Bob Worsley, and Reps. Heather Carter, Frank Pratt, T.J. Shope, Doug Coleman, Kate Brophy McGee, and Jeff Dial. Dial is seeking a Senate seat.

Antenori said he hopes the high cost of fighting off the primary challenges discourages the Medicaid group from seeking re-election in 2016.

Two well-known lawmakers who faced challenges from Brewer-backed candidates were among those who won their primaries. Rep. John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills won his primary in a state Senate race, and Rep. David Stevens of Sierra Vista moves on to the general election as he seeks another term.

Also losing Tuesday was one of the more conservative members of the House, Rep. Carl Seel of Phoenix . Antenori said Seel had delayed declaring his re-election while considering a run for corporation commission, and another candidate had been recruited to run for his seat. Seel said that's not quite what happened, blamed politics for his loss.

"Politics is a little bit of a blood sport, and if you're going to do it you're going to get bloody sometimes," Seel said.

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