Rep. Russell Pearce, an Arizona lawmaker who has gained national attention for crusading against illegal immigration, easily captured a Republican Senate nomination that likely will allow him to stay in the Legislature.
Pearce defeated immigration attorney Kevin Gibbons, 5,717 votes, or 68.8 percent, to 2,587 votes, or 31.2 percent, with all 51 precincts reporting in results Tuesday from the Republican primary for the Senate seat from Legislative District 18 in Mesa, a Phoenix suburb.
Term limits barred Pearce, a four-term representative, from running for re-election to the House.
In other closely watched legislative races:
• Senate Majority Leader Thayer Verschoor defeated term-limited Rep. Eddie Farnsworth in the Republican primary for the Senate seat from District 22 in Gilbert, another Phoenix suburb.
Verschoor is regarded as a strong contender for Senate president if Republicans retain control of the chamber.
• Moderate Republican Sen. Tom O’Halleran of Sedona trailed conservative challenger Steve Pierce, a Prescott businessman, in early results in the GOP primary in District 1 in Yavapai and Coconino counties.
• Rep. Trish Groe of Lake Havasu City trailed in a three-way Republican primary for two seats in District 3 in northwestern Arizona as she tried to put a 2007 misdemeanor DUI conviction behind her.