Southern Arizona on Tuesday sent two Democrats back to Congress to work with President-elect Barack Obama on an economy sliding toward what could be a deep recession.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords easily beat her old schoolmate, state Senate President Tim Bee, in her first re-election bid.
Democrat Raúl Grijalva returns to the House of Representatives for a fourth term, easily beating serial candidate and Republican Joe Sweeney.
“The most important thing is getting the economy back on track,” Giffords said.
Congress may be called back into session to work on an economic stimulus package before the next slate of representatives and senators is sworn into office.
Another round of tax rebates may be in the offing.
Grijalva said Congress’ next job is to put the economy, plus the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, on secure footing.
Congress and the incoming Obama administration will at least be working on the same page, he said days before the election.
“It will be good to have a president we don’t have to fight with but can work with,” Grijalva said.
At the beginning of the election cycle, Giffords appeared to face stiff competition from Bee. However, she won by slightly more than her 12-point margin in 2006 against Randy Graf. Graf was thought to be a much weaker candidate than Bee, who had solid Republican support in a district where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats.
President Bush made a fundraising trip to Tucson for Bee and hauled in more than $500,000 in a single day.
It wasn’t enough as Giffords’ cash-raising effort beat Bee by nearly 2 to 1.
“I’m pleased to have won by a larger margin than two years ago,” Giffords said after she learned the race had been called for her. “I don’t think it was all that close of a race.”
Bee did not concede and left a morose gathering at the Manning House downtown without talking to the media.
He said earlier that some uncounted Republican ballots might tilt the election his way.
Giffords developed a record as one of the most centrist members of Congress and plans to continue to work like that in her second term.
“Everything I do, I try to do with a bipartisan effort. These problems transcend partisan politics,” Giffords said. “For me, it is just a continuation.”
For many election cycles, the idea of a Democratic election night party was a contradiction in terms. The party tended to lose more than it won.
But Tuesday, the celebration had more than a bit of sizzle as a joyous eruption lasted 10 minutes past the race being called for Obama.
Now, partisans including former Pima County Democratic Party Chairman Paul Eckerstrom want to see results.
“We need very practical solutions to the fix we are in,” Eckerstrom said. “It means prioritizing. If we do spend money, we spend money that has long-term implications. Not on tax rebates that have no lasting effect.”
Eckerstrom was a convention delegate for Obama in Denver and helped his campaign organize in Texas during the primary.
He predicted that Arizona would in four years follow the mountain West states of Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada into national contention.
Arizona Sen. John McCain’s presence on top of the ballot kept Arizona red.
“We got within the single digits of McCain; that told you a world about how Arizona is changing,” Eckerstrom said.
Pima County Board of Supervisors Chairman Richard Elías expects the new governing majority in Washington to get started, maybe the day after tomorrow. “Party like there’s no tomorrow because there’s work to do tomorrow. In the morning, get a big bowl of menudo because there’s work to do.” Elías said.
VAL CANEZ/Tucson Citizen
FRANCISCO MEDINA/Tucson Citizen
Citizen staff writer Carli Brousseau contributed to this article.