FLORENCE — In the district's only competitive primary, Joanna Mendoza topped Linda Patterson to represent the Democrats in the Legislative District 11 Senate race.
Mendoza had 57% of the vote Tuesday night and Patterson had 43%. The winner moves on to face incumbent Republican Vince Leach in the Nov. 3 general election.
Running unopposed in the Democratic Party for House of Representatives is Dr. Felipe Perez. Perez was raised in rural Arizona and earned degrees in biology, biochemistry and medicine from the University of Arizona. His “priority” issues include affordable and accessible health care, senior wellness, funding for education and environmental protections.
Perez will face a pair of incumbent Republicans in November, with Mark Finchem and Bret Roberts running unopposed in their primary.
Ballots are still being counted and the Pinal County Elections Department doesn’t anticipate having a full ballot count until at least Aug. 11.
Mendoza, of Red Rock, is a Marine Corps veteran and mother to her 4-year-old son Aidan. As election results trickled in, she was tucking her son into bed.
“Last night he wanted to pray and so he said ‘Mama, let's pray’ and so I said ‘OK, let's pray that Mama wins the election,’” she said laughing. “We were watching the numbers go up and he was jumping around and he was excited. I don't know if he knows 100% what's happening, but I know he knows there's some excitement.”
Mendoza is the former veteran services representative for Congressman Tom O’Halleran, and now works at Pima Community College. She’s excited at the prospect of becoming a state senator.
“I went into this evening with the mindset that, no matter what the results produced — whether we won or we lost — that I was extremely proud of the work that we've accomplished together as a team,” Mendoza said. “We don't want to go into something being overly confident, but I guess I expected it because of the hard work and dedication that myself and my team put in.”
Mendoza has served on the Red Rock Elementary School District board and pushes for funding in education as one of her core issues. She would like to improve rural health care for District 11 residents and veterans as well as work on water-shortage issues that plague the district.
Her opponent, Patterson, is a retired school teacher and principal after dedicating 33 years to education. In her spare time she did volunteer work as a counselor for domestic violence survivors and an advocate for low-income students. Originally from Wyoming, she now considers Arizona home with her partner Carol Trunell.
Though her first election didn’t turn out the way she had originally planned, she remains positive.
“I'm really happy with the campaign,” said Patterson. “I can hold my head high. Although we came short of a couple thousand votes, I feel good about the fact that I was true to myself and true to my supporters.”
She’s glad to have run a clean election, free of special interest money, but expressed sadness for the letdown of her supporters. She’s already ready for her next step though: relaxation.
Patterson recently battled COVID-19 on the election trail and is still experiencing some residual effects. A vacation with her dog Kula and partner, she says, is exactly what she needs.
“I'm going to take my campaign signs down and then I’m going up to Sedona,” she announced. “I'm going to relax for a while.”
State Senator, District 11 (Democrat)