SB 1070 Major Issue in Republican Primary Wins

Tuesday’s primary results are in and many Republican candidates who emphasized opposition to illegal immigration in their campaigns are now winners.

Senator John McCain, the former GOP presidential candidate who is running for re-election in Arizona, won with 56% of the Republican vote after a rough few months battling J.D. Hayworth, a conservative former talk show host. Hayworth came down hard on McCain for his previous support of a path to legalization for the nation’s 12 million undocumented immigrants. McCain was so intimidated he switched course, supported Arizona’s strict law SB 1070, and released an ad in which he championed border enforcement, declaring, “complete the danged fence.” McCain’s reading of the conservative political tide in Arizona was successful, but he’s changed his position on immigration so many times now it’s unclear what he really thinks, or what he’ll do if re-elected.

Also in Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer, who gained nationwide notoriety for signing SB 1070 and vigorously opposing undocumented immigration, sailed to victory with a whopping 87% of the Republican vote. SB 1070 was her ticket to success at the polls–before it became her signature issue there had been talk of a Democratic knock-out this November, an outcome that seems very unlikely at this point.

In Florida’s Republican gubernatorial primary, long-time politician Bill McCollum was not so lucky. His challenger, a wealthy health care executive, Rick Scott, painted McCollum in TV ads as being soft on illegal immigration. In return, McCollum, the current state attorney general, who initially said SB 1070 wouldn’t work in Florida, changed course and proposed his own, even harsher version of the law, saying “Arizona is going to want our law.” But that wasn’t enough to convince Florida’s conservatives, who chose Scott over McCollum 46% to 43%. If Scott is ultimately elected he is somewhat of a wild card, since he has never held office before. He’ll be facing Democrat Alex Sink in the general election.  Sink, the state’s chief financial officer, says she is against laws like SB 1070.

Illegal immigration is guaranteed to be a major issue in the race to fill Florida’s open U.S. Senate seat as well. U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, who beat billionaire Jeff Greene last night to become the Democratic nominee, will be facing tea-party favorite Republican Marco Rubio in November as well as Governor Charlie Crist, who is running as an Independent. Meek and Crist have spoken out against SB 1070, but Rubio, the son of Cuban exiles, supports it.

And lastly, in another primary race Fi2W was following closely, the replacement for Meek’s congressional seat in District 17, State Senator Frederica Wilson defeated eight other candidates, including four Haitian-Americans, who split the vote.

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AboutSarah Kate Kramer
Sarah Kate Kramer first got hooked on collecting stories as a StoryCorps facilitator, then traveled the world with a microphone for a few years before settling down in her hometown of New York City. From 2010-2012 she was the editor of Feet in 2 Worlds and a freelance reporter for WNYC Radio, where she created “Niche Market,” a weekly segment that profiled specialty stores in New York. Sarah is now a producer at Radio Diaries, a non-profit that produces documentaries for NPR and other public radio outlets.