Donald Trump destroyed his competition in Arizona's Presidential Preference Election on Tuesday to mixed reviews by some in the Republican Party.
The race was called for Trump early in the night even as some voters still waited in line at polling places. The controversial businessman and political outsider had a double-digit win against nearest competitor Ted Cruz; by 11 p.m., with 83 percent of the votes counted, the Arizona Secretary of State's website showed that Trump had 47 percent of the vote, nearly double that of Cruz's 24 percent.
Trump's most notable — or notorious — Arizona supporter, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, tweeted congratulations to Trump "for his victory against illegal immigration and border issues today." Former Governor Jan Brewer also commended Trump on Twitter: "Arizona is officially on the #TrumpTrain. HUGE victory tonight for" Trump.
U.S. Senator John McCain ignored Trump's victory, as did Senator Jeff Flake, who said last month he was "worried" about Trump's victories.
At an election-night party at the Sheraton Phoenix South Mountain, opinions among members of the state GOP were mixed. Some said they'd support Trump now that he's won the state's 58 Republican delegates; others expressed confusion or hope that the national party could still steer away from the controversial candidate before something bad happens, like Hillary Clinton getting elected.
"Anybody but Trump can beat Hillary, and the only person who cannot beat Hillary is Trump," said Raphael Ahmed, a precinct committeeman for Legislative District 17. The only way Trump would have a chance against Clinton is if he "backpedals everything he's said."
Ahmed expressed concern about Trump's stance toward immigrants and Muslims. He appreciates the methods of state Republican Party Chairman Robert Graham, who "reached out" to people in the Asian American community, like himself. Ahmed said he's hoping this summer's Republican convention will turn things around, but he admits it'll be tough for a competitor like Cruz to catch up.
Under Republican rules, Trump has to achieve 1,237 delegates by the end of the June 7 election season to secure the GOP nomination. If he comes in short, convention delegates will vote for Trump and other candidates, but Arizona's 58 delegates are required by state law to vote for the popular vote winner on the first round of voting.
Kelli Ward, who's running against U.S. Senator John McCain in August's Republican primary and appeared at a Trump rally in December, said she's ready to "get behind whoever is the nominee," adding that she's a "never-Hillary person."
A lot of Cruz supporters will be disappointed in the election results, but they shouldn't "despair," she said — after all, he's still in the Senate. Ward believes Trump is electable and that he appeals to "a wide range of people," like African American video bloggers Diamond and Silk.
Some party-goers didn't agree with that assessment. Moses Sanchez, a member of the Tempe Union High School Board since 2012, said he didn't vote for Trump and had supported Marco Rubio.
"It is what it is — he crushed it here in Arizona," Sanchez said. "Now we'll see what happens at the convention."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
After this summer, if Trump gets the nomination, Sanchez said he and his family will make a decision on whether to support him.
Mary Baumbach, who works for U.S. Senator Jeff Flake and serves as an officer for the Arizona Federation of Republican Women, says she's worried Trump — who was predicted to win Arizona — can't beat Clinton.
"I don't know if he can do it," she said, adding that Clinton's experience as Secretary of State will help her. On the other hand, she's "afraid" of what might happen at the upcoming convention.
"There could be possible fractures in the party," Baumbach said.