Nelson Concedes, Thomas Gloats as Brutal County Attorney Race Ends

By Stephen Lemons

With cries of Barack Obama's "Yes we can" refrain still echoing in the Wyndham's ballroom in downtown Phoenix, Tim Nelson conceded a hard-fought campaign against incumbent Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas.

"My disappointment in this election is more than overcome by my elation at the election of Barack Obama," said Nelson to his fellow Democrats, who had assembled at the hotel to watch election returns on a wall-size TV screen.

After thanking his family and his campaign staff, Nelson added, "Despite my disappointment, I have never been so proud to be a Democrat as now."

Nelson lost big to Thomas. The incumbent got 52 percent of the vote to Nelson's 44 in an election that many Dems were hopeful of winning.

As voters headed to the polls, the race between Thomas and Nelson was close enough to be within the margin of error, according to a much-publicized ASU poll.

Nelson during his concession speech at the Wyndham Tuesday night.

Indeed, just before the polls closed in Maricopa County, Nelson worked the crowd waiting in line to vote in Laveen. It was Nelson's 12th poll stop of the day.

But the wind in Nelson's sails was dead by about 8:30 p.m., when early election results showed him trailing Thomas by 10 points. That trend never reversed itself.

Aftern his concession speech, Nelson performed a painful postmortem on his campaign, noting spotty turnout in precincts where his camp had anticipated a surge. He observed that many voters weren't familiar with either him or with Thomas, and that Thomas had relied heavily on campaign spots with the ever-popular and well-known Joe Arpaio. Also, there was the issue of immigration, which Thomas played to his advantage.

Thomas, for his part, gloated in remarks to reporters, telling them that the vote represented an endorsement of his tough-on-crime approach, and his stance on immigration. He also enthused over what a joy it was to run alongside his ally Arpaio, and looked forward to working with the sheriff for the next four years.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons