Barto declares victory in race against sitting state senator

PHOENIX (AP) — Republican Rep. Nancy Barto declared victory Thursday evening in her primary campaign against GOP state Sen. Heather Carter for a north Phoenix state Senate seat as new tallies show her lead increasing to more than 1,400 votes.

Carter conceded in a statement and said the race had “been difficult and divisive, but now it is time to move on with dignity and dedication to do what is best for our district and our state. "

The Barto-Carter race pitted social conservative and moderate wings of the Republican Party against each other, with Barto calling Carter too liberal for the district. The battle for the state Senate seat representing the 15th District drew more than $1.8 million in spending, a huge amount for a legislative election.

Barto is a social conservative who has embraced anti-abortion and religious freedom legislation, while Carter is known as one of the more moderate GOP lawmakers. Both have represented the 15th District, either in the Senate or House, for years.

Barto's House seat representing the same district was safe, but she said she challenged Carter because the incumbent’s values don’t align with the district.

“When this campaign began eleven months ago, it was for one reason: to secure our freedoms and protect our values,” Barto said in statement declaring victory. “The principles we believe in and that have made our state and our country great had been eroding for some time and I could not stand by to see them destroyed.”

Carter said Barto mischaracterized her voting record by attacking her for opposing some anti-abortion legislation over the years. Carter touted her efforts to champion health care issues, and said she is as anti-abortion as can be and only opposed unconstitutional restrictions on the procedure.

Barto's primary victory automatically wins the state Senate seat because no Democrat ran in the heavily Republican district.

Updated vote totals released by the Maricopa County Elections Department Thursday evening showed Barto with 16,635 votes and Carter with 15,188. On election night, the race was too close to call as the two were separated by fewer than 1,000 votes.