LD26: Republican Split Ends

Republicans enjoy a considerable advantage in LD26, which stretches from Saddlebrooke down through Oro Valley and into the Catalina Foothills. Nonetheless, Democrats hold the Senate seat and one of the two House seats after winning upset victories in 2006 blue wave.

Democrat Charlene Pesquiera scored an upset victory over Republican Al Melvin, who had defeated incumbent Republican Toni Hellon weeks earlier in the GOP primary. A strong Democratic effort in the district also carried Lena Saradnik into one of the House seats, but a stroke forced Saradnik to step down earlier this year. She was replaced by Nancy Young Wright, a former member of the Amphi School Board.


Republican Al Melvin may have only lived in Arizona for six years, but he’s already sent tremors through the political establishment. The retired merchant marine used Clean Elections dollars to run a successful 2006 primary campaign that painted three-term incumbent Toni Hellon as a free-spending liberal who didn’t adhere to the party platform. In the process of defeating Hellon, he alienated enough of her supporters that he lost the general election by less than 500 votes.

The dust had barely settled when Melvin started his 2008 run, once again emphasizing securing the border, improving education and lowering taxes. You can learn more about Melvin’s positions at Project Vote Smart.

Rep. Peter HershbergerMelvin has already defeated Rep. Pete Hershberger, who has termed out of the House of Representatives after eight years representing District 26, the GOP primary. Hershberger was pounded by Melvin on gun rights, abortion, illegal immigration, gay marriage and whether Hershberger was a “loyal, mainstream Republican.”

ScrambleWatch has a liveblog of the Hershberger/Melvin Clean Elections debate.

Melvin will now face Democrat Cheryl Cage, who decided to run after Pesquiera announced earlier this year that she would not seek re-election.

“We have decisions to make about our water, our growth (and) our educational system,” Cage says. “I also want to make sure the Arizona economy grows by using what we have in abundance. We have a great opportunity for solar and alternative-energy businesses to be based here.”

Cage became familiar with LD 26 when she ran Democrat Lena Saradnik’s successful House campaign in the district in 2006.This time, she is working closely with candidates Jorgensen and Wright.

“We make a great team,” says Cage.

House of Representatives

Nancy Young Wright Democrat Nancy Young Wright, who was appointed to the LD26 seat after Lena Saradnik had to step down earlier this year, is running her first legislative campaign in the district, although she’s well known thanks to a history of environmental activism, a 10-year stint on the Amphitheater School Board and an unsuccessful race for mayor of Oro Valley in 2006. (Full disclosure: The Weekly named Wright a Local Hero in 2004.)

To view Wright’s voting record visit Project Vote Smart.

The second Democrat in the race is Don Jorgensen, who has run a health care company with a focus on helping alcoholics get sober and other behavioral health issues. Jorgensen is campaigning on a program of expanding health care coverage, supporting education, protecting the water supply and exploring alternative energy sources, including solar power.

He’s familiar with the district from working on Saradnik’s 2006 campaign; he also worked on Democrat’s Jeff Latas’ unsuccessful congressional campaign that year.

The Democratic team will face a pair of rookie Republicans.

Vic Williams, who moved to Arizona after a successful career in the warehouse biz, is currently vice-chair of Legislative District 26, previously served as treasurer for the state party and organizes the party’s cigar club.

“I’m a practical fella,” he says “I’m running as a conservative and I plan on winning based on my effort and hard work.”

Williams says the party needs to return to its traditional values. “We’ve scared people away from our party,” he says. “We need to get back to a smaller, more efficient and more effective government.”

He believes illegal immigration and public education are the biggest issues concerning southern Arizonans.

“The federal government refuses to do anything substantial in steming the flow of illegal immigrants,” he says. “We need to continue to implement the laws that have been passed to crack down on them.”

Marilyn Zerull, who has worked as a government researcher, a kindergarten aide and a secretary dispatcher for Regal Carpet cleaning company, calls herself a “traditional Republican”. She is a GOP activist who has served as a GOP precinct and state committeewoman. Zerull was also a Den Mother for the Boy Scouts of America and an advancement chairman for 15 years. She has spent the last 35 years volunteering as a Sunday school teacher, youth leader and service project manager. She plans to curb government spending, secure the border and improve education.

“I believe government can be run like a houshold, when the family goes through a financial crisis the family has to cut back,” says Zerull.

LD26 Fun Facts

Legislative District 26, which includes Saddlebrooke, Oro Valley and the Catalina Foothills, is home to about 41,634 Republicans, 34,678 Democrats, 512 Libertarians, 122 Greens and 26,014 voters who aren’t registered with those parties.

Candidate Web sites


Republican Pete Hershberger

Republican Al Melvin

Democrat Cheryl Cage

House of Representatives

Democrat Don Jorgensen

Democrat Nancy Young Wright

Republican Trent Humphries

Republican Vic Williams

Republican Marilyn Zerull


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