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Arizona congressional races too close to call

Arizona’s three competitive congressional races were too close to call early Wednesday, including the Tucson-centered seat Rep. Ron Barber won in June to replace his former boss, Gabrielle Giffords.

Barber saw his small lead against Republican Martha McSally in the 2nd District disappear just before midnight, with McSally taking a tiny lead.

“We knew it was going to be close and this is exactly what we expected,” she said late Tuesday.

Barber reminded supporters that Giffords’ narrow 2010 win over Republican Jesse Kelly also wasn’t known for several days.

“We’ve got a little bit further to go,” he said. “It’s going to be tomorrow or the day after that.”

Both Giffords and Barber were wounded in January 2011 when a gunman opened fire at a “Congress on Your Corner” event for the then-congresswoman and her constituents. Eleven others also were wounded and six people were killed.

Giffords stepped down from Congress earlier this year to focus on her recovery. Barber beat Kelly in the June special election to replace her.

Kelly chose not to make a third run this fall. McSally, a retired Air Force fighter pilot, won the GOP nomination in August and sought to persuade some of the women and independents who swung to Barber in the special election.

“We knew it was going to be close and this is exactly what we expected,” she said late Tuesday.

In the new Phoenix-area 9th District, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Vernon Parker were in a near dead heat.

Both Parker and Sinema acknowledged the wait would be long, and Parker urged his supporters to be patient because thousands of ballots remained uncounted.

“I am telling you all to hang in there,” Parker told supporters in Phoenix. “We will win this thing. I guarantee you.”

Republicans have a slight registration advantage in the district, which includes much of Tempe and parts of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Mesa and Chandler. But both parties’ totals are exceeded by independents, and many believe it leans Democratic.

Sinema told supporters there was good reason to be optimistic.

“Right now we’re going to keep our heads high, take a deep breath and pray for every vote to be counted in this election,” she said.

In northeastern Arizona’s 1st District, Republican Jonathan Paton’s slight lead over Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick diminished as Tuesday night wore on.

Kirkpatrick told supporters she was waiting for results from the Navajo Nation and other tribal areas that she hopes will put her back on top. The district runs from Flagstaff through eastern Arizona counties and then west into parts of Pinal County.

“Our race is looking good, but we’re not going to know for quite a while,” she said.

Depending on the outcome, Democrats could end up with a majority of the delegation or Republicans could hold on or add to their current 5-3 majority. The state earned a ninth seat after the 2010 Census and will fill it for the first time in November.

Voters in six districts chose their representatives along the expected 4-2 party split in favor of Republicans.

Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva won re-election in the 3rd District, freshman GOP Rep. Paul Gosar easily won in the 4th District and former Republican Rep. Matt Salmon coasted to victory in the 5th.

Republican Reps. David Schweikert and Trent Franks were re-elected in the 6th and 8th districts while Democratic Rep. Ed Pastor cruised in the 7th District.