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Arizona Race Ends in Slim GOP Victory

November 10, 1996|From Associated Press

PHOENIX — After four days of vote-counting put incumbent Republican Rep. J.D. Hayworth even further ahead, his opponent finally conceded defeat Saturday.

"I came very close to unseating a member of Congress," Democrat Steve Owens said. "And no matter what the final vote count is, Congressman Hayworth will have won by a slim margin."

Hayworth claimed victory on election night after early returns showed him with a big lead. He led by just 590 votes Thursday but stretched the lead to 1,192 on Friday.

The final numbers were: Hayworth with 120,994 votes, or 47.6%, and Owens with 118,583 votes, or 46.6%--a margin of 2,411 votes.

The race was occasionally nasty, as the AFL-CIO dumped $1 million behind Owens as part of its $35-million national campaign to unseat Republicans it deemed vulnerable. Hayworth, who won his first term in the 1994 GOP landslide, called Owens a carpetbagger and ran advertisements linking him to organized crime.

Owens, a lawyer who once served as chief counsel to then-Sen. Al Gore of Tennessee, accused Hayworth of a smear campaign and said he played "fast and loose with the truth."

Neither man would take responsibility for the tone of the campaign in the 6th Congressional District, which stretches from Phoenix and Casa Grande in south-central Arizona to the Navajo Reservation in the northeastern part of the state.

Hayworth said Saturday he did not believe the slim margin was a reflection of voter discontent.

"No, I didn't hear that message at all," he said. "The story of this election is that I overcame the agenda of the Washington labor bosses."

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