Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016 | 1:50 p.m.
Primary challenges to two of the state's longest-serving Republicans are drawing attention as Arizona voters head to the polls Tuesday.
Sen. John McCain is facing a tough battle with a former state senator who is vowing to retire the five-term Republican a day after his 80th birthday. And six-term Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio faces a trio of challengers in his primary.
McCain has been campaigning hard in recent weeks and made one last stop Monday at a Phoenix fire station before meeting with campaign workers to urge them to make a final push to victory. The 2008 GOP presidential nominee faces former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who lags in the polls but has mounted an aggressive primary challenge.
Ward has been mainly ignored by McCain, who is looking to November when he faces off against a well-funded Democrat in Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick — if he wins Tuesday's primary.
Meanwhile, Arpaio is seeking a seventh term with a full war chest of more than $10 million. He's hoping voters ignore a federal judge's recent order referring him for criminal contempt of court charges.
U.S. District Judge Murray Snow's Aug. 19 ruling came in a long-running case where the sheriff acknowledged he failed to stop his signature immigration patrols despite Snow's order to halt them.
He faces three Republican challengers Tuesday: former Buckeye Police Chief Dan Saban, retired sheriff's Deputy Wayne Baker and Marsha Hill, former commander of a sheriff's volunteer group. A Democratic challenger awaits in November if Arpaio wins the primary.
McCain's main challenger has made his age and vitality an issue, questioning his ability to serve another six-year term.
"I'll let the people of Arizona who know me very well make that judgment," McCain said.
Ward has cast the race as a David and Goliath battle, one that "David won."
"The overwhelming message is it is time for Sen. McCain to retire and it's time for new blood to go into Washington, D.C., and the people overwhelmingly want to vote for Kelli Ward," she said in a recent interview.
Also on the Republican ballot is radio talk show host Clair Van Steenwyk, along with Alex Meluskey, who suspended his campaign early this month.
McCain also has been dogged with questions about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has made comments that drew the senator's ire, and even questioned McCain's status as a war hero because he was a prisoner of war.
McCain has nonetheless stood by Trump. In an exchange with a reporter Monday, he was asked about the current political environment, where as a former GOP presidential nominee he's supporting the current nominee.
"A great American, yes," McCain said. His campaign staff later said he was jokingly referring to himself.
All nine U.S. House seats also are on the primary ballot, though just a few are tight races.
A heavily GOP district in the eastern Phoenix suburbs, for instance, features a four-way race among Republicans who want to replace retiring Rep. Matt Salmon.
And in a sweeping district that includes much of Arizona outside the Tucson and Phoenix metro areas, five Republicans are vying for the chance to advance to November and face the Democrat seeking Kirkpatrick's seat.
The other statewide contest features a five-way race among Republicans seeking three seats on the state's utility regulation panel, the Arizona Corporation Commission.
Polls opened at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m., with the first results expected just after 8 p.m. MST.