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Democrat Katie Hobbs defeats Kari Lake in Arizona governor's race

Left, Katie Hobbs, Democratic candidate for Arizona governor, addresses the crowd during an election night watch party at the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel. Right, Kari Lake, Arizona Republican candidate for governor, speaks to supporters at the Republican watch party in Scottsdale.

Katie Hobbs will be the next governor of Arizona.

The latest batch of 71,000 ballots tallied Monday from Maricopa County showed the Democratic contender picking up 30,825 additional votes. By contrast, Republican Kari Lake added 40,575 to her total.

But that 9,750-vote edge for Lake, a former TV news anchor, failed to overcome the lead of more than 26,000 that Hobbs had going into Monday. And some of the gains Lake made were offset when Hobbs, Arizona's secretary of state, picked up nearly two-thirds of the additional 31,000 votes counted Monday in Pima County.

All that left Hobbs at the end of the night likely with a lead of more than 20,000 and a total so far of 50.4% of the more than 2.54 million votes counted.

That is significant because Maricopa County reports it has no more than 15,000 ballots yet to be counted — and maybe far fewer than that. That's because the total includes about 7,600 ballots that may or may not be "cured'' because signatures on early ballots did not match, and another 7,885 provisional ballots with questions, such as someone showing up at the polls without proper ID.

Lake was counting on this last batch from Maricopa County going her way much stronger.

All totaled, there are about 43,000 uncounted ballots, including about 7,400 from Pima County, which has given Hobbs a 60-40 edge, and 8,200 from Pinal County, where the votes have been breaking for Lake about 55-45.

Capitol Media Services, NBC, CNN, The Arizona Republic, The Associated Press, the Washington Post and the New York Times called the race for Hobbs Monday evening. 

Two other statewide races remain undecided with that last batch of votes from Maricopa County trending Republican.

As of Monday night, Democrat Kris Mayes was leading Republican Abe Hamadeh by nearly 4,200 votes in the race for Arizona attorney general. That is down from her 11,000-vote lead a day earlier.

And the new numbers put Republican Tom Horne about 5,500 votes ahead of incumbent Democrat Kathy Hoffman for state schools chief.

The difference in both races is virtually certain to trigger a recount which, based on a new state law, occurs when the margin between candidates is less than one-half of one percent.

Sen. Mark Kelly, seeking a full six-year term of his own, already clinched victory days earlier over Republican challenger Blake Masters. So did Democrat Adrian Fontes, running for secretary of state against Republican Mark Finchem.

Hobbs' victory is a counterpoint to the fact that Republicans apparently are going to remain in control of the Arizona House and Senate. It will give her the power to veto legislation she finds unacceptable.

The last time there was this kind of divided government in the state was after Democrat Janet Napolitano was elected Arizona governor in 2002. She served until the end of 2008 when she took a job in the Obama administration, putting then-Secretary of State Jan Brewer, a Republican, in charge.

There was no immediate comment from Lake.

Hobbs, in a victory statement Monday night, promised to work "just as hard'' for those who voted for Lake as she will for her supporters.

"We all want safer streets, a secure border, better schools, lower costs, and water for generations to come,'' she said.

But Hobbs and her supporters also attacked Lake as being too radical for Arizona, and not just because of her unflagging loyalty to former President Donald Trump and his denial of the 2020 election results. Abortion access was an issue. So were claims that Lake would put cameras in classrooms so that parents, and others, could watch.

The vote tallies come as the Arizona Republican Party may be laying the groundwork for a legal challenge.

On Monday, the party sent out a message on Twitter asking people to email if they checked in at a voting center in Maricopa County and faced issues with ballot printers or tabulators and were not permitted to vote.

Lake supporters have said the way Maricopa County handled the election resulted in some people being disenfranchised. That is based on the fact that tabulators in about one out of every five vote centers were not reading all ballots that were produced on site.

County officials finally fixed the problem by adjusting the settings of the printers. But that did not occur for at least six hours after the polls were open Tuesday — and after some people said they left without casting a ballot because of long lines.

Republican Bill Gates, who chairs the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, said there was no reason for that to happen.

He said poll workers gave each person with a problem ballot the option of putting it into "Drawer Box 3'' in the tabulator. That would mean the ballots would be taken to county elections headquarters at the end of the day to be counted rather than immediately counted at the on-site machines.

Gates said if people didn't vote, the fault lies with the leaders of the Arizona Republican Party who put out a different message on Election Day. He read from a Twitter post by Kelli Ward, the party chair. "It says, 'Do not put your ballot in Box 3 or Drawer 3. This was literally the opposite of what (Republican) Recorder (Stephen) Richer and I were telling people,'' Gates said Monday before the latest results were released.

The result, Gates said, was people were afraid to put their ballot into that drawer. People who were checking voters in at the polling places instead had to spend time explaining the situation which, in turn, caused the long lines, he said.

Gates said county officials have "accepted our responsibility'' for the problems with the equipment.

"But I'm not willing to accept responsibility for issues that were caused by others,'' he said. "And it is clear to me that those lines were longer because members, leaders in one political party were spreading misinformation.''

Election officials assured voters that every ballot would be counted after a printing malfunction at about one-quarter of the polling places across Arizona's most populous county slowed down voting. The snag fueled conspiracy theories about the integrity of the vote in the tightly contested state. Some high-profile Republicans tried to make the case that Democrats were seeking to subvert the vote of Republicans, who tend to show up in greater numbers in person on Election Day. Officials say about 17,000 ballots in Maricopa County, or about 7% of total dropped off Tuesday. The problem slowed down voting in both traditionally Democratic and Republican areas. At one location, some voters there reported waiting several hours to be able to vote.

Howard Fischer is a veteran journalist who has been reporting since 1970 and covering state politics and the Legislature since 1982. Follow him on Twitter at @azcapmedia or email azcapmedia@gmail.com


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Related to this story

The Associated Press called the Arizona governor’s race for Democrat Katie Hobbs on Monday after the latest round of vote releases gave her a lead that the AP determined she would not relinquish. The AP concluded that even though Republican Kari Lake had been posting increasingly larger margins in vote updates from Maricopa County, she was not gaining a big enough share to overtake Hobbs and was running out of remaining votes. Counting had gone on for nearly a week since the Tuesday election as officials continued to tally massive amounts of late-arriving ballots. The margin narrowed substantially since polls closed.

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