Declaration of a winner in Congressional District 2 is still days from being over.
But Democrat Ron Barber is already appealing for donations for a recount, which, if history is any indicator, is unlikely to happen.
The final difference between Barber and Republican Martha McSally would have to be less than 200 votes to trigger a recount. That difference now stands at 363 votes.
And if there is a recount, taxpayers will pay for it, not the candidates.
If there is no recount, the Barber campaign has given no indication what it will do with the money.
The Barber campaign sent out the fundraising appeal for the “Ron Barber Recount Fund” on Thursday, even though at the time more than 27,000 votes remained to be counted.
A donation page set up by the Barber campaign says the money “will be used to pay expenses in connection with election recounts and contests.”
Ashley Nash-Hahn, the communications director for the Barber campaign, said the fund would pay for elections observers already watching the first-run ballot tabulation, despite the phrasing of the appeal for donations.
“Protecting the integrity of the vote is important, especially in light of what happened last time, when Martha McSally tried to throw Cochise County votes in the trash,” she said. “We will use the fund to make sure Southern Arizona’s voice is heard.”
Nash-Hahn was referring to a 2012 lawsuit by a Republican Cochise County voter seeking to disqualify 130 provisional ballots. There was no recount that year because Barber’s margin of victory was too great to allow one.
She said a decision hasn’t been made on whether to offer refunds to those who ask for it if there is no recount.
A request for comment from the McSally campaign was not immediately returned.
Federal Election Commission laws would allow the donations to be used for any other campaign-related activity the candidate chooses to use it for.
D.J. Quinlan, executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party, said it was not uncommon for campaigns to set aside funding for a recount as a precaution. He noted the Barber campaign did use some campaign funds in 2012 to hire attorneys in the Cochise County case.
Congressional campaign arms like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee sometimes send attorneys, but Quinlan said campaigns can choose to hire someone locally.
“Typically, the campaigns hire local folks rather than sending Washington lawyers,” he said.
Bruce Merrill, a senior research fellow at Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy, said the call for donations for a recall fund would likely get the attention of some donors.
“It is a new appeal. It is something that gets their attention,” he said.
He said would-be donors are unlikely to know much about the intricacies of financing a recount but would be tempted to give to support Barber.
Local pollster Margaret Kenski called the request “unusual,” adding that she can’t remember a campaign ever requesting donations specifically for a recount.
She said the request might be premature as ballots are still being counted.
Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at email@example.com or 573-4346.