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The Daily Agenda: Dems take the Ninth Floor
Katie Hobbs beats Kari Lake ... Can't wait to see what's on Kelli's phone ... And 99.9% isn't quite 100%.
After the last major vote drops from the state’s two most populous counties last night, Democrat Katie Hobbs is projected to win the governorship as Republican Kari Lake didn’t gain anywhere near what she needed to stay in the fight, delivering the state’s top office a Democrat for the first time since 2006, when Janet Napolitano won her reelection.
Hobbs’ win defied Democratic expectations in this midterm year, and Lake’s loss cemented the spate of defeats for election deniers in key battleground states, a hopeful sign that the lean into questioning elections becomes a proven loser for Republicans going forward.
Several media organizations, including the Associated Press, NBC News, CNN and Decision Desk HQ, called the race for Hobbs shortly after more results from Maricopa County that showed Hobbs keeping her lead of more than 20,000 votes, outside of the margin to trigger an automatic recount.
Depending on how the remaining few ballots votes shake out, it’s possible several other statewide contests head for an automatic recount, including the race for attorney general and superintendent of public instruction, both of which have not been called by media organizations because the margins remain too thin.
Democrat Kris Mayes maintains a lead of more than 4,000 votes over Republican Abe Hamadeh in the AG’s race as of last night. Hamadeh was in the lead once during the counting, claimed victory immediately, then proceeded to fall behind in this race that’s in recount territory.
The race for state superintendent has bounced back and forth between Democratic superintendent Kathy Hoffman and Republican Tom Horne, with Horne leading by nearly 6,000 votes as of Monday night.
In other statewide races, Republicans for sure have won two seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission, taking one back from a Democrat, and Treasurer Kimberly Yee secured her reelection as well.
In the statehouse, the current results would leave the Legislature with the one-vote Republican majorities in each chamber that the GOP has now. The state of those races didn’t change in last night’s updates and don’t appear likely to change from here on out.
Media organizations also called the last two outstanding congressional races in Arizona for the Republican candidates. Juan Ciscomani beat Democrat Kirsten Engel in Southern Arizona’s CD6 and Republican U.S. Rep. David Schweikert beat back Democrat Jevin Hodge in his Scottsdale-based district.
The major statewide losses for the GOP are a reflection of the far-right strategy that’s alienated moderate Republicans and right-leaning independents. But like we’ve said before, don’t expect AZGOP chair Kelli Ward or her allies to look in the mirror anytime soon, despite the record of major losses for the Republican Party under her regime.
Trump, in whose mold the state party is made, released a statement saying that Lake’s “easy election win is slowly, yet systematically, being drained away from her.” Lake has never led the vote count at any point.
Instead, anticipating Lake and other GOP losses, Republican operatives are gathering information for lawsuits and directing voters to make sure their ballots are cured by Wednesday’s deadline. And Lake took last night’s news about as well as you would expect.
Lake’s transition meetings from last week morphed into a war room where her allies, including several from Trump world and Trump himself, walked through their options to respond to a loss, the Washington Post’s Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Isaac Stanley-Becker report. The usually bombastic Lake was quiet on social media as those around her advised that she not “storm the castle” should she lose, though Lake has a penchant for following her own instincts.
Steve Bannon, also present at times in Lake’s war room, and groups like True the Vote, which was behind “2000 Mules,” have publicly said they want to stop the state from certifying its results. We expect to see lawsuits that’ll extend this election month even further as Republicans continue to sow doubt in their own losses.
But make no mistake: Trump’s slate lost Arizona (with the possible exception of Hamadeh). The election, once again, wasn’t stolen. The only fraud or incompetence is coming from candidates who can’t accept the results.
Subpoena is on: The U.S. Supreme Court denied an emergency motion from AZGOP Chair Kelli Ward attempting to block the release of her phone records to the U.S. House’s Jan. 6 committee, clearing the way for the committee’s subpoena of Ward’s phone records, Politico reports. Justice Clarence Thomas did not recuse himself from the case, despite his wife’s involvement in 2020 election fraud claims, and Thomas opposed the denial, alongside Justice Samuel Alito.
But “weird and extreme” is the AZ brand: In the wake of Republican Blake Masters’ U.S. Senate loss, his allies have searched around for blame, pointing at anything but the candidate’s own weaknesses, the National Review writes. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, for instance, blamed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for “abandoning” Masters because Masters wouldn’t have supported McConnell as leader, The Hill reports. And the Republic lists five reasons Masters lost, including U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly’s massive fundraising, centrism and name ID, but also that “Democrats successfully defined Blake Masters as weird and extreme.”
The artists formerly known as Clean Elections USA: Clean Elections USA, the group behind the coordinated drop box watching in Maricopa County, has to change its name because it confuses voters and damages the brand of the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission, which sued the group over its name, the Arizona Capitol Times’ Nick Phillips reports on a Maricopa County court ruling. Melody Jennings, the group’s leader, said she’d be renaming the group, and its website was mostly scrubbed by Monday.
Makes more sense than mine inspector: You’ll have another office to vote for starting in 2026, now that voters have approved the creation of a lieutenant governor to run as a ticket with a governor, the Arizona Mirror’s Gloria Rebecca Gomez reports. We are one of just a handful of states without the position, despite two previous ballot measures to try to create the role. Other propositions that were called last night include Prop 308, which will grant in-state tuition to undocumented students, and Prop 310, which failed but would have increased sales tax by 1/10th of a penny to pay for rural fire districts.
Him?: U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs confirmed he’s running for U.S. House Speaker, challenging Speaker Kevin McCarthy, as the far-right Arizona congressman seeks to build a coalition of like-minded Republicans now that the chamber returned to GOP control.
Jan has entered the chat: Republican Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell won her election. She claimed victory on Monday, and her opponent, Democrat Julie Gunnigle, conceded the race. And then former Gov. Jan Brewer weighed in, needling Gunnigle by saying, “They sure are piling up in the L column for you.” Mitchell, a longtime prosecutor, was appointed county attorney after the late Allister Adel resigned the position.
We’re the biggest story: The Republic’s Bill Goodykoontz talks to CNN reporter Kyung Lah, an LA-based reporter who’s spent lots of time in Arizona the past few years covering our politics, focusing on the state almost exclusively since the Arizona Senate’s audit.
What is ethics?: An out-of-state developer, and the law firm that represents it, contributed thousands to the campaigns of two Gilbert Town Council members, who have a big project before them from the developer, AZFamily’s David Caltabiano reports. A rezoning application for the project is up for a vote Tuesday, and some want the council members to recuse themselves from voting on it.
Pens, because of course: About 1,300 of the 17,000 ballots that ended up in “door 3” weren’t because of poorly printed ballots, but other issues like using ballpoint pens or making marks other than ovals to select candidates, the Republic’s Sasha Hupka reports. Those issues stemmed in part from misinformation about pens. The ballots are counted, but sometimes need to go to bipartisan adjudication boards for review because tabulators can’t read them.
The scourge of low teacher salaries: A teacher in the Lake Havasu Unified School District lost her job after allegedly filming sexual videos for OnlyFans on school grounds, Today’s News Herald reports. Samantha Peer said she started the account because of low teacher pay, and she blocked the state of Arizona from being able to view her content. She resigned from the district, while her husband, Dillon Peer, also a teacher in the district who had appeared in some of her explicit content, was fired. Students found her videos and spread them online, she said.
Cochise County canceled an emergency meeting on Monday that would have tried another workaround to its legal woes in attempting a 100% hand count: Do a 99.9% hand count instead. The agenda item, in Supervisor Peggy Judd’s name, says there are more than 200 volunteers ready to help, and the idea has support from County Recorder David Stevens and the county’s state lawmakers.
It remains to be seen if the hand count supporters will defy legal orders not to the full hand count, but they’ve sure spent a lot of time, money and political will in the process.
And for a guilty pleasure, go check out Secretary of State candidate Mark Finchem’s sad online meltdown over his slow realization last night that he, too, lost his election.