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The Daily Agenda: It's looking bad out there
The certification fight starts again ... They're in recount territory ... And Tom Petty versus Alice Scooper.
Arizona’s political environment will get more tense, more litigious and more dangerous in the coming weeks as local and state election officials prepare to certify and finalize the 2022 election over objections from election deniers.
The signs of impending doom are growing as losing candidates and their conspirators dream up new ways to throw up roadblocks to stop or delay certification of the official canvass of results.
GOP gubernatorial loser Kari Lake has refused to concede, just as she told voters she’d do while campaigning, instead gathering information for a forthcoming lawsuit to challenge the results. Mark Finchem, who handily lost the race for secretary of state, continued to rage-spiral online, at one point suggesting Elon Musk run a new election in Maricopa County. Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s “election integrity unit” is sending letters to Maricopa County casting doubt on the election. Cochise County refused to certify its election, for now. One Republican state lawmaker says she won’t vote for anything until there’s a new election, putting in question the functioning Republican majority in the House. One county supervisor has been moved to a safe, undisclosed location because of threats against him. Protesters are marching on the Maricopa County elections office calling for a new election, though they have remained relatively tame compared to 2020.
To certify an election in Arizona, county supervisors sign off on each county’s results, then send them to the secretary of state for a statewide certification, which the governor and attorney general witness.
That’s how it’s supposed to go, anyway. In Cochise County — where two supervisors and the county recorder have repeatedly, despite legal advice and court orders, tried to hand count all ballots — supervisors voted against certifying results over questions about whether their tabulators were properly credentialed. The board delayed the certification until next Monday, Nov. 28, the last possible day for counties to complete the task.
County supervisors don’t have an option under state law to refuse to certify an election. Their duty, in this instance, is non-discretionary. If they refuse, lawsuits will fly and the courts could step in to demand a certification. And such supervisors could be charged with a class 6 felony under a state law that says it’s illegal for a “person charged with performance of any duty under any law relating to elections who knowingly refuses to perform such duty.”
Enter the AG’s Office, throwing another potential wrench into certification. On Friday, Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Wright, a former leader of a sister organization of True the Vote, which produced “2,000 Mules,” sent a letter to Maricopa County, laying out “potential statutory violations” related to printer problems, checkout procedures for voters and Door 3 ballot procedures. Wright demanded the county answer questions about these issues before Nov. 28’s county canvass deadline, saying the issues “relate to Maricopa County’s ability to lawfully certify election results.”
It’s not clear what would happen if the AG’s Office doesn’t deem the county’s answers satisfactory, nor what the fallout could be for the statewide certification. We’re in uncharted territory here. The statewide certification is set for Dec. 5.
Already, one incoming Republican lawmaker with a history of election denialism is saying she’ll refuse to do her job until there’s a redo of the 2022 general election. On her campaign website, Rep.-elect Liz Harris writes that “it has become obvious that we need to hold a new election immediately” and says she will “now be withholding my vote on any bills in this session without this new election in protest to what is clearly a potential fraudulent election.”
The rhetoric and anti-democratic tendencies of election detractors and deniers is once again leading to threats against election officials. Bill Gates, the chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, has faced threats since 2020. Now, after the midterms, he’s been “moved to an undisclosed location” and has a security detail from the sheriff’s office because of threats to his safety, Fox10 reports. And the Washington Post details a testy leaked phone call between lawyers for the Lake campaign and Maricopa County in which county lawyer Tom Liddy accused Lake’s team of threatening him.
Meanwhile, the cooler heads have largely remained silent. Gov. Doug Ducey hasn’t publicly weighed in on any of the above. We’d like to see more condemnation of these threats and disinformation from both electeds and civic and business leaders — like this statement from Greater Phoenix Leadership, or this thread from outgoing Republican state Rep. Michelle Udall. Otherwise, the loudest and most ridiculous voices will keep setting the tone for Arizona, affecting who wants to live here, visit the state or move their business here.
There’s room to be critical of legitimate problems with an election and work to improve those processes for voters. Candidates have the courts at their disposal to file any claims and make their cases — after the results have been certified. Those courts will then decide what a remedy could be for any issues.
But that’s not what we’re seeing here. We’re seeing the continued drumbeat of conspiracy from disgruntled and defeated politicians, a now-familiar tune for Arizonans who’ve been stuck on an endless election carousel since 2020.
We deserve a break and some peace. We deserve adults in the room who tell their friends to turn down the volume. We deserve a path to a certified election that clarifies the candidates with the most votes won their races without impediment from partisan forces in that process.
Recount!: The races for attorney general and superintendent of public instruction are almost certainly headed for a recount. The AG’s race is the closest statewide contest in modern history. Democrat Kris Mayes currently leads by about 850 votes. And although Superintendent Kathy Hoffman has already conceded to former Superintendent Tom Horne, who leads by about 8,600 votes, that’s going to a recount too. The margin to trigger a recount in a statewide race will be any victory by less than about 13,000 votes. And the race for the second House seat in LD13 between election denier Liz Harris and business-backed Julie Willoughby is tight enough to trigger a recount as well. Only 270 votes currently separate the two Republicans.
Do-over!: Although her race is not close enough to trigger a recount, Kari Lake is, of course, still not conceding the gubernatorial race. She made a pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago Thursday and spent the weekend tweeting conspiracies and testimonials from people who did, in fact, vote, the New York Times notes.
Moving on: Meanwhile, the actual winner of the governor’s race, Katie Hobbs, has been putting together her transition team, Axios Phoenix’s Jeremy Duda notes, and planning a special session on abortion, she tells 12News’ Brahm Resnik. The governor-elect told the Republic’s Stacey Barchenger that she hasn’t put much thought into how she’ll use her executive orders to sidestep the Republican Legislature, but that she’ll approach lawmakers with spirit of “negotiation and compromise” on most of her priorities, except abortion, where she wants to repeal the pre-statehood ban a potentially the 15-week ban lawmakers instituted last year.
It’s a big deal for a tiny portion of voters: Republicans were outraged that some Maricopa County Election Day voters got ballots at polling places, weren’t able to scan them into tabulators and left polling stations without being checked out, requiring them to cast a provisional ballot at another polling place, which they worried may not count. But there were only 146 provisional ballots cast from such circumstances, Votebeat’s Jen Fifield writes. The county is still researching them to ensure no voter cast two ballots.
Its autopsy season: The Republic’s Ronald J. Hansen offers a post-mortem on Blake Masters’ loss in the U.S. Senate race to incumbent Mark Kelly, saying that Masters lacked money (or friends in DC willing to spend on his behalf), said some weird stuff and lost votes to a Libertarian candidate in the race. The story includes the fascinating little detail that Republican gubernatorial primary loser Karrin Taylor Robson signaled that she wanted to help his campaign win over support with non-MAGA Republicans, but he never responded to her offer. And in the Republic’s opinion pages, columnist Phil Boas dissects Hoffman’s loss to Horne, saying he was as shocked as the rest of us when “not your dream candidate” Horne defeated Hoffman, a “highly skilled manager of Arizona’s public school system.” But Horne was Republican without being MAGA, which is a winning combo in Arizona. (And while we’re at it, the Phoenix New Times rounds up four of Horne’s “sexiest scandals” while he was in office, which cannot possibly be the word they were looking for.)
“(Hoffman’s) such a nice person. She was in my yoga class for a long time. I don’t think she’s the kind who would go thump a table over at Democratic Party headquarters and say, ‘Hey, bastards, you need to start spending some money to help me over here. And at least do signs for me,’” conservative consultant Chuck Coughlin told Boas.
Garrett incoming: If you understandably just can’t get enough of Garrett Archer, the former campaign/election data geek turned political reporter with his own Twitter catchphrase, check out Bill Goodykoontz’s interview with him in the Republic.
But don’t voters like voter ID?: Arizona voters’ rejection of Prop 309, which would have beefed up voter ID laws for mail-in ballots, is surprising, considering an overwhelming majority of voters routinely say they support tougher voter ID laws in polls, the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake writes. And it’s incredibly rare, he notes, since it’s the “first time in a decade that voters — in any state — have rejected stricter voter ID.”
The sorest loser: Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs penned an op-ed explaining why he’s refusing to support Kevin McCarthy for House speaker after challenging him for the title and losing. Basically, he says his constituents want a MAGA fighter to run the chamber.
New shrub just dropped: As farmers in Pinal County look for water-saving alternative crops, Bridgestone Tires is sponsoring research in the area into Guayule, a shrub native to the Chihuahuan Desert that may be an alternative to rubber for tires, Popular Science reports.
After Kari Lake used Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” in a video about how she wouldn’t be, well, backing down, the estate of the late musician said they were “shocked” to find out “Lake’s failed campaign” used the song without permission. In the face of a potential lawsuit, Lake’s campaign backed down, deleting the original tweet with the video.
In other music/government crossover news, rocker Alice Cooper said he’s “so proud” to have his name on an Arizona Department of Transportation snowplow after a naming contest landed on “Alice Scooper” for one plow. He just wants to be sure it’s for scooping snow…